North Side Residents Fighting City Over Giant Water Bill

The old saying warns you can’t take on city hall and win.

Yet, that’s precisely what a group of North Side condo owners have decided to do after getting hit with a water bill from Chicago that topped $10,000 in June 2020.

“For that billing period they said we used 750,000 gallons,” says one of the owners, Travis Lankheet.

In contrast, a normal billing cycle usually sees around 60,000 gallons used, costing the building’s four units roughly $800 in total.

Thinking the reading must be wrong, the owners reached out to City Hall.

They were informed it was probably due to a leak that hadn’t been detected yet. So, they went ahead and investigated.

“In our unit, we had two different plumbers actually,” says owner Kate Saeva. “And they looked at everything.”

The owners of the remaining units also conducted their own inspections, yet they found no signs of leaks or damaged pipes.

Previously, in 2019, the city had swapped out the building’s water meter after realizing it was providing inaccurately high readings.

Residents suspected that was again the case because “it just doesn’t make sense for us to have physically used this much water,” Saeva says.

It seemed like it would be a straightforward solution. However, the city determined the meter was functioning correctly and demanded payment.

Their bill has now escalated to over $23,000 and continues to rise.

Unable to get anywhere, they sought help from their alderman.

“Certainly, my office is trying to help them,” says Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st). “But the communication is feeling at times, very one-sided.”

WGN Investigates reached out to the city’s finance and water departments, seeking face-to-face conversations to address the concern.

Yet, we encountered resistance as well. A spokeswoman from the finance department only confirmed the account balance as “valid” and mentioned the city’s intention to contact the condominium association to propose a payment arrangement.

La Spata believes this is a problem that requires resolution.

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