Archive for January, 2017

Sarasota N3 Sewers is now Sarasota N3 Neighborhood

January 29, 2017

More than just sewers

The Sarasota N3 Sewers website was launched in 2012 for a single purpose: to halt the installation of the 216 grinder pumps planned for the N3 area of the  PCSSRP.  That goal has been realized.  In a win-win for the county and N3 residents, a hybrid gravity system using four pumps (instead of 216!) is slated to begin construction in a couple of months.  So, the county sewer issue is settled, but there are changes with our water provider, Pluris Southgate, Inc.

Pluris Southgate, Inc

Pluris began changing out the old mechanical water meters in late 2015 and all of us now have the new “smart” meters (scroll down to the Jan 22 post for more info). The next change from Pluris will be the roll-out of the new Personal Web Portal.  This new feature promises to be a very useful tool for us, the customer, to monitor our individual water usage.  However, the national trend to convert to these electronic “smart” meters has not been without problems: The last article listed only a few of the many reports from around the country. Tom Lyons said he was “flooded” with similar calls.  A few neighbors have written to me that their bills are higher than they used to be (more on that later), but N3 has not experienced the nightmares reported in other neighborhoods that use the same meters. While the 200-plus residents of N3 make up less than five percent of the 4,599 Pluris Southgate customers, Pluris says that “the number of customers questioning accuracy of water use has dropped significantly.” I’m sure that statement is accurate, but it takes only one “black swan” to be a nightmare (see Tom Lyons columns Jan 22 post).

Why the name change?

It looks like this website will be useful for things other than our sewer. There have been articles about the Florida Neighborhoods Conference, Red Bug Slough clean-up, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program, and other topics that don’t involve our sewers.  So,  Sarasota N3 Neighborhood will continue to present information that will hopefully inform our residents.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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“Smart” water meters: Other communities

January 26, 2017

follow-up to the follow-up

I had a telephone conversation Wednesay morning with Beverly Yopp, Director of Pluris Customer Care.  She actully had been helping our neighbor on Tanglewood Drive since November.  She wanted to assure all of us that Pluris will always go the “extra mile” in addressing customer concerns.  We also discussed the potential benefits of the new automated meter infrastructure (“AMI”) and the personal web portal feature that will be available soon.  If there is enough interest in the community Pluris may hold a meeting at the community center to help us set up our personal portals.  Beverly can be reached at byopp@plurisusa.com.

How extensive is the “overbilling” problem?

The last post concluded with the question of what can we do as individuals to verify the accuracy of our smart meter?  First we need to determine just how big the problem is.  If it’s a one-in-a-million “black swan” occurrence how concerned should we be?  How much time, effort, and money should we individually invest on something that may never happen to us?  Let’s take a look…

Other communities experiences

There are dozens of stories of problematic “smart” water meters going back to the mid-2000’s.  Click on the blue links to look at the most recent:

  • Atlanta, GA. –  2011 – “Her bill spiked to more than $1,200 in November, then skyrocketed to $6,879 in December. Her latest bill is down to just $34.” (sound familiar?)  There’s more here and here.

Okay, but that was six years ago. The problems are fixed by now, right?  Apparently not…

and let’s not leave out…

And many, many more…

I have listed just a few of the communities having the same problems. Please do a little “surfing” for yourself and you’ll see just how widespread the problems are.  Here are a few search terms I used for my source documents:

  • smart water meter problems
  • Sensus water meter malfunctions
  • Tinley Park water meter problems
  • Chicago Tribune water meter investigation
  • DeKalb county Georgia water meter problems

Followup on Tanglewood Dr Neighbor

January 24, 2017

The Jan 22nd post on problems with “smart” water meters included the case of a neighbor on Tanglewood Dr.  After a long history of $40 monthly water bills their December bill was over $500.  The neighbor had previously contacted Pluris and thought the huge spike in usage was being investigated, but on Friday Jan 20th they received a disconnect notice on their front door!  Well, Monday morning a Pluris representative called (yes, Pluris called them!) to discuss the issue. The good news is their water service will not be cut off and an accommodation was reached regarding payment of the bill.  Pluris also extended a “good will” reduction of the charges.  But the real question remains unanswered:  Did the resident use 66,978 gallons of water in a 32 day period?

Burden of Proof

66,978 gallons in 32 days is over two thousand gallons a day!  It is possible, but is it probable?  A leaking toilet will use around 200 gal/day, not 2000!  So how do you prove that you didn’t use the water?  That seems to be the age old conundrum of trying to prove a negative… you can’t.  As evidenced in Tom Lyons’ articles, this scenario is not unique to Pluris.  It appears that water providers, government or private, that have put “smart meters” into service have the same complaints.

So, what’s a person to do?

My bank and credit card sends me alerts if my accounts have transactions over a preset limit.  I can get an app for my phone that will alert me if my garage door is open.  Can’t we have something like that with our water? These meters are supposed to be smart, right? Well, this came in the mail today along with my Pluris bill:

pluris-mailer-12317

Pluris personal web portal

So, it looks like we’ll soon have the ability receive leak and usage alerts and daily monitoring of our individual water consumption.  But are these enhancements enough to protect us from a malfunctioning meter?  The meter send us a leak alert, but the plumber we called finds no leak.  Well, the meter says we used the water.  Can we prove that we didn’t?  Is there anything we can do to verify the accuracy of the meter ?

More on this soon…

 

 

Water Meter Problems?

January 22, 2017

New “Smart”  Water Meters

In 2015 our water provider, Pluris Southgate Inc, initiated a program to replace our existing water meters with new electronic “smart” meters.  I’m sure that by now all of us in N3 have the new meters. One of the benefits, Pluris tells us, is that the new meters “can wirelessly communicate accurate usage data continually, reducing the potential for meter misreading.”

Accurate water usage (and billing) is important to us in N3 for a couple of reasons: (1) we want the bill to be accurate so that we don’t pay for more water than we use, and (2) within a few months the Pluris water bill will be used to calculate our sewer charges.  Once we are hooked up our sewer billing will be $14.89 per month plus $7.54 per 1000 gallons of water used.  If you use 5000 gallons of water in a month your bill will be (approximately) $40 for the water and $53 for the sewer (there is an additional $19 monthly Sewer Surcharge that is not affected by water usage).

Columnist Tom Lyons recently wrote two articles concerning residents who had received huge water bills.  None of them live in our neighborhood and Pluris isn’t mentioned in the articles. However, it appears that all of the cases involved electronic “smart” meters (the articles are attached below as they appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune).

No problems with Pluris, right?

As I said, Tom Lyons’ articles didn’t mention Pluris, but a neighbor on Tanglewood Dr. received a December water bill for over $500.00!  This is a household of two adults, no pool or hot tub, and lawn irrigation is well water. For the past two years their bill has been around $40 a month… their January bill is $40.27.

Was this $503.86 December bill due to a malfunction in the electronic meter?  Is the meter the same type as in the other cases?  Same manufacturer?  Any other common factors?  A Pluris representative indicated that they would review the situation and try to find some answers, but the last communication from Pluris was on January 20th:  A door hangar notice that water service would be cut off if the bill wasn’t paid in 5 days.  The neighbor told me they will contact Pluris tomorrow morning… so stay tuned!

Newspaper Articles

lyons-nov-30-2016

lyons-dec-5-2016