A Nanoose Bay couple, ordered to pay a $6,400 water bill that resulted from an undetected leak, is fighting back.
Clark Rutledge and Ronda Leigh are again appealing to the Regional District of Nanaimo board to reconsider their decision on Dec. 6, 2022 not to grant them an exception and require them to pay the water bill without adjustment.
They sent the board a letter that argues against the recommendation made by RDN water manager Murray Walters to the Electoral Area Services Committee on Nov. 24, 2022 and RDN board on Dec. 6.
The policy, the couple contends, was last reviewed 16 years ago before tiered water rates were adopted.
The Nanoose Bay couple previously dealt with an unknown underground service leak on their property four years ago. It was repaired and they were given a break on their water bill. But last year, a second leak was discovered and it was not immediately detected as the RDN conducts water meter readings every eight months.
And because the water leak forgiveness policy is only offered once every five years, the couple was told to pay the $6,400 water bill. They asked the board for exception but it was denied.
Clark argued the five-year, no consideration rule is both out-of-date and unnecessarily punitive.
“A $6,400 water bill would devastate anyone on a limited income,” Clark said.They pointed out other municipalities on Vancouver Island, including the City of Parksville, have put in place secondary leak policies.
“The original charge would not be this high in any other water district on Vancouver Island under these circumstances,” they said. “The billing system is unfair and not working as intended on introduction. This is one reason other water districts don’t have it or have changed it.”
They pointed out that if they suffered a $6,400 second water leak in Parksville, the city’s secondary leak policy takes effect and their bill would be reduced to $300.
In other jurisdictions, the bill could be reduced to $1,500.
The tiered water rates, they explained, was put in place to promote conservation “not generate extra revenue from unknown leaks.”
Clark said the remedy they are requesting the new board do is to set the report aside and commission a new comprehensive one.
“When benchmarking our policy, it should be compared to other policies in their entirety,” said Clark.
The RDN board is set to meet on Jan. 10 and it includes the Nanoose couple’s rebuttal letter.
The board is also scheduled to discuss a motion to direct staff to prepare a report on options for amending Policy D1-01, Adjustment for Water Leak, including a water bill repayment plan for residents who experience a leak in the potable water system on their property but are not eligible for a water leak adjustment to their Regional District of Nanaimo water bill.