The manufacturer of the water meter system utilized by the town of Norlina has agreed to replace the system at no cost to the town as a result of serious malfunctions.

That was the report from Norlina Public Works Superintendent Blaine Reese, who met with representatives of manufacturer Neptune Technology Group based in Alabama and distribution agent Core & Main based in Missouri last week.

Background

The town completed installation of its $230,000 computerized water meter system in 2013. Funding for the system was made possible through state revolving loan funds to be repaid over the course of 20 years interest free with an $11,500 annual payment.

At that time, Reese explained that the computerized system would replace an aging system with some meters 30 years old. With the older system, Norlina was spending $10,000 each year for labor, fuel, costs, and wear and tear on town vehicles to read meters, he said. Reese noted that the town spent an additional $10,000 each year to buy new meters and replace the old ones.

He said that the computerized system provided water usage reports directly to computers at Norlina Town Hall and to mobile devices, and included a leak report feature pinpointing physical addresses where water usage was unusually high so that customers at those addresses could be alerted.

When the system was functioning properly, the system would take meter readings at midnight daily and automatically report that information to the town. Daily reports also would include information about locations where meters were not working.

The system today

In the years that followed, Reese reported at town board meetings from time to time that a water meter or two needed to be replaced due to an apparent malfunction. More recently, however, problems have become more widescale. Reese said last week that public works has had to replace about 40 percent of the water meter system.

He explained that the problem is not with the meters themselves, but with their communication boxes which relay water usage data to the town’s computer server. The meters would register water usage, but when the communication boxes stopped communicating with the server, the meters had to be read manually as they had been before the computerized system was installed. Reese added that malfunctions reached the point that devices were failing at a faster rate than public works personnel could replace them.

Reese said that the water meter system is still covered by warranty, and that he is pleased with Neptune Technology Group’s response in addressing the problems.

He said that at this point, Neptune Technology Group is gathering information to set a plan for replacing the system, which includes about 700 meters. Reese said that there is no timetable for when replacement would be complete, but added that he told Neptune that he wanted problems to be resolved by the end of the year.