NSSWD denies Summerside refund request

No proof old water meter created overcharge

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The North Salt Spring Waterworks District board has decided against awarding any compensation to the Summerside strata related to meter readings from a unit that’s since been replaced.

The water district’s board of trustees announced their decision at Thursday’s business meeting, explaining they had already spent money to replace the equipment but were still not convinced the previous meter was faulty.

“Considering the $10,000 cost incurred in order to replace the meter in question, at this time we’re directing staff not to take further action,” said district financial officer Ken Roggeman.

Summerside strata council member Jack Braak said the council noticed water bills seemed high a couple of years back and undertook several measures in attempts to discover any problem, including testing water lines during the middle of the night, doing individual toilet leak tests and looking at the complex’s pool usage.

“We originally thought it could be the pool. It has a meter of its own but it’s not a big user — less than what one unit uses each day,” Braak explained.

Finding no significant leaks or problems, the council determined the meter must be at fault. They campaigned to have it replaced, which NSSWD agreed to last August. Registered water use at the strata dropped by 40 per cent immediately after the new meter was installed.

“I’m disappointed in the process. I’m disappointed that waterworks didn’t check to see what we tried first to make sure the problem wasn’t something beside the meter,” Braak said after Thursday’s meeting.

Since the Capital Regional District charges local sewage rates based on water usage from September through April, the strata believes they have probably also made a significant overpayment for their Ganges Sewer connection. Summerside residents have been paying an annual fee of more than $1,400 per unit, but discovered another condo complex in the area was charged just over $500 per unit.

Speaking during Thursday’s NSSWD board meeting, the district’s environmental manager Meghan McKee said the difference in usage recorded after the meter’s replacement did not necessarily mean the old unit was faulty.

“After reviewing many technical documents … there is a very large body of research on water meters under-registering, which happens commonly when they get old. There is virtually no information on meters over-registering,” she said.

McKee explained the only way that type of meter can over-register is if the gears malfunction so that multiple numbers get turned at a time, but that would result in the readings being “orders of magnitude higher,” which would have been noticed.

“Furthermore, it is the opinion of the board that it’s more likely that given the concern over high water consumption and the high water bill, that the residents of the Summerside became more aware of their water use,” McKee said.

Braak said the council reported being concerned about high water bills during their annual general meeting in February 2018. Unfortunately, the old meter was damaged when it was removed and therefore cannot be examined to see if a malfunction occurred.

Board of trustees chair Michael McAllister told the Summerside representatives they could appeal the decision to the Inspector of Municipalities. As of Monday the council had not yet made a decision on whether to move forward.

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