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Woman's power cut after $28,000 bill

February 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Imagine getting a utility bill for $28,000. It's happened to a senior citizen in the San Fernando Valley, and her family says it's shocking and unfair. But the Department of Water and Power (DWP) is telling a different story.This is a bill that had been accumulating for one great-grandmother for quite a while. It turns out the culprit is a slab leak under her living room floor that was never fixed. Now she's staring at a bill likely to drain her wallet.

Eighty-six-year-old Eva Ramirez, who has lived in her Canoga Park house for more than 30 years, says she never expected something like this to happen.

"I always pay my bill, though. I always. It's the first thing we did was pay the bill," said Ramirez.

But about two weeks ago, Ramirez's power was cut off after receiving a DWP bill for $28,000 in water and sewer charges. It had accumulated exponentially over the past two years because of a leaky pipe under the house.

Family members say they just discovered the exact location of that leaky pipe on Thursday.

"It's terrible, because you know, she's an elderly woman. It's kind of like she's been abandoned by her community, because what do they expect her to do? Twenty-eight-thousand dollars is not something any of us have," said granddaughter Angela Ramirez.

But Ramirez, who lives with one of her sons, claims she hasn't received a bill for a year and a half. Other family members turned the water off themselves Thursday and say they're outraged that the DWP cut the power in the elderly woman's home and allowed the bill to escalate to thousands of dollars.

"Now if they would have turned it off when it was $1,000, maybe we could have dealt with it, and dealt with the problem then," said son Russ Ramirez. "But they let it accumulate over a period of two years."

But the DWP says the Ramirez story isn't quite air-tight. A DWP spokesman tells Eyewitness News that Ramirez became delinquent and didn't pay her power and water bill for a year and a half.

Joe Ramallo, the director of public affairs for the LADWP, said, "The customer was advised of this over a year and a half ago and told we needed them to help us help them by first fixing the leak. Then we could work with them to apply appropriate credits to their bill."

The DWP says they will work with any customer who experiences a leak, but they will need customers to stay in contact with them. The Ramirez family says now that they know where the leak is, they plan to get it fixed. DWP says when that happens, they will work with the family to lower the bill substantially.

 

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