MHMUA may be overcharging households for incorrect meter sizes. How to determine if you’re affected.

By: Jeff Epstein, Editor, Citizens’ Media TV
Edited by: Ben Szioli

(Citizens’ Media TV has set up a page where you can report your findings.)

UPDATE 9/13/2017: About ninety houses on three streets have been added to the Hainesport data.

MT. HOLLY, NJ — According to Lumberton resident Andrew Huber, one hundred townhomes in the Country Estates Development in Lumberton, NJ (marked below in red) are potentially being overcharged by the Mt. Holly Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA). Huber provided digital copies of the August 2017 invoices to Citizens’ Media TV that confirm the MUA is charging these residences for three-quarter inch (3/4″) water meters. Huber believes the evidence strongly suggests that these homes actually have five-eighths inch (5/8″) meters.

Huber says that, since the homes were built at the same time and are of the same size and style, they very likely share the same actual meter size. He says that it is especially unlikely that different meter sizes exist within each nine-townhome “block,” as is demonstrated in the above maps. As far as why his own home was incorrectly overcharged, he was told by the MUA that the builder gave them this measurement when the home was originally connected to the sewer system in 1995.

Huber says he has confirmed this discrepancy with six residents from around the neighborhood. Huber himself, who moved out of the neighborhood in 2015 (to another section of Lumberton), also paid incorrectly for the larger diameter meter for nine-and-a-half years.

Some basics:

The size of the water meter, specifically the diameter of the inlet, is the basis for the Quarterly Service Charge. The charge is essentially a periodic fee for being connected to the MUA system — it is not a reflection of the pipe sizes in the home. Also, note that this is a water meter. The amount of sewage output is not measured at any point. Rather, the MUA’s measurements are based exclusively on the amount of water input, as measured by the water meter.

Page 6 from 2017 rate schedule

For the affected section of Country Estates, the overcharge has potentially been in effect since the homes were built, which, according to Huber, was the early 1990s. (According to Historic Aerials Online, it was at least sometime between 1970 and 1995.) According to the current rate schedule, the discrepancy would result in an extra cost to each household of twenty-two dollars per quarter, eighty-eight dollars a year, or $880 a decade.

For all 100 homes, this would amount to extra $8,800 a year or $88,000 a decade. For the twenty-two years since Huber estimates these homes to have been built, the overcharges may add up to as much as $194,000. (Note, however, that this amount is an upper bound, due to the fact that these quarterly rates have been historically lower.)

Huber believes that it is the MUA’s responsibility to contact all one hundred of these homeowners in order to at least stop the incorrect overcharges. When asked about the potential for retroactive back-payments for these years of incorrect charges, Huber responded, “One step at a time — but I intend to ask.”

How to determine if you’re affected

(Citizens’ Media TV has set up a page where you can report your findings.)

It is currently unknown how widespread the problem is. At a recent MUA meeting, Huber was told by Executive Director Robert Maybury that there was once a similar issue in Eastampton, which has since been resolved.

Unfortunately, since the physical water meter and water bills are not in the possession of the MUA, the onus of discovering and resolving this issue is substantially placed on residents. What follows is instructions of how you can determine if your own bill has a discrepancy.

To verify if your own home is being properly billed, the size of the water meter in your MUA bill (as demonstrated in the following screenshot, as posted on the Hainesport for MHMUA Fairness Facebook page) must be compared to your actual water meter. Here’s an example MUA bill that shows a one-inch diameter meter:

Then compare this to the size as specified in your water bill:

Alternatively, you can look directly at the physical water meter in your home:

If the actual meter size is the same as specified in your MUA bill, then there is no discrepancy. You are being properly charged. Citizens’ Media TV asked the Mt. Holly Municipal Utilities Authority what consumers should do in the case of a discrepancy. This is their response:

Our residents are advised to contact the MHMUA as soon as they discover a discrepancy.

The MHMUA provides many ways for our residents to contact us.

Website contact us:
Billing office phone: 609.267.0015
Billing office fax: 609.267.5420
And of course mail is always an option: 1 Park Drive, PO Box 486 Mt. Holly NJ 08060.

(The MUA was provided a preview of this article four hours in advance of publication with an opportunity to respond or comment. None has so far been received.)

Citizens’ Media TV has also set up a page where you can report your findings. In addition to informing the public, this information will be made freely available to all parties, including the MUA, relevant local governmental organizations, and watchdog groups.

Postscript: partial data for 437 homes in Hainesport

Citizens’ Media TV analyzed all of the homes on 24 different streets in the town of Hainesport, for a total of 437 homes. With some online research and consultation with residents, we found streets in some relatively new neighborhoods.

According to the MUA (as evidenced in the 437 bills), seventy-six percent of these homes have one-inch meters, nineteen percent have five-eighths inch meters, and four percent have three-quarter inch meters. (Additionally, according to the MUA, eighty-nine percent are being charged for in-sink disposal units.)

Unfortunately, more analysis is necessary to determine if any of these homes have overcharges, but we present the information here in order to start the process.


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