T he village is investigating illegal hook-ups they believe are contributing to the volume of treated water that goes unaccounted for each year.
Officials said last week there are a number of addresses that receive water service but do not have water meters. They are trying to determine the exact number of users who don’t have the meters and plan to take steps to compel them to have the meters installed.
The village passed a law three years ago making it illegal to not have a meter, but the problem continues to exist.
Ken Bartholomew, village trustee, said last week that some of the users who do not have meters have denied village employees access to their homes even though the village has the legal right to enter the home and install the meters.
Until now officials haven’t forced the situation, but with an audit earlier this year revealing the village is pumping tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of treated water that cannot be accounted for, there has been a renewed effort to compel users to have the meters installed.
An audit of the village’s water system completed by the New York State Comptroller’s office earlier this year found that the village paid to process 277 million gallons of water, but billed customers for only 75 million gallons.
After factoring in unmetered activities such as hydrant flushing and firefighting, the village still couldn’t account for 148 million gallons of water, or 55 percent of the water it processed in 2010.
The audit estimated the cost to distribute that water was worth between $97,000 and $129,000.
Off the meter
Without meters the village cannot track how much water is being used by some homes.
The owners of meter-less homes are charged a $300 penalty every billing cycle, totaling $1,200 a year. They are also charged a flat rate for their sewer usage.
But the number of users who are charged the penalty is believed to be much lower than the actual number of users who do not have meters.
The Whitehall Rec. Center is one property that is not hooked up to a water meter.
“I don’t care if we charge them, but we need to account for where the water is going,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew said he expected to have a meter installed at the Rec. Center this week and it will be up to the village board if they wish to charge the center for its water usage.
There is no cost to have a water meter installed and the process takes approximately 15 minutes.
Further exacerbating the loss of water is the fact that officials estimate there are approximately 187 illegal hose hook-ups in the village.
Those hoses are connected to the village water supply before the meters on the properties, meaning any water that is used by one of those hoses is unaccounted for.
Unlike users without meters, the village already has a list of customers who have hook-ups before the meters, from a survey completed a few years ago.
Once the list of meter-less homes is compiled, the village board will review the information and determine how to proceed.
Bartholomew said it’s possible they may send a letter to those users telling them they need to have a meter installed and must remove illegal hook-ups.
“We have to get this straight,” Bartholomew said.