RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond man — previously reported by 8News to have been charged with a $21,000 water bill — has now had a significant amount deducted by the Richmond Department of Public Utilities.

Gian Bustillo is a landlord for a four-tenant building in Richmond. According to Bustillo, the typical water utility bill, since December 2021, had been around $150 a month. In October 2022, however, Bustillo received a water bill that said he owed $2,299 for the month before. In addition, the bill claimed that he was late in paying $18,689.

“I found that there was a toilet that was constantly running,” Bustillo told 8News in November.

Bustillo was never notified of the leak and the bill had not changed because all previous charges had only been estimates — meaning nobody actually came to check his meter until September.

However, Bustillo now says — after months of lost sleep — he is grateful to have finally received a letter from the DPU stating they would make a significant change to his water bill.

The letter shows that the bill had continued to climb from the initial $21,000 reported in October to $24,400. After three months of back-and-forth, the department agreed to reduce the bill by nearly $24,000. Bustillo now only owes $435.

According to the letter, the reduction came after the department “concluded its research of [his] claim for improperly billed water and wastewater charges.” The results of DPU’s internal investigation are not explained in the letter.

8News reached out to DPU for comment as to why the bill had been changed but received no response. The department has still not confirmed whether or not the leak Bustillo found was the cause for the increased rate.

Bustillo was never notified of the leak and the bill had not changed because all previous charges had only been estimates — meaning nobody actually came to check his meter until September.

“This water leak could’ve been happening for months,” he told 8News in November. “My big problem is why did they take so long to do an actual read between December of last year to September of this year?”

It is quite possible that is the case. A monthly bill of $2,299 for nine months is almost exactly the total amount that Bustillo owes.

A spokesperson with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) told 8News that a lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been staffing shortages.

“As we continue ramping up staffing levels, we will continue to work with our customers to address their account concerns, including significant variances on estimated reads,” a statement from the department reads.

In November, Bustillo has been offered a 50% reduction in his overall bill but he said it was still too high. He recommended other residents buy their own devices to get accurate readings on their water meters and look for “E” letters on their water bills, indicating estimated readings.