BBWSD seeks to fix loophole in leak credit policy

Published on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) commissioners have approved policy changes that should prevent people from making false claims when seeking credit for leaks.

District commissioners will give final approval at their August 23 meeting to policy changes that will help to codify the water leak credit approval process and more clearly explain what district officials expect customers to do in the case of a leak. Commissioners have discussed the policy change at previous meetings, and district manager Roger Brown said the language could be tweaked as customers react to it.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Brown said. “If it proves to be a problem, we’ll go back and take another look at it.”

The district generally credits individual customers’ water bills when they show drastic increases caused by water leaks the customer did not cause. In 2011, the district paid out 21 leak credits totaling about $11,000, with the highest single credit coming in at $2,399.

The new policy broadens the definition of water leak to “any unintentional or unexplained loss of a significant quantity of water.” The previous language limited water leaks covered by the policy to those caused by structural or mechanical failures. The new policy also removes the requirement that customers seeking a leak credit provide proof they tried to fix the leak.

Brown said the proof requirement opened the door to falsely obtained leak credits since it meant a customer could buy repair parts from a hardware store and show district officials the receipt without even having attempted to repair the leak themselves. The new policy language says customers seeking a leak credit must “immediately cease unintentional water usage” or complete repairs within two weeks of being notified of the leak. The policy clarifies that “failure to stop the loss of water would forfeit any opportunity for a bill adjustment.”

The new policy also requires the district board of commissioner to approve leak credits larger than $1,000. Brown said this change will allow customers to request relatively small leak requests without having to make their case to district commissioners.