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Water Mystery: Sky high water rates worry residents

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. (Rich Jaffe) -- It's gotten so bad, some neighbors said they simply can't pay their water bills.

The owner of Beechwood Mobile Home Park in Fort Mitchell said his company subsidized the sewer and water bills since taking over two and a half years ago.  The mobile home park has been there since the 1970's.  It's a well-maintained, quiet place, where many of the residents own their homes.

What no one knew until Local 12 started asking was, it now appears that somewhere underneath the place there's a huge gusher of a water leak.  For the last few years, Ella Karcher has watched her water and sewer bills go right through the roof of her tiny mobile home.  A high use rate for a family of 4 would be $70 or $80.  Living alone, Ella and other residents at the Beechwood Mobile Home Park now pay more than $93 a month for the privilege of drinking and flushing.

Ella told Local 12 News, "I moved here as a widow and thought this would be our little slice of heaven because it would be my own home.  And then all of a sudden these water bills started coming in and it's holy cow, I guess I won't eat this month."

SSK Communities owns the park.  And while each home has its own water meter, the water district meter for the entire property is at the entrance.  Kim Lightner's lived there for five years and said they haven't been able to get an explanation on the rates from SSK.

Kim said, "Explain to us the calculations you are using on why we're being charged what we're being charged.  I can accept an explanation and bite the bullet on what I have to pay based on that but when I don't get explanations that's what makes me wonder what's going on?"

SSK's Nathan Smith told Local 12 they've been steadily raising the water rates to try and pay the parks incredible water bills.  While residents are paying $93 a month he said the real cost is almost $193 a month for each lot!

Smith explained, "Since we took over two years ago we have consistently been astonished by what the bills are.  But when you inherit a property you just assume, 'OK well, we inherited the property, bills are running 30,000 every three months, that's 10,000 a month.  That sounds odd to us but in the realm of possibility.'"

So after Local 12 started looking into this, Nathan Smith and a representative from the water district walked around the property.  They discovered the district meter was virtually spinning out of control.  It showed the place was losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 gallons of water a day and it may have been doing that for years.

On Wednesday Smith and the residents plan to walk the property to try and find the leak.  Local 12 will be with them and will update the public on what is found.

Nathan Smith told Local 12 he checked on another mobile home park his company owns.  He said Beechwood only has 70 homes, but the other park has nearly 200 and the water and sewer bill there was $2,000 a month less than the bill at Beechwood.

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