Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
A south-end property owner will have six months to pay off a massive water bill that she contends is inaccurate.
Stephanie Lippai, of Burnham Court, has disputed charges related to a 45-day period this year where her water meter showed a significant increase in consumption.
For a billing period between mid-March and mid-April, Lippai’s average usage increased to 344 cubic metres, about 300 cubic metres more than she typically used, resulting in a May bill of $855.06 – $337.97 for water and $517.09 for sewage.
The next billing period also showed increased consumption of 137 cubic metres, resulting in a bill of $347.07 – $137.18 for water and $209.89 for sewage.
The city’s public works department has maintained Lippai’s water meter is accurate, while she has pointed to a malfunctioning meter and air in the lines as possible reasons for the spike in usage.
“I certainly continue to stand by my argument, suggesting that the amount of consumption recorded was false and certainly considered extreme under any circumstance or situation,” wrote Lippai in a letter to the city in June.
The city has investigated the usual sources of water waste in her home – including the toilet and water softener – and found no issues.
Staff removed her meter for testing and reinstalled it when all came back clear.
However, Lippai remains skeptical, noting when the meter was reinstalled her consumption readings went down immediately.
“We know we can’t completely depend on mechanical equipment,” she wrote.
“It is possible that we may never know the absolute answer to this situation, however, I believe that given the outrageous figures, the facts, timing and investigation of my equipment, I do not believe that I owe this large sum of money for this error.”
She also reported hearing air in her lines, which has created dramatic noise, over the last few months.
However, background information provided to city council at the public works committee meeting indicates if air in the lines was an issue, it would have affected the whole neighbourhood, not just one residence.
A letter from Sensus Metering Systems, the company that manufactures the city’s meters, states it is “highly improbable” for a residential meter to erroneously measure consumption and later return to normal, accurate operation.
At the July 23 meeting, council passed a motion to give Lippai six months to pay the bill with no additional interest.