A Nanoose Bay couple say they face a huge water bill due to an undetected water leak.
Rhonda Leigh and Clark Rutledge appeared as a delegation at Regional District of Nanaimo board’s regular meeting on Sept. 6, calling for a review of its water leak forgiveness policy they believe is outdated, as it was put in place 16 years ago before tiered water rates were introduced.
The couple saw their water bill spike to $6,400, from an average of about $400, due to an underground leak that occurred this year. Leigh said the leak was undetected and was not discovered right away as RDN only conducts water meter readings every eight months.
Four years ago, the couple suffered an underground service leak and had it professionally repaired. Having endured a second unknown leak meant they no longer qualify for the RDN’s water leak forgiveness policy and are required to pay the bill.
The couple has requested the RDN give them an exception to the five-year no consideration rule. Their request was denied.
Leigh argued the policy is out of date and “unnecessarily punitive, when combined with the RDN tiered water rate system and infrequent meter reading.”
“The RDN has the longest period between meter readings,” said Leigh, who cited the Capital Region District’s website, which states, “often the first a customer is aware of a hidden leak is when the meter is read. This is what occurred in our case.”
Nanaimo, she pointed, has readings every three months, CRD every four months and Leigh said in areas where readings are made at longer intervals, have a secondary leak policy in place.
“The RDN does not and the question is ‘why?’” Leigh asked.
Leigh also claimed the RDN has the highest top-tiered rate, which is $3.93 per cubic metre after 3.5 cubic metres of daily use, which is not known until the eight-month reading is conducted. In Parksville it is $3.41, Qualicum Beach $$1.70 and Nanaimo is $2.37.
“We were told, ‘one, if you don’t pay, your neighbours are going to have to’ which is incorrect,” said Leigh. “And the reason being is tiered water is not the cost of actual water deliver but an escalating penalty given to encourage high water users to conserve. It is not possible to conserve water if a customer is not aware about the leak.”
Leigh cited that the City of Parksville in 2014 amended its policy similar to the RDN now as it considered it to be unfair and also added a secondary leak policy.
“Why would the RDN water customers not be afforded the same consideration for unknown water leaks as the other water districts?” Leigh asked. “The tiered rate and long periods between meter readings sets RDN customers up for very high bills should they have a leak.
The couple requested the RDN’s director of finance review the policy.
“How can the City of Parksville, which sources much of its water from the same place as the RDN’s Area E, have a secondary leak policy in place for their customer and the RDN not consider it?” said Leigh.
City of Nanaimo director Sheryl Armstrong made a motion, based on the couple’s request, for a review of the policy as well as directing staff to look at the implications of the $6,400 water bill. Both motions passed unanimously.