By Julie Grant

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Roughly 2,500 Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers have received 10-day shutoff notices, but the reason for it is unclear.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said her office has been inundated with calls, with many of them are scared, elderly, and aren’t sure why their water service is set to be shut off.

“We had one who called and said what she owes is more than she makes in a week. She was just beside herself because she hadn’t received any prior notice,” said Councilwoman Kail-Smith, Pittsburgh’s councilwoman for District 2.

Councilwoman Kail-Smith isn’t sure what’s behind the surge of PWSA shutoff notices to many of her constituents.

“I just know that we are getting calls from people who can’t pay bills, people who are ill, or senior citizens, and are really terrified,” said Councilwoman Kail-Smith.

The councilwoman has been contacting the PWSA on behalf of the residents calling her and can’t get a clear answer.

“Part of the problem is that they are saying that residents were notified, either they signed up for the online billing. Residents are saying they absolutely did not,” said Councilwoman Kail-Smith.

In October of 2017, the PWSA put in place a service shutoff moratorium from Dec. 1 until March 31 to help low income customers having trouble paying their bills.

“When you factor in that they have been sent to the Hilltop communities, and southwest of the river, you know that some of those 2,500 people have to fit in within that guideline,” said Councilwoman Kail-Smith.

Councilwoman Kail-Smith said the PWSA has been helpful when her office calls, but many residents are complaining they are not being helped when they call.

“All I am asking is for them to give people an avenue to call, to train their workforce to take the calls, so that people don’t feel so overwhelmed when they are calling and so afraid that they are going to lose their service,” said Councilwoman Kail-Smith.

In the meantime, she urges anyone having issues to contact her office.

PWSA said through their Communications Director Will Pickering that the 10-day shutoff notices are not a mistake. These are unpaid balances dating back to 2015.

Nobody has been shut off to date, and that is a last resort.

They are willing to put folks on payment plans or they may still fall under the moratorium, depending on their income.

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