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Getting Hosed: East Garfield Park resident $64,000 for water bill; 'There must be a mistake'

Getting Hosed: East Garfield Park resident $64,000 for water bill; 'There must be a mistake'
Getting Hosed: East Garfield Park resident $64,000 for water bill; 'There must be a mistake' 02:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- How does a water bill for $200 turn into a $64,000 tab from one bill to the next?

It's not the first time the CBS 2 Investigators have uncovered a bloated bill like this as part of CBS 2's Getting Hosed series on bad water bills.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports a family said they don't have much time to figure this out The bill is due this Thursday and they've been frantically trying to get answers for two weeks with no luck.

"Well, there must be a mistake."

Jazmin Juarez doesn't understand how this bill could be real. CBS 2 dug through stacks of her family's previous bimonthly water bills for their East Garfield Park home. They were all between $170 and $220.

Then last month, they were told their water usage had skyrocketed more than 428 times to $64,528.52.

The Shedd Aquarium reportedly holds about five million gallons of water. The city said this family used approximately six million gallons in two months. Her water bill is more than her tuition at the University of Chicago.

Juarez said city crews had been working on the sidewalk in front of her neighbor's home.

"It was on my neighbor's side so I'm not exactly sure that they were doing but the whole house would shake," she said.

But water was in her house was flowing like normal.

"All the faucets work. There's no loss of pressure or anything."

Worried about an underground leak, she reached out to 311 several times. She said that finally the city sent a crew over the weekend. They told her nothing was leaking under the sidewalk and they couldn't explain the massive bill.

"They told me to hire a good lawyer, that this is probably a billing issue with the city."

When it comes to her unfathomable bill, Jazmin Juarez knows she's not alone. She saw CBS 2's "Getting Hosed" series that began in 2018 with a quest that has saved consumers tens of thousands on their bills and exposed an often flawed billing system.

She said right now the clock is ticking for her.

"It doesn't look good on the city for its resident to me reaching out to the news in order to get action. This bill is due on May 26," said Juarez.

CBS 2 did hear back from the water department on Monday. A spokesperson did not answer any questions about this specific bill but said the Chicago Department of Finance will be in touch with the account holder.

The Finance Department also declined to comment about this specific bill:

"The Department of Finance (DOF) does not comment on individual accounts. We will reach out to the customer to assist in resolving their water billing issue.  We encourage any customer who is struggling to pay their utility bill to enroll in a payment arrangement by calling us at 312-744-4426 or through our online portal:  https://utilitybill.chicago.gov

Customers are also encouraged to visit Chicago.gov/UBR to see if they are eligible for the Utility Billing Relief (UBR) Program, which provides a 50% reduction to a customer's water, sewer, and water-sewer taxes, as well as debt forgiveness.  Customers who are eligible for UBR may also be eligible for the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).  Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA) is the agency that administers LIHWAP applications.  Customers who would like to apply can call CEDA at 1-800-571-2332."

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