Customers stuck with $11,000 filter and questions about water test

Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 6:42 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - James Werkheiser had just moved into his new home in Valdese with his wife and two sons. It wasn’t long before he received mail from a company offering to test his water for free.

“Why not? It’s free," Werkheiser said.

But it turned into an extremely expensive investment after Werkheiser bought an $11,000 home filtration system. He says the way the salesman pitched the product to him, he had no other choice.

“He told us that our water was really bad,” Werkheiser said. “That we were drinking high concentrated levels of lead, nitrates and stuff like that.”

Werkheiser is one of four people who filed a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office against Elite Water Systems for selling them the system after an aggressive sales pitch.

Werkheiser says that the salesman used what looked like a home chemistry set and food dye.

All of the people WBTV spoke with were brand new homeowners. It turned out that Werkheiser would be accidentally targeted by Elite Water Systems again and, yet again, Werkheiser invited them to his home.

This time, however, he didn’t tell them that he had already bought their home filtration system or that he would be recording the sales pitch.

In the recording you can hear the salesman testing the water and again claiming that there were dangerous contaminants in the water.

“Your water has 19 contaminants in it. Of those 19, seven of those are above the health guidelines (and) of those seven they all cause cancer,” the salesman said.

The salesman also told Werkheiser that his water tested positive for lead.

To assuage any other concerns, he had Werkheiser called the Town of Valdese water department to test his water both with and without the filter. The only discernible difference between the two was the filter had lower levels of chlorine.

Britney McCrary of Concord also bought a filter from Elite Water Systems after a salesperson said that there was “fecal matter” in her water. But she felt the quality of her water actually decreased after the filter was installed so she called the city to test her water.

“He tested the water, did whatever he needed to do, and said everything was fine,” McCrary said.

Tests from her neighborhood also show that the water quality in her area is fine.

WBTV tried calling Elite Water Systems and owner Melissa Hardin several times but we never received a response.

Both Werkheiser and McCrary said they just want Elite Water Systems to take the filter back. But both of them financed the filter and they say that both the financing company and Elite Water are refusing to take the system back.

“I’m obligated to pay so I have a $200 bill a month, you know, $170 bill a month for a system that doesn’t work,” Werkheiser said.

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