HUBBARD Study to probe water billing

Hubbard's water superintendent says the water loss, if any, isn't because of leaks.
HUBBARD -- A study of the city water billing system is under way to determine if the city is losing water or if something is wrong with the billing process.
The free study by Consumers Pennsylvania Water Co., the city's wholesale water supplier, includes, among other elements of the billing system, a look at the computer software.
City auditor Michael Villano said the review will include meter readings used as the basis of the bills. No timetable has been given to complete the study.
Apparent water loss: Kenneth Graban, superintendent of the city's water and waste water department, said that, on paper, the city is loosing 20 to 30 percent of its water.
That would be 350,000 to 400,000 gallons per month.
The city buys 1.1 million to 1.2 million gallons daily from Consumers Pennsylvania and resells it to nearly 4,000 customers.
Graban said 10 to 15 percent is an acceptable loss.
The problem, Villano explained, may have been going on for decades, but the water volume wasn't monitored until after a state audit of 1996 and 1997 recommended it.
Graban said MS Consultants Inc., a Youngstown engineering and architectural firm, believes the water isn't being physically lost through leaks in the system.
To assure the city receives the proper amount of water for which it is charged, Consumers Pennsylvania has a meter on state Route 304 and the city has a meter on Christian Avenue.
Both, Graban said, have been calibrated and show the city is receiving the amount of water Consumers Pennsylvania is delivering.
"We're pretty confident the problem isn't in the [distribution] system," Graban asserted.
The city has had two leak detection programs since 1997, the latest one being completed about a month ago.
Graban said "several minimal leaks" of five to 10 gallons a day were detected and repaired.
In 1996 and 1997, the city replaced nearly 4,000 water meters. Because of a design flaw, the meter heads that send the signal from the meter to a gun-type electronic reader were replaced in 1998 at the vendor's expense.
Graban said he's unsure how efficient the new meter heads are.
He said the problem could be in the gun-like reader, carried by the meter reader, that collects customer information, transferring the data from the reader to the computer or the computer software used to prepare the bills.
The city doesn't want to replace the meter heads again until the other possible problems are ruled out, Graban said.

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