GLOVERSVILLE – The Gloversville Water Department’s approximately $2.2 million project to upgrade all of the city’s water meters to a new fully automated system — capable of alerting customers to water leaks as they happen — is set to begin Wednesday, but how long the project takes will depend on how the public responds to letters from meter installation company Hydro Utilities.
“We really just want people to know that it’s not a scam,” Gloversville Water Superintendent Anthony Mendetta said. “We are contracting with Hydro Utilities, they will have proper logos and things like that on their vehicles and on their clothing.”
If they haven’t already, Gloversville water users will receive a first, second and then a final letter from Hydro Utilities asking them to set a time for water meter change-out between 7 a.m. and 3:40 p.m. today through Friday.
Each letter will contain a work order and service number, and instructions to going to gloversvillemeters.com, which will send them to a login page where they can set up the appointment.
The project will replace all of the approximately 5,600 water meters in the city, but its set to start with the 2,000 meters located in the city’s Water District 1, which includes all of the city water users north and west of North Main Street and West Fulton Street. Users in the city’s other two water districts will have to wait until they receive the letters from Hydro Utilities to set up their appointments.
Mendetta said over the course of the project he expects Hydro Utilities will open up weekend and after-hours time slots as needed to get the word done.
“The final letter will say if you don’t give us access, per the city charter, you potentially could get your water shut off, until you let us in,” Mendetta said. “So, that’s why we’re asking the public to cooperate because the sooner we can get these done, the sooner the technology that these new meters offer will be up and running.”
The new meters, manufactured by Neptune Technology Group, will enable customers to access to a “water smart” app that will offer features like e-billing, water usage monitoring tips, step-by-step video directions for leak detection, and instant leak notifications via text, e-mail or phone call.
Mendetta said the Water Department currently bills people for water every six months, which is part of the reason why significant water leaks can go undetected for long periods of time. He said the new system should help prevent the water loss and the high bills caused by those leaks.
“It’s going to be a benefit for people. Some people get these high water bills from toilets and stuff like that leaking, and it accumulates over the six months,” he said. “We should be able to, with this technology — as far as people cooperate and sign up for the services that it offers — be able to alert them potentially before they get a huge water bill.”
The new meters should also significantly improve the accuracy of water bills throughout the city by replacing the old Master Meter Co. meters that have had battery problems and other issues that have resulted in the water department being forced to estimate water usage bills for most of the city’s customers for the past seven years.
“We had a defective bunch of meters that died in less than five years,” Mendetta said of the Master Meters. “Basically, we’ve been estimating customers based on prior usage, and that’s caused a loss of revenue for us, potentially. That’s why we went for this grant and we were fortunate enough to receive it.”
Mendetta said water department personnel have already installed the Neptune water meters for some of the city’s larger water users and the increased accuracy has been apparent.
“We can already tell a significant difference,” he said. “Like Nathan Littauer Hospital, the nursing home, and other commercial/industrial businesses where we’ve seen uptake of 10,000 to 20,000 cubic feet per month more than what we were priorly estimating, which is a significant amount of water.”
The department received an $850,000 grant from the NYS Environmental Facility Corporation’s Green Infrastructure program in 2020 to help pay for the water meter upgrade, which is expected to help prevent about 50,000 gallons of potable drinking water the state estimates the city system loses on average per day.
Mendetta said he thinks the water loss may be higher, potentially as much as 100 million gallons per year, which would average out to 273,972 gallons of water lost from leaks per day.
Recently, the Common Council discussed an approximately $7,000 water leak that occurred at the former David & Helen Getman Memorial Home at 15 E. State St. in 2018.
Mendetta said the new automated leak detection capabilities of the Neptune water meters should help the water department identify out-of-control water leaks and get them shut down.
“We run into those situations quite frequently really with some of these unoccupied buildings with sprinkler systems that have broken or just broken pipes in houses,” he said. “That’s a constant thing that we deal with all winter long. This system will cut down on stuff like that, and quite frankly, with all of the stuff that’s going on in this world, these chemicals are getting quite costly to treat the water.”
The $850,000 state grant will help offset the cost of the $2.2 million bond the Common Council approved borrowing for the project in 2021, and the rest will be paid back by water customers.
But Mendetta said the grant is time sensitive and could potentially expire if the work isn’t completed within the six month time frame set for the project.
“We just need people to cooperate with us, so we can get in and get this project done because it is grant money, and we need to do it within a certain time period, otherwise that funding could potentially disappear,” he said.
The city of Johnstown, as well as other municipalities, had a similar problem as Gloversville with the Master Meter Co. meters. In 2021, the city of Johnstown’s then independently elected Water Board included an $850,425 budget line to pay for the installation of new Neptune meters as part of a $7.3 million capital project bond approved by its common council, but the city has not yet bonded for the money.
Mendetta said he knows it’s been inconvenient for a lot of Gloversville’s water users to have to deal with the battery problem of the Master Meters that were first installed around 2010. He said one of the benefits of the new Neptune system will be that the batteries will all be located externally on the outside of buildings.
“We really appreciate people’s cooperation, because it’s been multiple times of coming in and changing their water meters over the past 10 years,” he said. “The batteries for these meters, and the collectors, are going to be mounted to the outside of people’s houses, so in the future, when the life cycle of the battery [is over and they have to be] replaced we won’t have to access people’s houses. We can literally just change the batteries right on the outside. The way the city charter reads, we have access to all our meters, so we just literally go house-to-house and change them out.”