City of Westlake is fighting Cleveland Water Department in court, wants another water supplier

Posted at 9:27 AM, Jun 15, 2017

In a News 5 on-going investigation "Drowning in Dysfunction" that has exposed numerous, documented problems at the Cleveland Division of Water, we have a new look at concerns in a Cleveland suburb.

Westlake has taken The Cleveland Water Department to court as the suburb tries to find other sources for water and we wanted an update on the case.

"We had poor service,” said Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough. However, that wasn’t all that bothered him about Cleveland Water.

The mayor told us water main breaks are a big problem. Cleveland Water is supposed to maintain the lines but the mayor feels it should do more.

“Our taxpayers are paying for the waterline replacements even if it had 10 breaks in the past couple of years, it's not enough for Cleveland to replace the line, (they) only have to patch it. That doesn't work very well for us," Mayor Clough said.

Westlake wanted to explore other options when its Cleveland Water contract expired in 2015. Cleveland Water pushed back. Mayor Clough told us Cleveland Water’s reaction. "Well, you're not allowed to do that. This contract is basically forever,” he said.

That's when Westlake took the department to court. Westlake was able to prevent Cleveland Water from charging residents even more fees.

The mayor said now he’s waiting for the courts to decide how much notice Westlake must give Cleveland Water before looking for other suppliers. "The service has been lacking, there's no question,” said the mayor. “They made some improvements, I want to be fair with it but, overall, we're not satisfied yet."

Here is the Cleveland Water Department’s response:

            “As outlined in the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals decision, the contract between the City of Westlake and Cleveland Water remains in place, and we will continue to provide a reliable supply of safe drinking water to residents and businesses in the City of Westlake. Since the decision of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas was reversed and remanded by the 8th Appellate District for additional consideration, it remains active litigation and we cannot comment further at this time.

With regard to water mains, Cleveland Water makes repairs to all water main breaks in the 68 direct service communities – including the City of Westlake. In the City of Westlake, water mains smaller than 20 inches in diameter are owned by the City of Westlake. This is similar to many other communities in the Cleveland Water system. Since these mains are not owned by Cleveland Water, we are legally prohibited from replacing or making capital improvements to these mains. The City of Westlake has been offered a Restated Water Service Agreement, and several accompanying agreements, which would transfer these mains to Cleveland Water whereupon we would assume responsibility for capital replacement. To date, 33 communities have taken advantage of this program, and we have committed more than $112 million to this effort.”

So far, no timetable is set for a decision from the judge. Meanwhile, Westlake hired an engineering firm to look at other suppliers like nearby Avon Lake to supplement Westlake's water needs.