Natick resident Steven Cohen said it's impossible that he could have used $400 worth of water between December 2012 and January 2013 for one simple reason.
He wasn't living there.
The homeowner of 7 Algonquian Drive asked the Board of Selectmen on Sept. 23 for an abatement to his bill, arguing no one lived in the house he bought in November 2012.
"We didn't occupy the home until March," he said, adding he and his wife were living out of state when they purchased the home on Nov. 30. "In the 18 months before the property was sold, the water bill never exceeded 16 units per month. I’m not sure what a unit of water corresponds to a gallon, but if a flush is a gallon, a lot of flushes had to have happened for that bill (to be what it is)."
Cohen brought an affidavit signed by his two adult children, who watched over the house at least once a week until Cohen and his wife moved in.
"They have engineering degrees, visited the house once a week, inspecting the property, and there was no evidence of leaks," he said. "I'm not here to ask you to decide the cause of problem (because) I think it's an act of God. No one logically can define (this)."
And to add to his woes, Cohen said the bill for the two winter months didn't arrive in his mailbox until July, when it came with a $70 penalty.
"I like to pay taxes and other bills on time," he said. "But I can’t fulfill my obligation if I don’t receive a bill."
Vice Chairman Joshua Ostroff, who was filling in for Chairwoman Carol Gloff while she recovers from an illness, said it's rare for the Board to allow an abatement.
"Once in my seven-plus years have we abated water usage when we couldn’t find any reason for it," he said. "I'm personally satisfied that the meter would not report over usage … if it says water went through it, then it went through it. I'm giving you my sense of things. That’s what I'm inclined to believe."
"There was no evidence whatsoever of anything running," Cohen countered. "The outside meter read zero."
Selectmen Richard Jennett, Jr. said it's possible a leaky toilet could be to blame.
"I would love to give you a full abatement, but unfortunately the precedent is quite clear," he said. "Unfortunately, I’ve also been a victim. A leaking toilet runs a small amount, you can’t even see it, and you can just barely hear it. It’s running water constantly. It could well have been someone used the toilet, and the water seal did not set properly. It's the only other possibility it could have been."
Ostroff said the Board would talk with DPW Director Bill Chenard as a next step in the process.
"Let's see what we can discover," Ostroff said. "I cannot assure you of anything … we’ll see what we can do."