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Nozzle turned on hydrant project

Regional initiative to see how much water being pulled put on hold

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

A plan by the region to put meters on fire hydrants to help prevent water theft is being put on hold.

The program is being deferred until 2018, with the region saying it will continue with its current honour-based system.

Susan Siopis, the region’s works commissioner, says that the reasoning behind delaying the program came down to money and resources.

“Last year, we had about 190 applications for permits. There’s a lot of locations. The equipment involved is not inexpensive,” she says, adding that it would cost between $3,000 to $4,000 per hydrant to install meters and backflow preventers.

“In addition to that, of course, there’s the resources – the staff resources and a truck going out to install and remove every spring and every fall. It’s fairly complicated. We’re working with a supplier for the equipment right now, we’re trying to get a procedure in place but it is going to take some time and there’s a lot of money involved.”

Under the current system, companies looking to utilize unmetered fire hydrants to fill up water trucks apply for a permit with the region, which comes with a $1,000 deposit along with a minimum monthly charge of $1,000. Water comes at $3.55 per cubic metre, well above the residential rate, which is $1.045 per cubic metre.

It is up to permit holders to report how much water they take out.

“We’ve had a procedure in place that’s had its faults and weaknesses for sure, but that is how we’ve been accounting,” Siopis says. “People come in and apply, and there’s a bit of an honour system involved, and as we all know some theft does take place.”

Councillor Joe Neal of Clarington says the current system has the potential of encouraging some to say they are taking out less water than they really are in order to keep costs down.

“With the law of unintended consequences, what this might actually end up doing is sort of encourage truck owners to underreport because they figure, ‘Well, I’m getting dinged for $1,000 here, I don’t want to get dinged for any more than that.’ It might actually have the opposite effect, but who knows,” he says.

Siopis says the hydrant metering program would be an interim step on the way towards the region operating its own bulk water-filling stations, which would negate the need for permits for hydrants.