Mix-up leaves Lake Charles woman owing two years of back pay on water bills

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 7:15 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - One woman has been bracing the heat and now has no running water after she said there was a mix-up with the city, claiming she owes two years’ worth of water bills.

Just a drip, that’s all the water that will come out of Alexis Ancelet’s kitchen faucet.

“I am currently without water trying to figure out what my next step is and what I need to do to get it back on because I don’t know anyone who just has $1,500 laying around my age,” she said.

She lives in the Sugarloaf community in Lake Charles, where she claims several people are in the same predicament.

“For the last two years, I have not received a bill,” Ancelet said. “I have not gotten anything like that and come to find out I am the seventh person in this community that this has happened to.”

Ancelet told 7NEWS after the 2020 Hurricanes the lot rent in her neighborhood went up. She was under the impression that rent now covered water service, too. So, she called the city to cancel her account.

She claims the water was never turned off, assumed her landlord was paying for it and kept using it.

“The issue at hand is if you [the City of Lake Charles] have it in your system that I called and canceled February of 2021, why did no one from the division come out and cut off my water,” Ancelet said. “Why was it still allowed to be on and running and everything?”

The City of Lake Charles said their crew did turn off the water back in 2021.

The city said someone else - not with the water department - must have turned it back on. The city also told us that at that time there was no account connected to the water service and there wasn’t one since Ancelet canceled.

Two years’ worth of unpaid water later, the city recently switched out the analog meter for a digital one and found the issue.

The city said one of the benefits of upgrading to automated meter infrastructure is that it immediately alerts and pinpoints issues like this.

Now, Ancelet is told she has to pay $1,500.

“I work really hard for what I have,” she said. “Everyone is struggling so much right now. I don’t have that type of money to just give to you. You know, obviously, had I been billed each month, that would have been perfectly fine.”

The city told KPLC they will work with her on repayment. They also said any customers experiencing a situation like this should reach out to the water division.