Poseidon’s Wrath – Somerville Residents Getting Soaked by Increased Water & Sewer Bills

By Judy Locchi Jacobs 

Poseidon, God of water was known for his unyielding temper and overbearing arrogance. Those who angered him became victims of his wrath. 
He was known for causing floods, sea storms and unleashed his sea monsters on his enemies. 
Sound familiar? In modern times, who does this remind you of?
Anyone who has been paying close attention to what’s been going on in the city knows that the mayor must continue to feed his hungry beast –his carefully selected developers, who continue to make enormous profits while we struggle with unexplainable water and sewer issues.
I believe Joe’s best buddies should be paying for a new water and sewer system for the entire city – we long time residents have been burdened with their grossly overpriced eminent domain acquired $3 billion dollar boondoggle, GLX and Union Square, while they continue to become millionaires at our expense.
Their ongoing strategy to get long time local residents to sell is to increase already high water and sewer bills. 
In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the water use of the home and business owner. It is primarily due to the fact we have a long time failing water and sewer system that continues to be overburdened by thousands of condos being built throughout the city.
I contacted the city in an attempt to dispute my recent bill. During our conversation, I was told I would most likely receive an abatement for the overages, however, that has since changed. 
Our household water use is average. This last quarter, my bill more than double the standard amount of $875 to an unexplained $1700.
My plumber insists the overages were excessive. He’s canvassed the house to make sure there were no leaks and maintains that even a dripping toilet or broken hot water heater could not have increased the bill in two weeks at $825, creating a bill of $1700.
He maintains, “Your street and the entire city is, “OVER CAPACITY “– in other words, too many condos and too many new toilets flushing into a 200 year old decaying and failing sewer system. I maintain, the bill has to be a mistake.
Could the unexplained surges be a signal to apply a random cost that is not calculated by the meter? 
Or could it be exceedingly high water pressure that continues to be unmonitored?
Would adding filters to incoming water pipe preserve hot water heaters longer than 4 years?
My plumber contends there are a number of metals and other debris entering the water pipes and settling into our water heaters rendering them less efficient.
Some have observed the water table shifts leaving basements damp and musty.
Why aren’t the developers and lawyers close to the mayor paying for a new sewer system? 
Those who are making millions building luxury and micro-unit condos and buying up entire neighborhoods of residential homes—are the very same people who promise affordable housing and a renewable city that all can enjoy.
Instead, they are taking city real estate for self-serving profits to build private empires.
Some have been long time politicians who moonlight as realtors and lawyers while representing clients who have pending zoning and planning cases before these boards. 
They involve a number of conflict of interest scenarios where these individuals are elected to maintain the oversight and governance of their constituents all while their family members are on these boards and working at city hall. 
They are the very same individuals who serve and protect the mayor, not the long time voters, home and business owners and residents who got him elected.
CASH IS KING FOR THE ZONING KINGS
On our street alone, one long time resident shared, ” That lawyer has purchased 6 homes and the newest seller refuses to sell to him”. The lawyer bought a soon to be foreclosure home of a long time family I knew personally, who were qualified for a financing, but something went wrong with the transaction. 
They next thing we knew, the family home turned the residence into a law practice.  
I also knew the realtor who shared his disgust at tactics of this lawyer and his realtor and shared, “The family was able to keep the home, but the lawyer and realtor just took it away from them. They had their financing in place with the bank, I don’t know what happened”. 
Some of the same lawyers are referred to as “slumlords”, who don’t keep up on routine maintenance and hire shoddy workers who leave the new condos in ruins with pending lawsuits of “cracked foundations, broken water pipes and other substandard construction work”.
This was told to me by a city planner and plaintiffs who owned condos, while attending local meetings and listening to the same lawyers and developers who monopolize the city real estate market and have been doing so for years.
How long before these ravenous predators dig into all of our neighborhoods to make way for overpriced shoddy condos?
So what is the real motive behind increased water bills?
Local residents have complained about continual water bill increases for the last 5 years. 
In addition to the increases, there is some talk about single family owners paying the same as three family owners.
To make it even more difficult for the average homeowner to decipher ongoing confusion over high water/sewer bills, the meetings are not held regularly, (neither are planning/zoning meetings) nor are they communicating effectively to ensure we get enough information on how and why these charges are applied.
Who can make any sense of it all? 
That’s exactly their intent – to keep us in the dark, hope we give up and move, never to be heard from again.
We are discouraged from speaking out at public meetings which are held for residents to keep us informed, not so politicians can hear themselves talk. 
Few know the signal of an electronic water meter (installed outside our homes and businesses) is recorded by a city technician who could improperly document the reading– such an instance is termed as USER ERROR.
I advocate for new meters for all homes and businesses which should be funded by developers not the overburdened taxpayers of the city.
From what I discovered on the web, there have been cases of faulty electronic water meters, where in some cases; the manufacturer had to refund cities for the defective devices. All one has to do is Google “faulty water meters”, to find a variety of articles on the subject.
I believe the homeowners deserve answers. If the meters are old and defective, they should be replaced. 
I asked if the city would replace my water meter and outdoor electronic signal device but was told it would cost about $200 for each. This request is unacceptable based on the amount of our already too high water and sewer charges.
The city should allow us to add more water meters to our multiple family homes so we can defer the increased costs of water to tenants. If it’s good enough for the big developers and condo owners — it should apply to long time multiple family homeowners. We are unable to defer these expenses to tenants because rents are unaffordable.
Forced to attend random, last minute meetings is inconsiderate and intentional. The less who attend – the better the outcome for those with vested interests. In fact, their continued disorganization creates confusion, speculation and frustration among residents who would like the facts, not delays and the run-around.
Last Fall, I attended a water and sewer meeting at SHS cafeteria. The meeting was arranged for the sole purpose of explaining pending increases. I took the opportunity to speak on behalf of my own sewer & water issues and explained the broken sewer pipe on Mead Street about 10 years ago which resulted in having it rerouted to an alternate, underground, “brick chimney”, which fed into the main sewer 30 feet below. As the city officials stated, “The chimney collapsed and the city has no money to pay for it”. Now our street has a faulty sewer line which the city continues to ignore. Several years ago, several or more neighbors had 3-4 raw sewage backups in their basements during flash flooding rains.
If I had not demanded the city dig up the street to locate the broken sewer pipe, I am convinced I would have been expected to pay to excavate my yard (and more) where some guy who was a friend of ISD said, “Lady, it will cost ya’ five grand just for me to put my shovel in the ground”, which I quickly replied, “You can take your shovel and go home, because I’m not giving you five grand. The problem lies in the street”!
If you think something is wrong with your water bill – you are probably right. Trying to find out exactly where the mistake is will be difficult. But if enough residents persist in demanding a full investigation into our water bill issues, maybe we will find the answers.
Interestingly, there were some odd events that occurred after I became more verbal at city meetings and began writing about my experiences with my property. 
About a month ago, I was woken up by a DPW jackhammer at 7 a.m., on a Saturday, just a short 10 feet away from my bedroom window. The explanation provided by SPD who arrived on the scene after being called– “DPW workers were tending to a broken sidewalk”.
Since when does the city show up on a Saturday morning at 7 a.m., to repair sidewalks? I don’t recall seeing anything wrong with that section of sidewalk. It sits between two remolded homes owned by monied arrivals– who moved here from the insulated local enclaves of upper class suburbia.
Other unusual occurrences have occurred which I cannot share, classified as “selective enforcement”, in order to wear me down and force me to sell so one of the mayor’s friends can turn my home into a multi-unit condo complex. 
I’ve had enough of their continued underhand tactics, distortions and attempts to discredit long time residents who have legitimate concerns.
They have clearly underestimated the power of our local residents and how I’m wired – I’m never out of the game.
I am one who sees it to the end and I have a great deal of strength as my parents who were faced with far worse years earlier during fascist occupied Italy. 
I know what it means to be poor and I also know what it means to fight for my rights, and the rights of others while always staying true to myself.

For some reason, some are feeling as entitled as the newcomers they have lured into our city with the promises of GLX, new luxury condos, booze fests and streets lined with only bicycle lanes for 300 circular miles.
I’m not sorry if I have offended anyone who works for the mayor. You know frankly, I have had enough of the BS. The alderman work for us, we don’t work for them. 
I’ve reminded them repeatedly that the tide is turning and one day, they too may become displaced, but they don’t want to hear that—I guess it’s easier to live in La La Land.  
There are other communities that have dealt with gentrification takeovers only to find the entrenched political culture too, had eventually changed and been forced out.
We all gain wisdom by our mistakes and the only two certainties in life—we know they are not about forever having the ability to remain in power because that inevitably changes as well.
As for their motivations– it’s not business for me—it’s personal– it’s about family, self, and maintaining the preservation of our long time local community.

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