Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will new water meters hose us all?

From SI Live:

Everyone in the neighborhood (in fact, the whole city) must be familiar with this letter. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (aka the NYC Water Board on your checks) is touting an "upgrade" to the water meter system, with installation of "Automated Meter Reading (AMR) Devices". Its FREE, "there is no charge to you", the letter proclaims. Swarms of Constructamax trucks adorned with DEP decals are puttering around the neighborhood, with contractor drones ringing doorbells and performing frenzied "upgrades".

Now when a NY City agency that has RAISED my rates because I have conserved water and thereby assisted in their environmental protection mandate - offers me a FREE upgrade, I am naturally paranoid and more than a little curious. How many homeowners have actually checked on exactly WHAT this "free upgrade" being installed in their homes is? Does this letter have any information on this magical "automated" system? Absolutely none, and for good reason.

The DEP is installing radio transmitters at your homes. Without your express consent.

A visit to the DEP website turned this up:

"The Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system consists of small, low-power radio transmitters connected to individual water meters that send daily readings to a network of rooftop receivers throughout the city."

and that’s not all:

"The new AMR technology will be able to send accurate readings to a computerized billing system up to four times a day"


What possible legitimate reason could a water supplier (essentially, a utility company) have for constant monitoring of your home? I get a water bill every 3 months, that is four times a YEAR, not four times per DAY.

There is no privacy policy or statement of how the data collected is going to be used, or of what measures are being taken to protect such data. And I’m not even going the whole paranoid-nine-yards by asking WHAT information is actually being collected and transmitted. But this is too good to pass on mentioning, since "DEP's system will leverage DoITT's New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN)."

Your water bill is going to be routed through the emergency services channel that is capable of streaming video. Policemen, plumbers, who else is going to be on this party line?

"It is highly unlikely to interfere with the operation of any other electronic equipment."

Not impossible, but unlikely. Will grandma clutch her chest as her pacemaker goes berserk every time someone flushes the toilet? Unlikely, not impossible, but unlikely.

This is a colossal (and classic) waste of time and money. If the DEP has the money to throw away on these gizmos, not to mention what they must be paying Constructamax and the other contractor critters, REDUCE MY WATER BILL; don’t come up with creative ways to charge me more tomorrow! In this economy (or lack thereof), homeowners could use the break on their already absurdly high water (and sewer) bills.

And there is no mention anywhere about any legal requirements for installation of the high tech water surveillance system. Is there some local law that makes this "upgrade" mandatory? No one seems to know. Until then, I consider the law to be on my side as I eject Contructamax and other DEP contractors from my sovereign homestead, and continue to use my low-tech spinning dial water meter that clocks me for overpriced water and time-and-a-half sewage rates.


Lino said...

I believe this is the same device they have been installing in all our restaurants; a little gray rectangular box with a multiconductor wire.

As I recall, there is proposal to institute dayparted rates based on peak/offpeak consumption.

If it is the same system as posted here, I see this as doomed, all you need is to set up an oscillator on the frequency(s) to jam the entire neighborhood and...we are back to meter readers...

Now where's my soldering gun.

Anonymous said...

Huh? I think the idea is to catch water cheats, and cut down on consumption. Sounds good to me.

Queens Crapper said...

We already cut down on consumption, and that was the excuse for the increase in the water bills...

Babs said...

They installed a new meter in my home two years ago.

Don't lose sleep over this.

Anonymous said...

Don't think these meters were available 2 years ago.

Anonymous said...

got the letter and i never called. no where on the letter does it say it's mandatory. my spin dial works just fine and i'll keep it.

Anonymous said...

until they tell me they will cut off my service till i get a new meter, i am NOT installing one.

Babs said...

yes, I had it installed as well as my neighbors then - we are in Queens. Maybe we were amongst the first.

I was concerned initially that it was a scam and researched it online as well as spoke with my neighbors to be sure this was not a con job (it is in its own way I'm sure . . . )

I have not noticed a rate increase since the time of installation.

They'll probably tell you that you may be paying too much for water with the old system -

wha'ya gonna do -

Klink Cannoli said...

The DEP can take their wireless water meters and shove it up their sewers!


Anonymous said...

I was told I had to install this new meter. It was mandatory. "Do it now or do it later....it will have to be done".

I was duped!

PS They are ugly to boot!

Anonymous said...

The Constructamax installer told me that if I did not permit Constructamax to install the new device, that a City crew would contact me next, and that there would be a financial penalty if I did not comply with the upgrade.

It is significant that under the new meter system, DEP is collecting more information than before, concerning the water usage. The old system reported only the volume of water used, but not the times of use. Now, under the new system, DEP can know the times of the water use, and can deduce activities within the house on that basis. Privacy is certainly diminished.

I permitted the installation of the new meter, as it seems that not doing so would have created headaches down the line, as I would be repeatedly contacted by DEP or its agents to schedule the installation. However, I insisted on keeping the old meter equipment after it had been replaced, instead of allowing Constructamax to take it back to their office. The old equipment was a fixture in the house that I own, and I therefore own it. Constructamax has no right to walk out with it.

georgetheatheist said...

"...can deduce activities within the house..."

Hydroponic marijuana growing?

Klink Cannoli said...

Legally, homeowners have no choice in the matter. You're right. The DEP just has too much power. And utter power corrupts when it's not in the people's hands. Unless a fantasy change happens in NY, where Constitutionalists seize back the people's power, the likelihood of the demise of the DEP in zilch. Hence, the rape of its citizenry will continue.

There are all sorts of neat things the DEP can do armed with such new usage information.
- Peak time rates.
- Peak seasonal rates.
- Drought emergency fines.
- Usage quota fines.

Oh, the profit robbing is endless.

Anonymous said...

For people who have the meters and don't want it to be read everyday use aluminum foil to wrap it around the whole thing. It transmits microwaves, use like cell phones. Aluminum foil blocks microwaves. Try it with your cell phone. No one will be able to call you.

Anonymous said...

Ever since we got this new meter installed, my water bill went through the roof. It almost doubled, and DEP is saying I have a leak somewhere in the house.I have all my bills for 10 years that i owe this property and we usually use 65-67 HCF. The new "accurate bill" has me at 101 HCL for 3 month. If only I knew that, I would resist installation for as long as I could.

Anonymous said...

I got here on a search- great site...So I've now received SIX letters either from DEP or Constructomax. The last one being today, a SIGNITURE REQUIRED LETTER. I simply refused it. What the F*^K is this???!!! Some kind of entrapment? NO ONE COMES IN MY HOUSE. I'm calling alawyer tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Must've missed them or something. Got a letter from NYC Environmental Protection, which is 2 paragraphs, saying "The installation must be within the next 30 days to avoid possible Denial of Access procedures which may include fees and penalties."

When did this become mandatory and a government can make us modify our houses?

Anonymous said...

Living in Brooklyn, I'm a bit down from the tsunami.

So great to hear the uproar from before... I've left unanswered 2 door tags but fear the inevitable... Hail to all the resisters! & a tip o' the hat for the foil & the oscillator info! The increased surveillance stuff is so depressing.... maybe I can do without water! The drain, though, gotta have that...

See you all on-water-line! (gurgle gurgle)

Craig said...

WAIT A MINUTE...if I'm understanding the following post correctly and there is no typo....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Anonymous said...

Ever since we got this new meter installed, my water bill went through the roof. It almost doubled, and DEP is saying I have a leak somewhere in the house.I have all my bills for 10 years that i owe this property and we usually use 65-67 HCF. The new "accurate bill" has me at 101 HCL for 3 month. If only I knew that, I would resist installation for as long as I could.

HAS THE CITY CONVERTED FROM "HCF" TO "HCL" ???? What is an HCL? If it is just a typo...please excuse this message...but please double check your bills...I doing some research and I'm trying to "pin" down what the City changed, ie, units of measurement or factoring etc. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi there from one of the installer drones. I work for a different contractor in the city. The MTU (Meter Transmission Unit) is the box on the front of the property. It does send out a radio frequency, it DOES send out a siginal every 6 hours. The transmission is about 0.00000001 the power of the FM radio in your car. The reason it reads the meter every 6 hours is to determine that there is no leak on the property or wasted water. This is why the system is FREE. It is covered under the enviromental protection grant given to the city by the president several years ago. The system has been installed in other major cities around the USA for many years now. NYC has had it for going on 4 years.
Here is the part that sucks. You DO have the right to select the location of the MTU. in some cases, they can even be put in the basement with the right criteria are met. You also have the right to turn down the installation. But read on.
They are not firing meter readers. They can't, they don't employ them. What the DEP does is contract out to a private company. You call them Con Ed. They recently raised their prices to continue reading the water meters in NYC. NYC DEP then decided to take their own readings. Hence, the MTUs.
Now, you have the abilty to tell an installer to go away and you want no part of this install. But, you will get a fine. The fine is $250 bucks I believe. The DEP will no longer come to your property to read the meters, because they would have to hire more people and that kinda defeats the purpose of this whole thing. Which means that your bills are now estimated. (You don't want that).
Finally, I am someone who is trying to pay a mortgage and keep food on the table for my family. I don't get retirement, I dont't get healthcare. I am just doing what they pay me to do. And it is only for 2 years work. Please don't hate us and think we are these horrible contractors who are taking jobs away from hard working New Yorkers. Because, we aren't. We are hard working and most of the time would love to work for local utilities, which usually arent hiring. We are people too. Not "drones" or people that deserve getting threatened or yelled at.
Thanks for the time and I hope I helped a little. Like I said I am just an installer. I am impartial, but the MTUs are nothing to worry about. They have been in use for over 20 years.

Hugh G. Rection said...

I had my water meter changed twice already in the past two years. First cause DEP said it wasn't reading correctly, second time cause they had to install a remote box. So now all DEP has to do is send a guy to read every 3 months or so and they don't even have to ring the bell.

But no, not good enough. Well, it's a major inconvenience to to me to shut the entire water off to the house. My plumber said I need to avoid doing so. Also, as is situated, the installation wrecks my door frame, both times I had it done, I had troubles with my door frame.

This is screwed up, I pay my water bill, DEP has access to a remote box outside my door yet they still insist on coming inside AGAIN and making things difficult for me so they get my water info every 6 hours?

I just got another threatening letter from DEP, Demand for Access in which they said I'm getting fined $250 and even threatening to cut my water off! Can they cut your water (a human necessity) for something as trivial as this?

Btw, who gave constructamax this sweet contract which citizens are forced to accept? Was there a public bidding? I bet not