Utility company to upgrade meters

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Starting next month, contractors will be changing out old water meters with new radio read water meters in Atmore and its surrounding area.

West Escambia Utilities Inc. Manager Kenny Smith said Monday that the water meter change out program begins on Nov. 16, and will extend from the Baldwin County line as far as Robinsonville.

Smith said the new meters have an antenna that’s mounted underneath the meter box, which will allow workers to get water readings easier and quicker.

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“The intent on this was to be able to drive down the road and read meters on the way, and never have to get out of the vehicle,” Smith said.

Smith said the project is slated to last for five months, and some 5,000 meters will be changed.

“If everything goes to plan, then we’ll eventually be able to read all of the meters from here (the West Escambia Utilities Office at city hall), which is going to be a big benefit,” he said.

Smith said one of the main reasons why the utility company is changing out the older water meters is because of the unaccountable water that is pumped.

“When we pump water out of the ground, we measure it,” he said. “When we sell water, we measure it. The difference of the two is the unaccountable.

“The state, (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) and (Environmental Protection Agency) said if the unaccountable gets up to 10 percent, we should try to keep up with it,” he said. “It looks bad to us and ADEM. Most of our meters in the ground are over 20 years old.”

Smith said right now the unaccountable is right at 35 percent, and with these new meters, the unaccountable percentage will go down drastically.

The total project cost is $1.5 million. West Escambia Utilities secured a SRS Loan to obtain the funds for the water meter change out program.

In addition to water meters, Smith said the registers on the gas meters are going to be replaced as well.

A couple more benefits these new water meters will have for customers is that it will provide more accurate readings and they can detect leaks, Smith said.

Smith said the contractors are going to notify customers when they’re changing out their water meters. He said there will be a temporary water outage, no more than a hour, while the meter change takes place.

“Is it going to be a pain, yeah, it’s just a matter of change,” Smith said about the process. “It will have our folks around out there. Just because you don’t see them at your place in the first week or so, doesn’t mean they won’t get to you. This is a five-month project.”

Customers who have questions about the project can call the West Escambia Utilities office at 251-368-2207.