It's an outrageous water bill that can't be fully explained, but that hasn't stopped Cleveland Water from going after a group of charity-driven people. On Your Side Investigators have been showing you out-of-control bills from Cleveland Water and serious questions about customer service and rights.
This is one of the most puzzling cases that could have serious consequences for people in need.
All money collected by the non-profit Loyal Order of Moose in Northfield Village goes to help many community organizations in our area, at-risk kids at a national school sponsored by the Moose, and local veterans are helped through Moose donations.
We sat down with the Governor of the lodge Al Shaw and asked him how it makes him feel when he helps others. “Good. That's why I got involved in this,” Shaw told us.
The lodge in Northfield is waterlogged with a massive problem.
"Do any of these numbers make sense to you?” we asked Shaw. “No,” he replied.
Adler is trying to figure out the lodge's $16,000+ water and sewer bill. "I think everybody in the club's reaction was it's a mistake," said Adler.
He showed us so many questionable readings from their water account including numerous individual days where there's normal water usage of 200-some gallons, but then the next day it jumps to thousands of gallons, then the day after that it's back to normal. "These are their numbers pulled off their website supplied by the water department and yet they won't look at them,” Adler told us.
We gave Cleveland Water the opportunity to go on camera. Water reps declined. They did tell us they don't think there's an error on their part.
However, if the unexplainable up-and-down usage wasn't bad enough, Adler showed us more. “We went from 215 gallons a day to 25,764 gallons a day."
Adler pointed out that in two years from end of May in 2013 to June 1st of 2015 the lodge used about 157,000 gallons. But, the water department is certain that in a 36-day stretch from August 16th to September 20th of 2015 the lodge somehow used around 920,000 gallons. That's nearly 6 times the amount of the two previous years… all in just 36 days.
To put it in perspective, an Olympic-sized pool only holds 660,000 gallons. There's no pool at the small lodge.
So you might think, after looking at the ridiculous amounts of water attributed to the lodge, the water department would help Moose members that spend their good time and money helping others. Nope. Instead, Cleveland Water sent them a letter threatening a lien on their property if they didn't pay the outrageous bill.
It's a long running response from Cleveland Water that On Your Side Investigators have documented: unexplained large leaks, threats of liens, and questionable customer service. And in this case with the Moose Lodge, Cleveland Water told us the water indicated on the bills went somewhere and its engineers said that much water could go through the lodge's meter in a short amount of time.
"There's no possible way they used that much water," said Mayor of Northfield Village Jesse Nehez. Adler contacted the mayor about the $16,0000+ bill. The mayor turned to his experts. "My engineer did the calculations and he says, 'Mayor, there is absolutely no way that they used the amount of water that the Cleveland Water Department says they're using.’”
And the mayor tells us, water department issues overflow into the community, too. There was a months-long leak on North Plaza Drive. “My fear is what if the road collapses?"
The mayor also told us about a years-long problem with fire hydrants being replaced. He said he calls Cleveland Water only to be told he's on the list. "Very frustrated, because if I have a fire and a hydrant doesn't work in front of someone's house, how do I explain that? Well, we were on the list?"
What's frustrating to the Moose Lodge as well is that Cleveland Water sent it a letter touting a so-called "early leak detection" warning. Surely, a place that uses 100 times the normal amount of water pretty much every day for 36 days would qualify. Well, the water department told us its system did not produce the letter notification, the lodge should have gotten a leak notice and the department is looking into why its warning system failed in this case.
"We just need to get it resolved so we can keep moving on with what we're doing,” said Shaw.
After our calls on this case, the water department decided it would test the lodge's water meter for accuracy. Our cameras were there as they took it out.
Water reps told us the last time a crew was at the lodge to check things out was last December and their inspection was from the outside. The water meter is on the inside. So, it took them more than 9 months to return and get inside the Moose Lodge.
“Yeah, it's frustrating," said Adler.
Water reps told us after testing the meter, there's nothing wrong with it, they haven't had any software problems with meter readings, and they haven't had any other cases with this massive amount of unexplained water in recent memory.
So, it's back to square one for the lodge and instead of being able to focus on just helping people, Moose members are worrying about water. "I don't know where we're going to get the $16,000 and if we do come up with it, then some charitable organizations will suffer in the meantime while we're trying to get that money back,” said Adler. “So, it's just a sad situation."
So far, no lien has been placed on the lodge and the account is on hold as Cleveland Water examines the problem.
We will stay on top of this.