In a presentation to Council on Monday August 12, Drew Macklin of William Street Brewery Co. (WSBC) plans to say that LUSI accepted their water meter’s reading despite strong evidence that it was giving faulty readings. The cost to the fledgling craft brewery was $8,050 (plus interest which brings the total to $10,101) – but the business has also suffered. The overbilling started when a new water meter was installed in December 2017 and only stopped in April 2018 when the meter was replaced. WSBC tracks water usage separately and their measurements now agree but during the 5 months of alleged overbilling they were wildly different. No leaks were found and LUSI cannot explain where the extra water went but point to a change from a water cooled condenser to an air-cooled one as the possible reason despite strong evidence from Drew to the contrary.
In the end, it’s a case of a customer providing evidence and the Utility refusing to accept that and simply saying, in effect, that their meters are never wrong. But other cities have experienced meter errors and there is a U.S. Class action suit in the matter. One of the possible reasons for errors was that since the meter is digital, its proximity to electrical equipment could be a problem but that idea was dismissed. Along the way, Drew brought the matter to the attention of the LUSI board and Mayor Gil Brocanier but was told that they are following policy and refused to respond to his evidence.
- In 133 days (December 18, 2017 to April 30th, 2018), WSBC was charged for 18.17 M3 of water per day – equivalent to 18 Vats of water per day;
- Yet LUSI observed no leaks, a plumber’s inspection found no leaks, there was no evidence of a leak, no wet floor, no running water sound and LUSI can’t explain where the water went.
- WSBC keeps detailed production records including water usage for quality & cost control. CRA calibration is required for excise tax yet two CRA audits at this location passed with no issues
- WSBC records match the meter readings when the LUSI meter works correctly. See graph below.
According to Drew, LUSI’s position is:
WSBC must have changed the production process or there must have been a leak; the meter was correct; and “Pay the bill or be disconnected”. So why did it finally come good? Since readings are currently correct, there’s no way to pin down exactly what the problem was.
Impact on the business
Drew said that because of the overcharging, there were some consequences:
- Reduced cash needed to run the business
- Planned products could not be produced
- Plans were disrupted
- Revenue decreased
- Opportunities were lost
- Management and employees were stressed
- Business suffered
As a minimum, LUSI has a very unhappy customer and seems not to care. I’d like to be proved wrong on this.
At worst, they have a problem they cannot explain and have taken advantage of that to the tune of $8,050 plus interest.
See the links below for Drew’s presentation. He’s asking for Council to direct LUSI to reimburse him.
These are the documents that Drew plans to use in his presentation to Council:
Addendum – 10 August – 10:10am
Update from Drew Macklin
The change from excessive billing to normal came about when the Condenser was changed (not when meter was changed). This meant that interference to the meter was no longer a problem so of course the readings normalized. The idea that the original condenser was using all the extra water was disproved since any water would have been visible: As Drew says: Drain line is exposed and flows to a floor drain. Water would have been spraying all over the place. Drew told me: “There were no floods”.
Additional Update – 12 August 10:12am
From Drew Macklin
To clarify, the Ombudsman has no mandate or authority to recommend a refund so his failure to do so is not relevant.
The Ombudsman’s comment about meter testing is flawed as he did not consider the nature of electrical interference nor understand the meter testing process.
The meter test only tests the meter’s mechanics, not the electronics.
There was no on-site meter testing. The meter was tested after the condenser replacement and the readings had already returned to normal.
Update – Decision 13 August 2019
At the Council meeting last night, Drew made his presentation and Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin moved that LUSI be directed to refund William Street Brewery including interest and within 15 business days as Drew requested. The motion was approved.