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Couple’s water bills worth $13,000 burst out of control

By Nicole Kleinsteuber

In what could be considered a precedent setting case of extreme water seepage, council has decided to look at offering Kevin and Jennifer Lavers relief for four months of water bills totalling $13,000.

In late August, the Lavers were notified by their water meter reader that there must be a leak in one of their lines as their meter was spinning out of control.

“We immediately tried to find the leak,” said Jennifer Lavers who has owned and operated Merland Park in Picton for 11 years with her husband. On 3.5 acres of property, finding the leak Lavers said “this was no easy feat.”

“There was no apparent water seepage and no water was evident above ground to help them pin point where the leak may be,” she said.

On September 17 the Lavers sent a letter to Engineering, Development and Works commissioner Robert McAuley advising him that they had discovered an underground water leak on their property and informed him they were acting on the matter immediately. They hired a licensed plumber with a water locator.

When the Lavers received their bill for July and August it exceeded $8,000 which was about $7,000 more than their usual bill. Their September and October bill was just over $5,000.

“Needless to say we are shocked and unnerved to receive this bill,” she said.

McAuley replied to the Lavers stating requests for billing relief are granted for sewer charges when the water coming through the meter does not go into the sanitary collection system. In the Laver’s case they do not have a connection to the sanitary collection system so no relief could be granted to the Lavers. McAuley did advise the couple to go before council as they would be able to provide discretionary process in the matter.

But the water troubles for the Lavers didn’t stop there.

“Once the leak was found by hiring a back hoe and digging more than six feet below the ground we fixed it and started monitoring our water meter daily,” said Lavers. “About two weeks later the meter started to spin out of control yet again.”

After a call to the plumber they were advised to change the entire line only to find the original leak had burst again and another smaller leak further down the pipeline.

“Our plumber said the two leaks had burst simultaneously and advised them that they were caused by high pressure,” said Lavers.

Lavers said a pressure test was conducted in 2002 and it was measured at 45 psi. A recent test calculated between 75 and 80 psi.

“Had we been informed of the increase we would have put a pressure reducing valve in place,” said Lavers. “We are continuing to monitor our water meter readings and are placing a pressure reducing valve in order to make sure this will never damage our system again.”

“Council has not typically granted relief on water charges for leaks that appear on a property,” said McAuley.

But that didn’t stop councillor Kevin Gale from making a motion for a staff report and recommendation to be addressed at a meeting in January.

“These things happen and I think it’s absurd to have an $11,000 increase,” said Gale. “I’d like to see us do something to help with this situation because I don’t think that’s fair.”

But Councillor Nick Nowitski said he found the Laver’s request very offensive.

“I don’t understand why anybody would actually come to council asking for relief,” said Nowitski. “The standard is if it’s on your property you pay for it. I would never imagine coming to council saying ‘help me…help me.’”

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Bill says:

    the water departmet needs to tread lightly here, if i fact the pressure did double and no notice to the public whom are on the water system were notified, there could be liability on the county’s end. Best would be to call your insurance company as they “insure” for burst pipes. They have the resources to go after the county and can have them foot a partial amount of the water charges and repairs as well.
    But alas if a suit is brought against the county they will lawyer up pay the $5000 – 50,000 deductible to their insurance company and be done with it as it will be in the hands of the lawyers. Somewhere along the way “Our Council” needs to take responsibility for what happens as a result of them doubling the water pressure. Had the pipe burst in the home it would have been found repaired and insurance would have footed the entire bill.

  2. PJM says:

    Who is Nick Nowitski and why is he so heartless?

  3. SAB says:

    I feel for the Lavers, but I am afraid if they make an exception in this case, council will be opening a can of worms………..I know of two other families in the county who have had the same thing happen.

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