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A $140,000 Utility Payment? Lowell Residents Receive Huge Water Bills

LOWELL (CBS) -- Imagine receiving your usual utility bill, only this time the balance is in six figures. For many in Lowell, that is exactly what happened.

"I wouldn't pay it. I wouldn't," Mark White said.

"I mean, I don't think anyone uses that much water. I would hope not," said Christa Brown.

When Chantelle Delorfano opened her water bill and saw the balance, she assumed it had to be a joke. "I was at work and I opened the bill and I was like 'hey guys, I'm getting pranked by the city of Lowell,'" Delorfano said.

Her bill was $141,794.01 and it was due in just a couple of days. "I'm like 'oh my gosh, I am going to have to take a second mortgage to pay it.'"

Delorfano said her bill comes every three months and it's only about $120.

As someone who travels for work, she feared the worst. "I don't know, the sink could have been going, you know, anything. I live in a townhouse complex so there are six other units so I thought maybe they just combined the whole street or maybe the neighborhood," she said.

The city of Lowell said the phones have been ringing and they've been working to let people know these ludicrous balances are not to be paid.

Lowell uses a third party vendor to help with these kinds of online payments through the city website.

Chief Financial Officer Conor Baldwin sent the following statement to WBZ:

"The City Manager's Office has received several calls this week from concerned residents regarding a 3rd notification reminder email detailing unpaid balances for utility bills. Residents are notified of these upcoming payments from a third-party vendor used by the city to facilitate online payments through the city website.

It has come to the attention of the finance department that the amounts on the notification reminder email as presented by the vendor are misstated. The vendor has apologized for the inconvenience caused by this error and is dedicated to working with the Finance Office to reconcile and correct the balances for all valued customers in the city. Residents are advised to disregard the email reminder and a new one will be issued once the technical issue is resolved.

If any residents have questions regarding their specific utility usage or billing, please contact the Water Department at 978-674-4240. For questions on collections or previous payments, please contact the Office of the City Treasurer/ Collector at 978-674-4222."

For customers like Delorfano, it's a sigh of relief. She's just thankful she didn't have auto-pay activated on the account.

"I could have clicked the auto-pay without looking at my account and it's already tied to my checking account so I am glad I did a quick one over to double check the amount before I hit that button," she said.

She saved what would have been a lot of money from going down the drain.

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