Over the next four years, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works plans to replace about 10,000 “ARB” water meters scattered throughout the city.
“We want to have a new water meter and billing system in place,” sais Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the DPW.
When they were installed in the 1970s, the ARB meters were the “technological marvel at the time,” Kocher said.
Those meters featured a wired connection between an inside meter connected to the home’s water system and an outside reader that looks like a doorbell.
The wiring in many of these systems have broken down over time, Kocher said, resulting in “a lot of estimated water bills” and instances where the DPW has left cards behind and asked some residents to pass on the numbers displayed on the inside meters.
The new meters, Kocher said, will have an automated reading system in which a signal is sent to a new billing system.
“We’re going to a meter system that is essentially smart-metering,” he said. “It’ll ensure accuracy, and make sure there’s no delay in reading meters, which can happen if they’re covered with snow.”
At a Hampstead Hill Association meeting earlier this month, DPW Community Liaison Evelyn Vargas informed residents that their meters would be replaced in the future. She noted that generally, the city is responsible for water infrastructure up to the water meter; the homeowner is responsible for the pipes from the meter to his home. She said that a few old galvanized pipes on homeowners’ properties had been damaged, and the DPW was handling the matter of who should pay on a case-by-case basis.
“We do our best to connect up to a crumbling pipe,” said Kocher, “but sometimes it’s like trying to hook up a pipe to dirt.”
He added that this damage to homeowners’ connections happens “less than one percent of the time.”
“If citizens feel that we’ve damaged their property, they can call the the Law Department at 410-396-3400 and ask for a claim,” Kocher said.
by Erik Zygmont