While some worry about PG&E’s plan to move customers to wireless SmartMeters, San Franciscans have another wireless meter to manage: those the city is installing for water customers. While advances in meter-reading are nice, some of these installations have been the cause of pipes bursting, leaving homeowners with a very costly problem they feel San Francisco should be paying for.
As ABC7 reports, though SFPUC says that these floods are rare, there have now been 45 reported cases of them breaking during wireless meter installation since the project began last year.
A SFPUC spokesperson acknowledges that the new meters can cause a pipe failure, saying “what tends to happen is, as you shut off the water it causes a slight ripple or a shock in the system,” but ABC7 says that the water company argues that “pipes tend to burst only if they are in poor condition.”
Though the 45 seems like a small number compared to the 58,000 or so SFians who managed to endure the installation without a pipe burst, those experiencing damage and floods are no less frustrated. ABC7 successfully advocated for SFian Dianne Zinky, who had to fight to be reimbursed for the $3,000 she had to spend on repairs from water damages caused by a broken pipe. After filing a claim with the city, she says she was passed off to VSI Meter Services, the contractor responsible for the project. The contractor then directed her back to the city.
In a similar case in a rental home in SF, John Lubimir filed a claim against the city for $5,800 that he paid for a new pipe and concrete after one burst in his rental home, forcing tenants out. Lubimir filed a report but the city refused to pay because they say that the pipe was already leaking.
The water department told ABC7 that “homeowners will have to pay for any damages to a pipe on their property unless the contractor did something wrong,” but some seem to feel that since it’s the contractor and the SFPUC making the determination, the game feels rigged.
“I think it’s unreasonable to say that it’s not their fault and that we should stand the entire cost,” Lubimir says.
The SFPUC says that of the eight homeowner claims against VSI Meter Services over burst pipes, five have been paid.