Customers of the North East Water System are responsible for maintaining their underground service lines from the meter to the structure. Occasionally these service lines will break for various reasons including: age of the material used, ground settling, digging/excavation, etc. When the service line breaks, if it is not detected early and fixed, it can result in large water consumption that is billed to the customer. The Town of North East bills for every gallon that flows through the water meter and the customer is responsible for paying the full amount of the bill, unless it can be proven that the water meter itself has malfunctioned.
The Town’s “smart meters” can detect continuous consumption of 100 gallons per hour over a 24 hour period. A report is sent to the water plant each morning showing any locations that have used that amount of water. A water plant operator will be dispatched to the location to determine if the meter is malfunctioning, if there may be a service line leak, or if there is another explanation for the usage (i.e. the customer filled a new pool).
Service Line Leaks
If there is a service line leak or if the operator cannot determine if the usage is caused by a service line leak or an internal problem they will leave a door tag and ask the customer to call to have an appointment scheduled so the operator can determine the cause of the consumption. If the customer does not make contact with the office within 48 hours and the usage continues, the operator will shut off the water service until the customer schedules an appointment in order to keep the bill from becoming too high.
If a customer has a leak that uses less than 100 gallons per hour over a 24 hour period, there is no way for the system to alert the water department of a potential problem. Most of these leaks are discovered, either by the customer themselves (i.e. unexplained soggy area in the yard around where the service line runs) or when quarterly bills are sent.
When a customer calls about a high bill or potential leak, the Department of Finance and Administration staff will review meter data and advise the customer if it appears they have a leak and if it may be inside or in the service line. If the hourly data indicates an inside leak, staff will advise the customer to put red food coloring in their toilet tank and check their faucets/fixtures for drips. Once the customer has done that and cannot find an internal leak on their own, staff will schedule an appointment for a water plant operator to meet with the customer to test if there is a service line leak or possible issue with the meter. If the operator determines there is not a service line leak nor malfunctioning meter, the customer will be advised to contact a plumber to investigate the source of the usage.
If the problem is due to a leak after where the service line enters the premises, the customer must pay the full amount of the bill by the due date. No other payment arrangements may be made. Customers will directed to contact Social Services, local churches and charities for assistance with a high bill if a payment plan cannot be entered into.
If the customer has a service line leak, the water plant operator will notify Department of Finance and Administration staff. Staff will estimate for the customer how much the bill is increasing every day the leak continues. It will be up to the customer to determine if they want the Town to leave the water on while they wait for a plumber to repair their service line or if the water should be shut off.