Water Customers Boil Over at Queens Meeting

DEP insists new meters are accurate

By Chris Glorioso
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 7:45 AM EDT
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Consumers saw their bills skyrocket after city used meters that transmit usage wirelessly.

Consumers saw their bills skyrocket after city used meters that transmit usage wirelessly.

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Shouts and shaking heads dominated at a town hall meeting where New York City water customers gathered to air grievances about their ballooning bills. 

The bulk of complaints concern the city’s new wireless water meters, which send usage data to the Department of Environmental Protection via radio wave.

"Until the new meter was [installed] there was no escalation, and all the sudden there is," said Kelly Tawfik, a homeowner from Fresh Meadows, Queens.

The DEP stands by the accuracy of the electronic meters. Spokespeople for the department have suggested record heat last summer is to blame for a round of inflated bills, but overall water consumption is down since contractors started installing the new meters.

"I’m very, very confident that these meters are not over-reporting," said DEP Deputy Commissioner Joe Singleton.  

To try and convince skeptical customers, the DEP paid about a dozen staff members to review water bills with people who attended the town hall meeting at P.S./I.S. 178 in Jamaica Estates

Alan Ong, perplexed by a near doubling of his bill, brought his consumption records to the meeting.  Before sitting with a DEP representative, Ong insisted there was no way he could have used the amount of water recorded by the new meter.

He also insisted his home suffers no water leaks.

"So what? My toilet decides not to leak several days and then just decides to leak one day? I’m being a little sarcastic because I’m a little frustrated," Ong said.

Later, a DEP representative pulled records showing Ong’s yearly water consumption has averaged about 32.5 cubic meters per day for the last four years.  Last year, the wireless water meter recorded 32.75 cubic meters.   

"Certain things make sense," said Ong. "Certain things didn’t make sense, and I need to digest it and I need to go back and review it."

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