The Halifax Water Commission says a mail-out bill telling customers about the city’s stormwater surcharge “may not have been the best idea,” now that the shock of staggeringly high bills is settling in.

David Barrett, co-owner of Barrett Lumber Company, says he received a bill for $9,000 last month all to pay for Halifax Water's stormwater treatment, a service Barrett says the 88-year-old business doesn't use.

"It’s just something that the forestry industry can't handle,” he said.

Barrett says he hadn't heard of the fee so it came as a surprise to him. 

“We have three settling ponds here on our site. All the water goes towards the Little Sackville River,” he said.

Halifax Water says even if homeowners and businesses outside of downtown haven't been billed in the past, they've been using its services. The utility says it's up to the home or business owner to prove they don't use the culverts and ditches and that stormwater is absorbed into the ground on their property.

“If they feel there's a problem with their bill, that they don't actually receive any service from Halifax Water through our stormwater system, then that bill would be reversed,” said spokesman James Campbell.

"The method we chose to communicate with the customers was through a direct mail-out to the customer with information in the bill. Now in retrospect that may not have been the best idea."

Meanwhile, Barrett says the bill will jump to $14,000 next year, so he's starting a fight to get the charge dropped.  

"I'm writing a letter to the premier.”