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Getting Hosed: Homeowner’s water bill jumps from $200 to $5,000 with no explanation

<i>WBBM</i><br/>CBS Chicago looks at a local man's water meter after his water bill went from $200 to $5
CBS Chicago looks at a local man's water meter after his water bill went from $200 to $5

By Megan Hickey

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — How did a regular water bill for about $200 a month balloon into $5,000 overnight?

The CBS 2 Investigators have been uncovering the problem for years as part of our Getting Hosed series on bad water bills.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Monday, what is frustrating about this particular story is the homeowner was just being an honest guy and alerted the Chicago Department of Water Management to his unusually low bill.

More than five months later, he is facing an inexplicable $20,000 water bill – and says he has nowhere left to turn.

Reinaldo Santiago went out of his way to prove to us there couldn’t be a leak at his property in Irving Park East. The number on his water meter was stationary and not changing, the toilet was not hissing, and no water was rushing near his property or that of his neighbors.

Several city water crews told Santiago the same.

“They said, ‘No leaks!'” he said.

But when Santiago’s water bill in August mysteriously came in at $0, he reached out to the city thinking he surely owed more.

Santiago owned the property for 30 years and has recently averaged about $200 a month in water usage.

But the bill in September came out to $5,311.19.

Retired and on a fixed income, a water bill for more than $5,000 is not something he and his family can afford to pay.

“I’m scared. Honestly, I am scared – because when I see this bill, and they’re threatening for a collection notice?” Santiago said.

Santiago is a meticulous note taker. He records every single call, and dropped call, with the Water Management and Finance departments – who keep promising to get the billing issue sorted out.

But five months later, there has been no fix – and that bill has now exploded to $20,748.78.

“I’m definitely, definitely getting hosed,” Santiago said.

The Department of Finance would only say they don’t comment on individual accounts – and said they would reach out to the customer to assist in resolving their water billing issue.

Santiago said he has been talking to that very department this whole time – and worries he’ll never get the problem fixed.

“I’m an honest person,” he said. “I want my water bill to be corrected.”

We followed up with the Department of Finance, asking if they can just tell us what the problem is — whether a glitch, human error, or if they’re claiming he really used 1.3 million gallons of water.

So far, there has been no response.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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