Water over the damn

ALDRIDK GESSA / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Adam Lang stands in front of 2047 Master St. It's empty, but a water bill says he used hundreds of dollars worth.
ALDRIDK GESSA / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Adam Lang stands in front of 2047 Master St. It's empty, but a water bill says he used hundreds of dollars worth.
Posted: August 29, 2014

WHEN ADAM Lang got a bill in July from the Water Revenue Bureau, it hit him like an ALS bucket of ice.

Part of the jolt was the amount - $760.60 due on a property he bought at a Philadelphia Housing Authority auction in April 2012. The bill jumped to $943.62 in August.

The biggest shock was the address. The bill was for water used at 2047 Master St., an empty lot. There is no building on it now and there was no building on it when he bought it.

A computer network engineer, Lang also bought a house at 2129 Master St. at the same time, both as investments. It was sealed when he bought it and it remains sealed to this day. He has lived at 2111 Master St., on the same block in the Sharswood neighborhood, for eight years.

The Water Revenue Bureau billed him $758.09 in July for the sealed house. That swelled to $940.54 in August.

The 36-year-old Lang received the first bills for each after owning the properties for more than two peaceful years, during which there was not even a drop from the Water Revenue Bureau. Then, came the flood.

When he got the bills, he was shocked. When he showed them to me, I was stunned. When I revealed them to Department of Revenue spokeswoman Vicki Riley, she was - well, she had to look into it, but was clearly surprised about a water bill flowing from a vacant lot. The Water Revenue Bureau is a division of Revenue.

When he received the July bill, Lang says, he put it aside, because, "I sort of figured it was a mistake so wasn't too concerned about it." Shrugging it off, he didn't notify the Water Revenue Bureau.

You know what's coming next.

In August, new bills - with late fees - came pouring in.

Lang got a new attitude.

He went to the Water Revenue Board in the Municipal Services Building and reported the issue. He was told an investigator would go out within the next 30 days to see what had happened.

While waiting, Lang contacted me.

I contacted Riley.

While we wait for Riley to dig up answers to some of my questions, let's reflect on other things that routinely go wrong in the age of technology.

I wrote about Deborah Stagg, who was billed $12,000 by PGW. The proper bill should have been $2,200.

Brian Yan got ticketed for overtime parking by the Parking Authority in a spot he had just pulled into.

Afghanistan war veteran Joe Howe was hit with a late charge for not paying a state tax bill on time, a bill he was exempt from paying because he was out of the country (and in the Marines).

This is stuff I have written about in just the last two months. Other columnists and reporters have had their share.

We know nothing's perfect, but no wonder so many people don't trust government. Can't anybody do anything right any more? Do they care when they don't?

Rant over, I feel better. Back to work.

The Water Revenue Bureau found out only in April the property had changed hands, Riley says. I didn't get an answer on why it took the city two years to alert Revenue.

But the biggie is this: How could Lang get a water bill for a vacant lot that has no building, no water service and no meter? The response was double-talk.

Bottom line, Riley tells me, "the bill has been adjusted and the new owner will receive a new bill in the mail."

If it's not in the right amount, I'll be back to blow up the dam.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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