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Arkansas man receives $120K water bill to begin the year

Darrell Durbrow got the shock of a lifetime when he opened his water utility bill last week. He was met with a bill of more than $120K.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Darrell Durbrow got the shock of a lifetime when he opened his Fort Smith water utility bill last week.

When the mail arrived, he opened the bill like normal - checking to see his remaining credited balance. Instead, Durbrow was met with a bill of more than $120 thousand and a potential late fee of another $12 thousand.

"I don't think I'm going to be paying this bill on time," laughs Durbrow.

To be exact, the bill Durbrow received was in the amount of $120,707.61. A normal bill he says is "around 60 to $70".

Soon after opening the bill, Durbrow contacted his local city director who passed the information on to the director of water utilities, Lance McAvoy. As the information was relayed, McAvoy says he knew something was "drastically wrong."

5NEWS spoke to McAvoy to see if this amount could ever be something a residential customer could need to pay.

McAvoy says no, this is "what we see in commercial and industrial accounts."

The mix-up somehow made it through multiple quality control checks before ending up in Durbrow's mailbox. A meter reading error behind the astronomical bill. McAvoy explained somehow the meter rolled over and indicated Durbrow used around 7.48 million gallons of water in a single month.

"That's roughly what Lee Creek is producing a day, right now," McAvoy said.

To further put that amount of water into context, one Olympic-sized swimming pool holds 660 thousand gallons of water. Durbrow's bill indicated he would have used more than 11 Olympic pools worth of water.

McAvoy said the mistake "has been corrected... a letter basically apologizing and explaining what happened, along with saying that a new bill is being mailed out."

With the mistake behind him and a new bill on the way, Durbrow can laugh about the scare and says he will soon be framing the bill as a souvenir.

Mistakes like this are quite rare, McAvoy said. The director strongly encourages customers to have their bills mailed to them or to check their electronic statements as soon as possible.

"The sooner someone can bring something that looks really weird directly to our attention, the sooner we can begin working on it," McAvoy said.

The water utility department will work with customers to either explain an increase in charges - due to a water leak or by mistake - and if needed, corrections will be made.

Anyone with questions regarding a bill is urged to call the water utility department at (479)784-2262 or to email them at customerservice@fortsmithar.gov, you can also contact them directly on their website.

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