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Faulty Meters Cause 70% Water Billing Loss in Bellaire

BELLAIRE – Village Council learned Thursday that nearly half of the water meters installed at various locations are not measuring the amount of water people are actually using.

Water Plant Operator Sue Bell informed council that the plant is seeing a 70 percent water revenue loss, due to so many meters reading zero consumption. She pointed out that people are still being charged a minimum rate, but since the meters are not working properly they are not being charged over that.

Based on data given to her from the billing department, there are 251 zero consumption meters; 307 meters that are reading 1,000-gallons in consumption; and the remainder are reading 2,000 gallons, Bell said.

“Only 10 million gallons are billed per month, meanwhile we produce over 30 million gallons per month. That’s a 70 percent water loss,” she said.

Bell noted the village is trying to get a loan for projects at the plant. However, the water loss issue will likely make it more difficult to get any funding.

She said after talking with an official with the Ohio EPA, it was recommended that efforts be made to install new meters to replace faulty ones.

“We really need to tackle this. We need to hire a couple people (to install meters). It will pay for itself in no time — you’ll start seeing higher revenues,” she said. “Our revenues are too low to support the loans and all this kind of stuff. … We need to start with the housing authority. We have zero reads on multiple units — that’s crazy.”

Bell added the problem appears to be with 45 percent of all the village’s accounts.

“So 950 accounts have little to no water register?” Councilwoman Nikki Liberatore said.

Jack Keefer, village water distribution coordinator, believes the problem started many years ago when new meters were not installed properly.

He said he has seen this issue when installing new meters himself. He noticed the wiring was not done properly leading to the faulty readings. Councilman Mike Doyle wondered how this could have happened with no one noticing.

Keefer said the installation of a water meter should be done by two people to be done properly.

Bell said she has some meters in stock, but more need to be ordered. Mayor Vince DiFabrizio said old meters could be rebuilt by the water department, tested and reinstalled.

Bell said she was told by one company that it was illegal for someone to rebuild a meter without having some sort of certification. However, she does not believe that is true.

No action was taken on the matter.

Meanwhile, Eddie D’Aquila, business manager for the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 83 of Wheeling, talked about his group’s plans to open an industrial training facility at 3800 Jefferson St.

He said the union wants to get the facility open beginning early 2020 and start training people to get ready for future industrial development in the region. He likely was referring to the possible construction of an ethane cracker plant in Dilles Bottom by PTT Global Chemical America of Thailand and its partner, South Korea-based Daelim Industrial Corp. The company has not yet announced a plant will be built there, but site preparations have started, and during a natural gas conference this summer in Pittsburgh, Bechtel Corp. said it had been chosen to oversee construction of the facility.

In other business news, visitors to Bellaire may have noticed the former Rigas restaurant building on Belmont Street is now home to another new eatery — Sakura Family Restaurant. It is owned and operated by Powhatan residents Ling Curtis and her sister May Jiang. The restaurant opened on Wednesday and offers Asian and American-style cuisines. It will celebrate a soft opening on Monday.

The Rigas restaurant closed in 2017 after 54 years of business. The building was on the real estate market for about two years before Curtis and Jiang purchased it.

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