Customers forced to pay for water despite frozen pipes

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB)– Water woes continue in Niagara Falls. Some people living in the city didn’t have water for months this winter after pipes froze but they told News 4, they’re still paying for it.

“If I had known this is how I was going to be treated when I bought a house here, I definitely would’ve thought twice about buying a house in Niagara Falls,” said Anthony Salciccioli.

The City of Niagara Falls put Salciccioli on the drip program this winter, which meant he had to keep a certain amount of water running to keep his pipes from freezing. It didn’t work.

“The plumbers unfroze my line from my box in my driveway to my main line in my house, that was all unfrozen, but the frozen part was in the street,” he said.

Salciccioli told News 4 he was without water from February to the end of March but the Niagara Falls Water Board still sent him a bill. News 4 also talked to his neighbor on Hyde Park Blvd. who said she was also charged for service when her pipes were frozen.

“I didn’t want to pay it because I didn’t have service,” Salciccioli said. “I told them I didn’t have service for half of the cycle, I’ll pay half of it because that’s when I had water.”

He said the Water Board told him he has to pay the entire bill, or they’ll turn his water off.

The Water Board confirmed they have a $98 minimum usage charge that people have to pay even if they don’t use any water at all.

At least 250 people didn’t have water this winter, according to Mayor Paul Dyster.

“What was extraordinary in this case is individuals who had water running had pipes freeze, which is very, very rare,” said Dyster.

He plans to appeal to the Water Board to get that minimum charge dropped.

“Trying to charge people for water they couldn’t receive, during a time they were in very serious hardship for weeks, I think seems a little predatory,” said Dyster.

The Mayor’s actions may not happen soon enough for Salciccioli, who’s water could be turned off on Monday.

“To have that many people go without water and then expect them to wait for it to be thawed, and then charge them for their water when they don’t even have it, it’s absolutely unconscionable,” said Salciccioli. “It just feels like I’m getting robbed.”

We reached out to the Water Board and they told us they are looking into the problem.

Mayor Dyster told News 4 engineers have tested the ground in Niagara Falls to see why the pipes froze so quickly this year. The city is still waiting for the results of that study.

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