Newton Residents Drenched with Mega Charges, Petition Pours In for Relief

Newton Residents Drenched with Mega Charges, Petition Pours In for ReliefSource: Google Street View
Mitch M. Rosenthal
Published on November 30, 2023

Newton, Massachusetts, residents received an enormous water bill, with some reaching tens of thousands of dollars, as the city rushes to rectify years of undercharged services. A Newton man, Marc Heimlich, who felt the sticker shock with a $15,000 bill, is spearheading a petition for a forbearance on what he calls water walloping, according to a Boston 25 News report.

After revealing, one resident got hit with a $67,000 bill, and his household was charged for 366,750 gallons of 'excess' water usage for less than four years. The sky-high charges come amidst the city's efforts to replace dated water meters that stopped transmitting accurate readings back in 2019, Heimlich told Boston 25 News. "It is also unfair to charge for four years of back usage without any warning because residents had no ability to reconcile the overage."

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller confirmed in a statement that the sudden financial deluge is not a clerical goof but a repercussion of the pandemic and its impact on operations. Supply chain disruptions prevented the manufacturer from delivering the necessary upgrades on time. "Every property owner who receives a bill based on estimated usage is sent a letter each billing quarter informing them of the malfunctioning MTU and asking them to read their water meter and submit the reading to our Water Billing Department so that they could adjust their bill to reflect actual usage," Fuller said, as reported by Boston 25 News.

Adding to the wave of disbelief, Johnny's Luncheonette co-owner Kay Masterson expressed her fears to the Boston Globe about receiving a back-due bill that could rival her annual water expense of $15–20,000.

As of late Wednesday, Heimlich's petition had garnered the support of nearly 200 signees. Somerville residents were informed by the city of meter replacements due to aged transmitters failing to communicate with their billing system. As stated by Somerville’s Director of Water and Sewer Demetrios, Newton officials aim to replace 30,000 meters over the next 16–22 months.