KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dominic Cuccia, owner of The Better Wash in Kansas City, said he panicked after he received his July KC Water bill for almost $60,000.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, not another problem here,’ and the bill was just ridiculous, $20,000 too high,” he said. “It didn’t make sense.”
After noticing higher-than-usual water bills back in 2018, he hired Leah Battista, president of Energy Carrot LLC, a Kansas limited liability company, to help him track his water usage and billing history.
Battista maintains over five years of data related to The Better Wash’s water usage and billing history, including the number of vehicles the company washes per billing period, how much water is used to wash each vehicle in gallons, KC Water’s fluctuating water rates, and Cuccia’s total bill for each month.
“Normally, we run about 85 cents (for water) per car,” Cuccia said. “It jumped all the way up to $1.30 and that was the red flag. That’s when I reached out to Leah, at that time, and she did an investigation on that.”
Nearly five years later, Cuccia said the problem came back with a vengeance.
Data shows the combined bill total for April and May 2022 was $51,702.45 and the combined total for June and July 2022 was $72,561.45. Cuccia washed fewer vehicles in June and July 2022 than he did in April and May 2022, but his combined bill for June and July 2022 was roughly 40% higher, data shows.
Battista said The Better Wash’s meter transmitting unit (MTU), a device used to transmit water meter readings digitally, wasn’t working properly in July.
“What are the odds that he’d have a massive leak only during the time the MTU wasn’t working?” she said. “The odds of that happening are slim to none.”
Numbers don’t lie
Battista notified KC Water in August regarding Cuccia’s unusually high bill, which prompted the company to open an internal investigation. The company told Battista the meter reads were accurate numerous times.
However, when she inquired about reimbursement, she said KC Water wasn’t accommodating.
“Even though the reads were there, and they looked at them and verified them, the numbers still didn’t make sense,” she said. “So once they did their part and said, ‘We verified the reads,’ it’s like they just ignored the data that I gave them.”
Battista said she shared the data with KC Water, but they never provided an explanation for the spike in Cuccia’s bill. Without warning, she says the company replaced the meter and have yet to explain why the meter was switched out if it was working properly in the first place.
“It’s heartbreaking and it’s frustrating that, you know? I am a true believer in data and numbers, and if it shows that there’s a problem, we have years worth of data where we’re saying, ‘Something’s not right,’ and they just ignore it,” Battista said.
The company sent Cuccia a water shut-off notice and urged him to pay his outstanding bill to avoid having his water shut off entirely. Frazzled, he paid the outstanding bill with his credit card and is now paying back the full amount to his bank, with interest.
FOX4 Problem Solvers emailed KC Water at least four times regarding this matter and left at least two voicemails but they said the issue was resolved after the customer paid his outstanding balance.
“There was not a billing adjustment on this account,” a spokesperson for KC Water said.
Battista said KC Water is ignoring its customer’s plea for reimbursement, and the matter is far from resolved.
“If that’s the way they’re treating their customers when they’re having high bills that are impacting them significantly, especially on the residential side, that’s a problem because those peoples’ lives are greatly impacted by that and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Battista said.
Problem Solvers tracked down Larry Sears, the man who patented the meter transmitting unit that The Better Wash used during this time. He said meters are reliable, but people are not.
“Human error is the usual explanation for these situations, especially when a meter change out is involved,” Sears said in an email.
In the meantime, Cuccia said he’s struggling and frustrated, disheartened with the fact that KC Water is his only option for a water provider in the city.
“It does impact, especially because, you know, the economy’s down right now, business is down tremendously, we had a bad November, December is bad,” Cuccia said. “So it impacted me pretty good.”
FOX4 Problem Solvers will update you as we learn more.