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City Must Do Something About Leaks

By Staff | Feb 24, 2016

Sistersville Mayor Bill Rice wants City Council to consider the possibility of purchasing radio-read water meters. He contends that new meters will better alert City Hall about water leaks.

City Recorder Chad Edwards said with radio-read water meters, the city would save money in terms of labor costs and better readings. Edwards said it takes about a week to collect meter readings using the old meters and another week deciphering and uncovering discrepancies.

Recently, the city’s Water Department workers discovered a water meter running at an abandoned house. Before it was shut off, the water meter registered more than 17,000 gallons of water that had been lost. Though the city may pump 3 million gallons per month, it only bills for about 1.6 million gallons.

If the city is able to reduce its water loss rate, it would be able to tap into the Tyler Public Service District’s water supply instead of drawing water from the Ohio River. Sistersville is among the last places in the state to draw water from the river. In the wake of last fall’s algae bloom, City Hall has expressed concerns about the river water’s quality.

Rice said the new water meters would cost about $180 each, for a total replacement cost of between $130,000 and $171,000.

Sistersville resident Todd Tippins said on Monday that although the water meters are a good idea, the city’s water loss rate should be attributed more to leaks in water lines than misread meters. He said the city survives on a tight budget, so adding more debt to purchase these meters is not sound financial policy. Tippins believes an eventual water rate increase may be necessary to pay for the meters.

Rice said he does not support raising water rates.

Clearly, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider regarding the purchasing of radio-read water meters. Though new water meters themselves won’t stop the leaks, could they better identify them, and free up time for workers to actually fix the leaks? Can the city afford the costs involved? With nearly half the water being pumped lost to leaks, the one thing the city cannot afford to do is “nothing.”