Water bills 9X higher than normal rates have Elyria residents looking for answers

ELYRIA, Ohio - Water service at an Elyria home was shut off Wednesday morning, while the resident there has been trying to figure out why his water bill has been escalating to more than $600 a month. He turned to FOX 8 for answers.

When Donald Symons moved into his home several months ago he said his first water bill was nearly $150, which is about twice what some of his neighbors are paying each month.

Symons said the next month his water bill skyrocketed to more than $500.

"We just use the sink and the tub. We have no washer, no dryer. We unhooked the dishwasher. There's no way...it's like filling up three pools," said Symons.

He showed FOX 8 News where he replaced plumbing and related fixtures, including sinks and toilets in the home.

He replaced a faucet to a bathtub that he said had a very slow drip and claimed the next water bill he got was even higher -- more than $600.

"The agreement was that I would pay $200, and we paid $200. Then we would pay another $225 on [January 3rd] when I get my disability check and they said that was fine. And, when we got up this morning my water was turned off," Symons told FOX 8 News on Wednesday.

Councilman Marcus Madison tells FOX 8, the problem does not seem to be isolated.

"So right here, even on 11th Street, we heard that there was a bill that was a little over $800, so you know we are hearing that particular issue. Earlier in the year there was another resident in the ward that had a situation in Riverside that, you know, he's on a fixed income, and his bill was expensive as well," said Madison.

That man, a senior citizen, was struggling to pay a bill that was almost $500.

Symons said the water meter in his home is in the basement and only way for someone to accurately read the meter is to come inside.

He said during the time he has lived there someone has been at the house at all times and nobody has ever come to the door to read his meter.

The bills he showed FOX 8 say the amount had been calculated from the previous month's bill, appearing to be an estimate.

Councilman Madison said that seems to be a big part of the problem.

"You know, I think its going back between the estimates that we have here. And, for a long time we have been estimating different prices and the water usage. And, we are starting to make some changes which will be for the better," said Madison.

The city is in the process of replacing all of the old meters with new digital ones that can be accurately read from outside of the home.

But Symons' home, and some of the others who are reporting bills more than 9X what is expected, have older meters. Within minutes of FOX 8's visit, Symons said a representative from the mayor's office was at his home having the water turned back on and explaining that the house has had a "dead meter'"for years.

The explanation only makes Symons wonder who was making the enormous estimates that he and his landlord have been left paying for as many as three years.

Symons said the city personally assured him that the problem at his residence would be resolved. He said for months he has tried to resolve the problem himself, making numerous calls to the city and to the water department, only to be dismissed.

Madison told FOX 8 on Wednesday that he urges others who have the same problem to contact council members, while he and others work on finding a way to make sure all complaints are all addressed.

"That's alarming, I mean, it's concerning to hear stories like that and so, as city council, as administration, we are going to have to come together and look at what's happening, not only here in the fifth ward, but in the city," said Madison.

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