COST-SAVING PROGRAM: City helping residents ID home water leaks

Deidre Cruse

Plaquemine officials were scheduled to send notices last week to 300 households whose water bills cost more than twice the average in the city – with an offer to help identify any problems, Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta said.

“Utilities are high enough,” the mayor said. “They don’t need to be having a water leak.”

City crews cannot work on private property to repair the leaks, but can help identify the problem, Gulotta said.

The most common culprit is a running toilet, which often can be fixed by replacing an $8 flapper. Repairs could save residents a substantial amount on their water bills – particularly if there is a hot water leak, the mayor said.

Gulotta said the average city water bill is $27 a month. The first notices were going to out residents whose bills are $60 or more.

“We’re finding a lot more than what we thought,” he said.

For people who have extensive sprinkler systems for their lawns or who have swimming pools, a bill of $60 is not out of line, but for most residents it indicates a serious water leak, he said.

“Some people will get a $150 water bill and not question it,” Gulotta said.

Since sewer bills are based on water usage, a $100 water bill will mean a $100 sewer bill, he said, adding that costs like that often cause customers to fall behind in paying their utility bills,

“If you research their bill, they had a water leak,” the mayor said. “It adds up quick.”

If there were a hot water leak involved a bill could go as high as $300 for a month because of the high cost of natural gas, he said.

The initial list of those with bills with $60 or more included a number of rental properties, the mayor said. In those cases, the city is notifying both tenants and landlords.

Some Section 8 rent subsidized properties were on the list, Gulotta said; in those cases, the city demanded the landlords repair the problem.

Gulotta said the city has been working on the project for about three weeks.

After working on the 300 accounts with bills over $60, the city next week look at those with bills of between $30 and $60, he said.

Simply looking at a customer’s billing history often indicates a problem easily, Gulotta said.