Water meter installation to cost $1.3 million over three years

“It saves thousands of yard visits and staff time. Also it will help prevent and catch issues quickly.” Donna Brinkworth

A photo illustration of what a Neptune water meter could look like.

A photo illustration of what a Neptune water meter could look like.

By now most residents in the Town of Ponoka have seen vehicles with the logo of Neptune Technology Group on them.

Service technicians with Neptune, an Alabama company, have already begun installing water meters that can be read by radio signal, which is expected to reduce overall costs to residents in the Town of Ponoka.

The 2014 budget set aside $875,000 with $200,000 slated for each year in 2015 and 2016. Total cost for the meters and installation is $1.275 million over three years but the process is causing confusion and frustration with some residents.

A letter to the editor in Ponoka News from July 30 posed health and consumer cost concerns over what some call “smart meters”.

Queries from Ponoka News to Neptune Technologies over questions of health concerns, warranty and tendering were left unanswered as company officials have not returned calls.

A request to determine the overall savings to residents did bring an email response from Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services.

“The town won’t know this until every facility in the community is metered and then we can compare to the before project conditions; therefore the town will not make any assumptions until we have the proper indicators in place and the time required to complete the proper comparative benefit analysis,” said McPhee in an email.

Installation of the water meters is mandatory to all residents and Donna Brinkworth, communications officer for the Town of Ponoka, said the meters have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years and are read by a radio unit in a vehicle.

She added that these new meters will save labour hours; staff have to manually monitor 2,800 meters each month. “It saves thousands of yard visits and staff time. Also it will help prevent and catch issues quickly.”

One of the reasons McPhee is unable to give a full number is it will be difficult to quantify the actual savings until meters are installed, explained Brinkworth.

The meters operate on an AM radio frequency (RF) and transmit real-time data to a receiver in a car and staff can notify homeowners or the town if there are issues of major water use.

Health concerns over smart meters

One concern in the letter to Ponoka News was over negative health affects to residents.

Research by Health Canada shows these meters emit less RF than cell phones and other wireless devices. “Since RF energy exposure levels are far below Canadian and international safety limits, Health Canada does not consider that any precautionary measures are needed to reduce RF energy exposure from smart meters.”

Health Canada further states these meters produce short bursts of RF and otherwise do not emit an RF signal.

Electric meters recalled in Saskatchewan

Installation of electric smart meters in Saskatchewan have been put on hold and recalled after several fires in homes where these meters are installed. All of the 105,000 smart meters, manufactured by Sensus, are to be removed while the investigations continue.