PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At least eight residents of the Spanish Lakes neighborhood are fighting water bills in excess of $1,000 dollars, according to the Spanish Lakes Utility Director.
Director Alfredo Camacho said an unknown number of other residents were also given excessive bills hundreds of dollars higher than usual.
Camacho calls the situation “highly suspect” and has informed a nightly citizens patrol to be watchful of anyone suspicious coming on to the property.
He says water usage for residents in the community averages between 4,000 and 10,000 gallons per quarter.
Residents aren’t so sure the water is being stolen or if there is a meter or billing error. They do not know what is going on. Neither does the utility district, representatives claim.
Teresa Rambo’s water bill for the quarter said she used 190,000 gallons of water, costing her more than $3,600.
"This is a stupid bill," said Rambo.
She hasn’t found any leaks around her home.
Karen Laino has a bill for $1,058.75 for the quarter.
“Shocked and appalled,” Laino said.
She says she wasn’t even living in her home during the months in the billing cycle. She is a seasonal resident who recently returned to Port St. Lucie.
“My water was shut off on the outside like I do every time I leave… 55,000 gallons of water? My house would be in the river,” Laino said.
A plumber confirmed she did not have any leaks.
Vivian Schiavino’s bill for the quarter was more than $1,000, though she says a few hundred of that is from a previous billing issue.
“They said I used 29,000 gallons of water.” A plumber also confirmed she had no leaks around her property and her meter was working properly.
“Shock. Just shock,” Schiavino said. She is refusing to pay the bill until she knows more about why it is so high.
The Spanish Lakes Utility District says it is not waiving any fees at this point, not knowing who is at fault for the bills.
The utility district is not a for-profit organization.
Now, representatives are urging residents to closely monitor water usage.
Some are already checking their meters daily.
Several residents are obtaining pro bono legal help.
Camacho says he has not notified police, but says residents can make a call themselves if they’re concerned their water is being stolen.