Henrico replacing old water meters, going high tech

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Work is underway on a massive project to bring top-of-the-line technology underground.

Henrico County is getting rid of all of its old water meters, and replacing them with new devices that will make the whole water billing process easier and more accurate.

Ronald Pittman estimates he and his crew have changed out 25,000 water meters so far and he's never quite sure what he'll find down there.

"Couple frogs, couple snakes," said Pittman, who works for Corix Utilities.

But once he gets beneath all the dirt,  he knows what he's looking for. Ron's part of a project, approved last year, to get rid of Henrico County's 92,000 old water meters, and replace them with new wireless technology.

"The old way, we have a meter reader come out and get out of the car and walk up to each meter in the  county and manually read them," said Kristy Marshall of the Department of Public Utilities.

The new meters can be read with a wireless device, from the road. So county workers won't have to go through the labor-intensive process, of inspecting every single one of them.

"It eliminates human error, basically," Marshall said.

By the time it's all done, the county predicts meter readers will be able to scan 5,000 meters a day -- up from the current rate of just 1,800.

"I think it's gonna speed up reading the meters, and getting it more accurate for the readings," said neighbor Keith Leachman.

And while the project has five more years to go, with a pricetag of $18 million, the utility is not expecting the cost, to hit home directly.

"It's not an extra addition onto our customers' bill," Marshall said.

As for what will become of the 92,000 old meters, the county gives them to the contractor, and they're often sold as scrap metal.

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A West End landmark in Henrico will soon get a $1 millionfacelift. County board members have approved a contract to repair and repaint the Cox Road water tower.

The county says the work is needed to maintain the quality of not only the water, but of the tower itself.  Work is expected to begin next month and last until December 2010.

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