Up to $300 a year will be charged to Pender Harbour water users who opt out of the radio-frequency meters soon to be installed in the area, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board decided July 10.
Staff recommended a fee of $25 per meter read up to a maximum of $300 a year to cover staff costs for water users who opt for manually read meters.
“Although it is anticipated that the billing frequency would be quarterly at the most, it is projected that the meters will be read at least monthly in order to obtain adequate operational data for both the utility and the customer,” Bryan Shoji, general manager of infrastructure services, said in a report to the July 3 infrastructure services committee meeting.
Shoji told the committee that if leaks were detected during a monthly meter reading, the SCRD would contact the water user immediately.
“They don’t want to see that large-volume bill,” he said.
The results of community engagement on radio-frequency water meters in August 2012 were “generally positive,” Shoji said in his report, but added that he expected an opt-out rate of about one per cent.
“Although Health Canada has firmly stated that there are no health concerns related to radio-frequency water meter technology, and the fact that the water meters will be installed at the property line within a meter box below grade, we are still anticipating some concerns as we proceed to installation,” he said.
The committee agreed to the staff recommendation, with only Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis opposed, saying he felt water users would consider quarterly readings to be sufficient.
On May 22, the board awarded the contract for supplying and installing the Pender Harbour water meters to Neptune Technology Group for up to $1.3 million plus GST.
The installation of water meters at every service connection in Pender Harbour is slated for this summer and fall and was one of the funding requirements when the SCRD obtained $4.8 million in grants to build the South Pender Harbour water treatment plant.
The $6.1-million plant began operating on June 27 and Area A director Frank Mauro told the committee he had received nothing but positive comments.
Calling the new plant a “major boon” for the community, Mauro said residents were “eagerly awaiting not expecting a boil water advisory this summer.”
The new system continues to use water from McNeil (Haslam) Lake, but now involves four levels of treatment followed by primary disinfection with ultraviolet light and secondary disinfection with chlorine.
An official grand opening event is planned for the fall.
Meanwhile, a budget request to supply and install radio-frequency water meters for the regional system will be brought forward to the board in January, but the project will probably wait until 2016, Shoji said Monday.
“We might be delaying that for a year because we’d like to learn more from the Pender Harbour installation,” he said.
At an estimated cost of $5.3 million, universal metering is “the next big capital item” earmarked in the SCRD’s comprehensive regional water plan. Despite the up-front cost, metering is expected to save millions of dollars through conservation, reducing demand by 25 per cent.
Information on the water meter program for Pender Harbour will be mailed out to all households in the area during the next week and public open houses are planned for North Pender on July 29 at Sarah Wray Hall and South Pender on July 30 at the Pender Harbour School of Music, both running from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
© Coast Reporter