A Strongsville family has been living without water service since May 16 after what they describe as a billing snafu with the Cleveland Division of Water.
Bill Kochock said his family has tried for four years to straighten out the billing situation.
"My wife uses a breathing machine that requires water, and we take diabetic medicine. There are five of us living here, and we are very thirsty. We are not sleeping good, or eating good, feeling light headed, and licking our lips a lot," Kochock wrote in an email.
He said his family -- inlcuding his wife, Delores, two adult sons and his sister -- lives on disability.
For the last week and a half, they have been getting water from to flush their toilets and have used the small amount of bottled water they had sparingly.
But until their next disability check arrives in June, they have no money to buy more water. And they now don't have enough gas in their car to get to Bonnie Park.
"We have contacted PUCO, Call for Help, the attorney general, public utilities, the water company's district manager, senior center, housing court, Cleveland Action Center," Kochock said in the email. "And no one helped us."
Paula Morrison, spokeswoman for Cleveland Water, agreed to investigate the matter, at the request of Strongsville Patch.
She said on Wednesday that the case was complicated and she did not have much information yet, other than the family had not paid a water bill since 2009 and that the case was marked "hardship."
According to Kochock, the saga started in 2008 when he received an "enormously high" water bill at the house his family rents. When Delores called Cleveland to ask about it, she was told the bill had been put "on hold."
Over the next three years, each time Delores called to discuss the bill or work out a payment plan, she was assured that the bill was still on hold.
Complicating the matter was that their landlord assured them he would handle the bill, but has left the country.
Now, they have been told they owe $5,000 -- and the water won't go back on until they pay.
"This is crazy," Kochock said. "I can understand if the bill was in our name, and we didn't pay, or try to work things out."
On Thursday, after yet another call to the Mayor's Action Center, the family was told if they provided a doctor's note, the water would be turned back on.
They had their doctor fax the medical form, but nothing happened. When they called Cleveland Water, a customer service representative said service would not be restored until they pay their bill.
It has put the family in a desperate situation.
"I don't look for handouts," Kochock said. "We do pay our bills."