Meters that go with the flow

Photos by Ron Leir A sample of an appropriate industrial water meter.
Photos by Ron Leir
A sample of an appropriate industrial water meter.


The Town of Harrison hopes to further increase its flow of water revenues by requiring property owners to replace aging water meters that may be “faulty and not working properly.”

And, if that’s the case, those meters likely aren’t registering the actual volume of water being used at those locations.

To that end, the town’s governing body – on the recommendation of Public Works Superintendent Robert Van Riper – earlier this year adopted an ordinance giving owners of meters more than 15 years old 60 days to install new meters.

As the ordinance notes, “These water meters are potentially under-metering the water being consumed, and thus, costing the town and its residents in lost revenue.”

Those replacements are conditional on the owners getting prior approval of the type of meter being supplied by the town’s Department of Public Works as well as getting DPW “oversight and final inspection and approval” of installations.

Not all owners will have to shell out for the new equipment: For new meters one-inch or smaller, the town will absorb the cost; but for those larger than one inch, owners must pay.

According to Van Riper, the town has already replaced 43 meters at residential properties; local industries are in the process of installing 65 new meters which, he said, run about $110 apiece.

Those who fail to comply after repeated violation notices face having their water supply shut off by the town until a new meter has been put into place, the ordinance states.

Photos by Ron Leir An older water meter at a local industry.
Photos by Ron Leir
An older water meter at a local industry.

Van Riper said that all property owners have been notified by letter of the new requirements.

The superintendent, who was appointed to the job in April 2013 after having worked part-time for the town and, before that, for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, said he had previously taken other steps to deal with town water literally going down the drain.

Van Riper reached out to a water-sounding company which, with specialized equipment, “listened” to the water as it flowed through the pipes, typically, during early morning hours “when usage of water is at its lowest,” by detecting different frequencies of flow, came up with 16 locations where water was leaking from the system.

“We compared our usage to what we were being billed [by the town’s water supplier] and calculated our loss by tracing it back through our biggest users,” he said. “We’re a lot better off now [after having stopped the leaks] but we’re still not where we want it to be.

“We project a 20 to 25% savings of our total bill from a combination of our inhouse repairs plus the new meters,” he said.

A 2014 audit of all town expenditures noted that while the annual water/ sewer utility bill collections had climbed from $2,692,686 in 2010 to $3,052,754 in 2014, the collection revenues had failed to reach the amount anticipated, thereby leaving a deficit of $47,245 for the year.

As the superintendent looks to further close that gap, he has found ways to improve the condition of his department’s motor pool, some of which was damaged during Super Storm Sandy in 2012, especially with an eye on preparing for the onslaught of what the experts have predicted as a severe winter.

Taking full advantage of the availability of former Army vehicles through the federal GSA (Government Surplus Access) program, Van Riper has acquired for the DPW four M1088 military 6-wheeldrive tractors, of which two are being outfitted for snow collection and disposal.

• Additional military surplus vehicles secured and now stored in the DPW garage include the following:

• A 32-foot Skytrack construction grade forklift.

• A Unimog forklift with crane attachment that can be deployed to change the lift cylinders on a Fire Department ladder truck or to repair a traffic light.

• Two M1078 vehicles that can be used in connection with deep-water rescues in emergency situations.

And the town has just allocated funds to acquire a new snow blower, Van Riper said.

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