Church Asked to Cough Up $2 Million for Water Bill

A local church in the small town of Ford City, Pa., about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, received a not so small bill from the area's borough council, recently.

According to the city, Second Baptist Church owed the town more than $2 million over a water bill.

"I thought he was exaggerating," told Eugene Banks, a church trustee, to the Post-Gazette after he was told the news from a council member. "'You got to be kidding me,' I said."

Fortunately for the church, the council recognized a mistake in its calculations and has sent a revised bill. The church now only owes $9,873.

The trouble arose when a water pipe broke in a vacant building outside the church, and nobody noticed the problem. The congregation owns the building, but does not use it anymore.

There had been no heat in the building, because gas had been shut off to it from the previous summer when the meter was changed. The gas company never started up the service again, and the pipes froze once winter began, causing the rupture.

The water ran for about a month with the water level rising to about six inches. According to officials, they knew water was being lost somewhere, but nobody could tell where. Water had come out the front door of the building, but snow plowed from the road hid the flow.

About 1.4 million gallons of H20 was lost.

As voted on by the borough council, the original bill owed by the church was for $2,832,533.

"[The church board] didn't believe it," explained Banks to the Post-Gazette about when he told his staff the situation. "They said they'd believe it when they saw the bill."

Wrong information had been plugged into the computer to calculate the total, however. Instead of charging $6.88 per 1,000 gallons, the council had accidentally priced the water at $2 per gallon.

The church is relieved to say the least, despite the fact that they still owe about $10,000.