Council OKs Meters in Program to Verify Sewer Charges

As debate raged over inequities in residential sewer fees, the Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to have meters installed at 60 homes throughout the city to see if some residents are paying too much.

Councilman Richard Alarcon proposed the meters--four in each of the 15 council districts--in hopes of quelling an ongoing debate over the fairness of the sewer service fees charged to homeowners.

Most homes have meters to measure the water entering a home, but the city cannot afford to install meters at every home to measure the waste water leaving the home. As a result, the city cannot accurately calculate how much each home should pay to maintain and operate the city's massive sewer system.

Under the proposal, the city would ask 60 volunteers to pay about $100 to install the meters so that public works officials can get an accurate reading of how much waste water each house generates.

The readings, taken over a one-year period, could be used to see if the formula used to calculate fees is accurate, said Alarcon, who represents parts of the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Sewer fees are based on the amount of water taken in by each home. The city assumes that about 60% of the water used in each home exits through the sewer, either through washing clothes or flushing toilets.

But Valley residents and some of their council representatives say the assumption is often wrong, particularly for residents who own large lots and put most of their water into their gardens and lawns.

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