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Where did Parksville resident's 500,000 litres disappear to?
While the question remains of what happened to over half a million litres of water, Parksville city council may not charge the resident for it.
Last week, John Whitehouse explained to council that his 77-year-old mother sold her house after his father died and she moved into a retirement home, but then she got a surprise.
Lawyers for the new owners notified Whitehouse of a bill for the final six-month billing cycle of $1,900 for the use of 541 cubic metres (541,000 litres) of water, almost enough to fill Ravensong pool.
By comparison, individuals in Parksville use an average of 58 cubic metres per billing cycle.
To make it even more of a mystery, Whitehouse’s mother wasn’t even in the house for much of the September-February billing period in question.
She spent most of October and part of November in the hospital and then moved out, leaving the house vacant, but there were still friends and neighbours taking care of the house who would have noticed a tap running, he pointed out.
Whitehouse immediately searched for but couldn’t find any signs of a leak and pointed out that the outside taps were still turned off for the winter from the inside.
“I’ve had nothing but help from everyone with the city,” he said of his next step, outlining numerous conversations he had with various staff and the mayor.
Director of finance Lucky Butterworth confirmed all the facts of the story. The city reviewed past bills which were consistently low and they did a meter reading a month after the problem came to light and found just four cubic metres had gone through since the mystery period.
The city has a policy under which people can apply for relief if they get a high bill due to a leak between their house and the city main, but that only counts if a leak is actually found.
Council unanimously voted for staff to bring back an option to treat Whitehouse’s situation as a leak and forgive the balance of the bill above the property’s three year average.
Worried about setting a precedent, they will require documentation of the occupant’s absence, which Whitehouse said will not be a problem.