City approves new water leak ordinance

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New city code puts maintenance responsibilities on landowner

The city has approved a new water leak ordinance that makes homeowners more responsible for water leaks and broken pipes.

Under the new code, maintenance and repair of the water pipes is the responsibility of the landowner. In addition, customers must pay for the water loss due to leaks or breakage of their lines.

"We've modified the existing ordinance in a way that seems to be the norm for other communities," said Steve Walensky, city of Cassville public works director.

This differs from the old code, which said if a customer had an unavoidable water leak resulting in a large expense, "The city may bill the customer for that billing cycle an amount equal to the average utility bill of the previous three months."

According to Walensky, the modification helped to change the word "avoidable," which has a vague definition. Walensky said some leaks can be managed by the landowner taking care of the pipes and making sure the home is heated.

He said pumping the water still costs the city money, whether the customer meant to use the water or not.

"The new ordinance clearly delineates who is responsible for what," Walensky said.

While the new language puts more burden on homeowners for leaks, it does make exceptions for leaks from sources that do not allow the flow of water in the sewer line. In those cases, the city may elect to adjust the customer's sewer bill if the customer promptly notifies the city of Cassville's Public Works Department as to the nature of the leak, and the city verifies the repair is complete. The new ordinance allows a customer one credit in a 12-month period.

Also, if the meter has a high reading, the city runs a report and reads the meter again, to make sure it is correct. At that point, the resident will be notified that the city believes there is a leak.

If the resident is not aware of the leak, the city can run a report showing the water usage history hour-by-hour for the last 45 days to help profile where the extra water is coming from.

"We can show the customer the data, and try to help them know where the water goes," Walensky said.

The new ordinance will go into place once city attorneys have approved its language. Walensky said if any major changes are made, the ordinance will go back before the council before going into effect.

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