Pumping up the price?

Woodmere couple floored by $10,000 charge to empty their flooded crawl space


Estelle and Charles Goldfarb were desperate to pump out the 3½ feet of water that flooded the crawl space of their newly built Woodmere home after Hurricane Sandy. So when a truck from the Carle Place-based Citywide Sewer and Drain appeared on the street, it seemed like a ray of light in the darkness.

After Charles flagged down the driver, who was on his way to pump water out of a nearby home, the driver told him that he would stop by the Goldfarbs’ Fairway Drive home when he was done at the other house. A few hours later, after Goldfarb pleaded with the busy driver and gave him $100, the water was being pumped out of the crawl space.

According to Goldfarb, the driver told him that the charge would be $200 for the first 2,000 gallons and $100 for each 1,000 gallons of water after that. But Fred Finger, operations manager for Citywide Sewer and Drain, said that Goldfarb called the company and spoke to a customer service representative, who quoted him a price of 21 cents per gallon.

At the end of the day, 48,000 gallons of water was pumped out of the Goldfarbs’ crawl space, and Charles was handed a bill for $10,590.93 — 21 cents per gallon. “I told him I didn’t have that kind of money,” he recounted, “and then he asked if I had a credit card, so I gave him two credit cards and split the amount between the two.”

Days later, after checking to see what his neighbors paid to have parts of their houses pumped out — between $1,000 and $2,000 — Goldfarb sent a letter to the company, complaining that the price he was charged was outrageous. “I called the [state] attorney general’s office and was told to send them as many estimates as possible,” he said. “When I made Citywide aware of this, my credit card was credited $4,000.”

Finger said that company officials decided to issue the credit on Nov. 15 because they sympathized with the Goldfarbs’ situation. “He was in distress at the time and thought the pricing was unrealistic, so we issued the credit,” Finger said. “We’re trying to be reasonable with the individual.”

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