A $16,988.62 Utilities Bill Sent This Retired Teacher To The ER

Velma Matthews tore open her DWP bill in July and saw a staggering figure: $ 12,836.61. 

la times

Rattled, stressed, and wondering just what the hell was going on, Matthews called the DWP and was given the runaround. She was especially perplexed because, being a resident of California, she did what any good sunshine state citizen would during a drought: she shut off all her faucets and used water sparingly.

“My front yard is dead, my back yard is dead, my trees are dying and I’m just one person living here with my dog.” Matthews, in an interview with LA Times.

The DWP said that they were going to “look into it” but Matthews never got a response from them.

Then, in September, she received another exorbitant bill. This time it was for $ 16,988.62. It sent her to the emergency room.


Medical records indicate that the stress raised her blood pressure to 230 over 152 due to the anxiety the 71-year-old experienced over wondering how she was going to pay the bill and if her services were going to be shut off. 

Matthews eventually had to dip into her own pockets and hire a plumber to check her home for any leaks or issues that might’ve caused a spike in her home’s energy usage.

He found no signs of leaks or a spike in energy use and even vowed to “go to court” on her behalf because the bill was “ridiculous.”


It turns out that the fault isn’t with Matthews or DWP customers, but due to a glitch in the new $ 181 million billing system that resulted in tons of customers receiving exorbitant bills that they’re too afraid to contest.

Lawyer Tim Blood says he receives two or three calls a day from distressed customers who don’t know why they’re being overcharged by the DWP, and they feel as if they’re being bullied into paying money they don’t owe for fear of having their services disabled.

However the local DWP says it’s not a billing error, but a human one, according to Spokesman Joe Ranallo in an interview with LA Times.


“This was not a problem with the billings system, but rather a human error. Our billing system caught the high use and began estimating her bills…[but the DWP] did not follow through with the remaining steps to investigate the cause [of the leak] as it should have.”

But it’s hard to believe that she was clocked for high usage. According to the DWP’s estimates, Matthews used 954 hundred cubic feet of water, or 12,000 gallons a day.

geyser eruption

Just a little hard to believe. (h/t latimes)

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