FOX 8 Investigates: Water bills shock residents as St. John works to eradicate deadly amoeba

RESERVE, LA (WVUE) - On Thursday, Reserve residents said they're being charged more for their water after a deadly amoeba was found in the parish's water system a few weeks ago.

The first round of bills since St. John went into "crisis mode" went out to Reserve residents this week.

"My bill has never been that much, what it is now," said Olivia Gordon.

A 50 percent increase in Gordon's water bill was not something she was prepared for.

"You have your budget written out - I'm going to pay this much for water like I paid the last month and the last month and the last month. And here comes a bill for $27.77 more than what I had put in my budget," said Gordon.

Her bill jumped from $58 to $87.77 in one month.

"It puts you on a strain," said Gordon.

What's most concerning, she said, is that she hadn't been using the water nearly as much since a deadly amoeba was found in the water system servicing her Reserve home. Like many people, she's been buying bottled water.

"It's messing up your budget," said Gordon.

Vice Chairman of the St. John Parish Council Michael Wright said Gordon wasn't the only one seeing a price jump. Reserve residents immediately began calling his office looking for answers.

White said there was a "legitimate concern of why are we going to have residents pay for poor quality and why are we going to have them pay for a service that they can't use. Obviously over this Emergency Order, consumption is going to be way down, but they're going to be paying for water they can't use."

"I don't want them to pay a dollar more than what they normally pay. A dollar is too much in my opinion," said Councilman Lennix Madere Jr.

Madere represents Reserve, and he said the council proposed the idea of having residents pay an average bill of their past three months during the crisis.

"I think most residents would be satisfied paying the average and not have to come out of their pocket for an additional 5, 10 or 20 dollars even for a month," said Madere.

Parish President Natalie Robottom sent this statement to explain how the parish is looking into the matter:

"The Utilities Billing Manager gathered a three month billing average for residents in Reserve, Garyville, Mt. Airy and impacted areas of LaPlace prior to the August 27th water system announcement.

After 30 days of consumption, the averages of the affected area will be reviewed to determine the change in consumption. This information will allow for Administration to make an informed decision on billing adjustments for residents.

The water bills are mailed in cycles. Reserve has received a monthly bill that includes only 9 days of the Emergency Order time period. Garyville/Mt. Airy has not received a bill for the time period of the Emergency Order."

Gordon said even if the parish decides on a reimbursement plan, it won't help her current situation.

"Do something about it now, because I'm paying now. Not on the end. I'm paying right here at the beginning," said Gordon. "I don't have that kind of money to waste to pay for somebody else's mistakes."

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