Our continuing investigation into the Cleveland Water Department has turned up yet another elderly customer with many questions about her large water bills.
"I'm getting confused about this water bill thing now," said 81 year-old Mae Reese. She owns a building on Superior Avenue on Cleveland's east side. In her building, there are two stores and two apartments above the stores. “Those (apartments) haven't been occupied…in maybe 15 to 20 years,” explained Reese.
So, imagine her surprise when she got a water bill last year for thousands of dollars. She showed us one of the stores doesn't even have water.
She told us she tried several times to get some answers from customer service for the Cleveland Division of Water. "There's no water being used! She told me ‘We charge you even if you don't use no water.’"
Reese showed us there is only one working toilet and one sink for the whole building. In fact, to help out Reese, a business owner from next door cut the water line going up to the apartments and capped it off.
"No water in the apartments,” said Mohamad Suleiman. We asked how long ago that was? “I would say over 10, 12 years."
Then just last month, Reese got another water bill letter and this time nearly $2,500 was owed. "They told me I had to pay all at one time. I don't have no $7,000 to pay for no water bill all at one time,” said Reese.
The water department told us there was a major leak a few years ago that Reese hasn't paid for and it shut off the water in 2013. However, as we showed you, the water was still working when we were there.
They also told us the new bill is for the water portion and charges separate from her sewer bill.
Reese told us she paid for that major leak through her tax bill and is still confused. "Stop sending me all these big bills when I'm trying my best to cooperate,” said Reese.
The water department told us it started a leak notification system in 2014 and to this date more than 20,000 notices have gone out to customers. 91 percent of whom have come off the list which means the leak was taken care of.
That system was established after Reese had her problem and now, after our involvement, she is talking directly to water department reps to get some answers.