EPA gives CUC $250K for additional water meters



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. $250,000 for another round of water meter installations.

According to EPA , CUC has long been hampered by its inability to install working water meters that accurately bill customers based on consumption.

Bradley R. O’Brien, senior lawyer of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement Section, disclosed that the $250,000 will also be used to relocate meters to accessible sites, to install the correctly type of meters, and to replace defective ones.

CUC reports that water meter replacement is continuing.

O’Brien briefly discussed CUC’s water meters issue in the U.S. government’s status report that he filed in the U.S. District Court for the NMI last week.

O’Brien said that CUC continues to report that it is not billing customers adequately to cover the costs of service.

He said CUC reports non-revenue water amounts to about 65 percent, meaning only 35 percent of drinking water produced, pumped, and chlorinated by CUC is being billed and generating revenue.

He said CUC reports it is losing approximately 200 million gallons per month of produced water.

O’Brien said the costs associated with the lost water is passed on to paying customers.

Citing a declaration by EPA inspector John Tinger, O’Brien said the reasons for this loss include leaks, failed water meters, and theft.

On the other hand, CUC said it is considering the addition of a new technology that will give it the ability to read and monitor water meters electronically.

CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho and CUC deputy executive director William B. Gilmore disclosed in their quarterly report filed in federal court last week that they will be evaluating and testing this summer this adaptive system known as Spindal.

CUC presently uses Knighthawk I phase electric meters, which are tied to a wireless system known as Pay-Go which handles automatic control (on/off), reading of meter, advanced payment to avoid losing power, and automatic notification when account is low on funds.

Camacho and Gilmore said the Spindal system piggybacks on the original host (Pay-Go) to monitor water meters the same way, which could eliminate meter reading.

They said the current meters will allow for this system to plug-in and function.

They said CUC has seen an increase in account balances and they hope to continue seeing improvement in meter accuracy. There are still 39 flat rate accounts that CUC is targeting for meter installations. They have been delayed due to the expected large cost to relocate service lines, road repair, and new meter box and meter installation.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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