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Severe weather affects PUC budget

Wednesday, March 19, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

The Sault Ste. Marie PUC Board of Directors, at a meeting with senior staff at the PUC’s Second Line office Wednesday afternoon, approved an increase in water charges and accepted, as an information item, an Annual Drinking Water Quality Summary Report.

Those water charges, however, are a three percent rise in “miscellaneous water charges,” not residential consumption rates, PUC Treasurer and Vice President of Financial Services Terry Greco told

These include charges for returned cheques, special meter reads, meter dispute charges (if the meter is correct), and service locating.

Very little mention was made of the ongoing brown water woes during verbal discussion by the Board and staff regarding the Annual Drinking Water Quality Summary Report.

The PUC, in February, unveiled its Water Quality Improvement Plan to rectify that problem. 

Some mention was made at Wednesday’s meeting of cadmium found in the water supply in the PUC’s service area (which was rectified) and precautionary boil water advisories issued in the city’s Ward Three area over the past year.

Details of the Annual Drinking Water Quality Summary Report, Greco told us, are expected to be posted on the PUC website by Thursday.

The main topic of Wednesday’s discussion was the effect the severe winter weather continues to have on Sault water mains and reports of frozen pipes cutting off water supply for PUC customers.

Greco told the Board there have been 90 water main breaks to date (including two reported Wednesday).

Greco said the average number of water main breaks, reported on an annual basis (from November 1 to October 31 each year) is 53, which means the number of water main breaks since November 1, 2013 is up by nearly twice the average amount.

In addition, the cold weather has resulted in 229 reported frozen pipe incidents since November 1 from PUC customers.

Greco said there were only five frozen pipe incidents reported in winter 2012-2013, and none at all from winter 2011-2012. 

75 PUC customers are currently experiencing frozen pipe issues, Greco said.

Many of those 75 PUC customers without water are currently hooked up and receiving water from neighbouring homes.

Greco said: “There are a few that aren’t.”

“Some of the customers could not hook up to a neighbour because sometimes there isn’t a neighbour close enough, or they can’t find a neighbour who’s willing to let them hook up, but most of them are hooked up.”

Some customers have opted to stay with family members or friends.

Those customers affected by frozen pipes, and those neighbours supplying them with water, will be billed on the amount of water they used last year, the PUC has stated.

Randy Johnson of PUC Marketing and Customer Communications told us: “With the ground being so saturated, there’s so much moisture from the heavy rain we had last fall, it didn’t get a chance to leave, then we had an early start to winter and everything froze up.”

“It’s continuing to just harden up and the frost keeps driving its way down, and we think that’s going to be pretty typical for the next six to eight weeks…we’ll continue to see frozen water services and water main breaks.”

PUC Vice President of Operations and Engineering Claudio Stefano told the Board: “(PUC crews) have been working extremely long hours, around the clock (to fix water mains and addressing frozen pipes), with no reprieve in sight.”

Greco added it will likely be another four to six weeks before any relief is seen.

Greco said the PUC is approximately $180,000 over budget to the end of February 2014 due to the cost of fixing broken water mains from January 1 to February 28.

That expense includes labour costs and fees associated with the PUC having to bring in contractors to remove snow surrounding fire hydrants.

To pay for the cost linked to dealing with this winter’s weather woes, PUC staff said Wednesday some projects might have to be put on hold moving forward, though it was not immediately clear what those projects might be.

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
I'm In 3/19/2014 8:25:59 PM Report

Of course the customers have to foot the rising cost of the lame excuses as stated in the article, this can't be good for an economy when governments want you to spend. Boy are we spending in all the wrong places, time for a boycott @ PUC
shju 3/19/2014 8:30:38 PM Report

yes because the price of drinking clean water and crapping in clean water is so expensive. you pay more for a cell phone. Spock would be so upset with you people.
MIG welder 3/19/2014 8:40:47 PM Report

live long and prosper!! Just not in Sault Ste. Marie...
Alystr 3/19/2014 8:50:42 PM Report

Some people will never understand. Did they need a $40 Million new facility? NO. Could they have done really well with a $20 Million building? Guaranteed.
Sam C 3/19/2014 8:54:53 PM Report

LOL... a boycott of the PUC. How does one do that? Do we...

- disconnect from the electrical grid?
- shut our water off at the street main?
- dig a privy in the back yard?

Yeah, that'll show 'em.
Sam C 3/19/2014 8:55:54 PM Report

... oh, and those watermains would have broken, and the service lines would have frozen, even if they hadn't built a new building.
Zap 3/19/2014 9:02:29 PM Report

They would save a few dollars by stopping the adding of chlorine poison in the water. They warn you at the public pools about the dangers of drinking chlorine WTF
the drinking water is SHIT all around.
harry dick 3/19/2014 9:04:37 PM Report

The content of this article stinks of a raise in water rates again and possibly a electrical rate increase. All of the solar and wind power systems put into place in Sault Ste Marie over the past few years is for power for the United States. Why not raise the cost of electricity for these FOREIGNERS and not pass the extra costs onto the people of Sault Ste. Marie which doesn't benefit from these installations in any way. On the subject of water rates , the P.U.C. TAKE over $22.00 a month just for having the water pipe go to your house. I personally have paid this cost for over 37 years . Just how much does it cost to have a pipe run to your house?
Also the quality of the water that is in our pipes in the east end for the last 2 or so years , has been poor to say the least. If a private company sold water of that quality to people they would have been out of business a long time ago.
If there is no-one qualified to repair this brown water situation , which the P.U.C. maintains that it is safe to drink or feed to your 1 year old baby , maybe someone should be hired to FIX the problem once and for all. Then and only then, you could ask for a water or electricity increase .Until this gang took over the PUC , we had some of the best water in the province , and no brown water incidents!!!!
Grizz72 3/19/2014 9:27:19 PM Report

CROOK'S that is all I have to say!!!! give it the working class all the time!!
shju 3/19/2014 9:31:09 PM Report

they are not adding chlorine to the drinking water.... they removed the ammonia. all that water you people claim to be so great is what ammonia tastes like.
AlgoBryan 3/19/2014 9:31:49 PM Report

Poor little P.U.C. Boo-Hoo
Koolaid 3/19/2014 9:32:23 PM Report

Nothing will happen, because we just sit on our asses complaining, so in stead of complaining get out and vote !!!
shju 3/19/2014 9:37:20 PM Report

$22 a month for the pipe to your house... 22 x 12 x 37....ok thats $9768 dollars. It costs alot more then that to dig and trench in new lines. Like really people you need to stop bitching about the price of things. Yes the brown water issue is something to complain about. But the issue arose not because of what they are doing now but what was done in the past. Its sediment(AMMONIA) that has built up over the past 40 years. Now that we have removed tonnes of it from the drinking water it will take time to clear the system. If you drink coffee or tea you really have no right to complain about brown water. Tea and coffee beans are transported in bins that have dirt everywhere. I know its human nature to complain about everything under the sun but there has to be a point when your mouth starts to hurt, and you have no friends left because you cant stop complaining for more then 5 minutes.
shju 3/19/2014 9:38:56 PM Report

And its not all the east end that has water problems. I own a few houses here in the east end and have yet to have a brown water issue.
shju 3/19/2014 9:47:49 PM Report

here is an idea, put in a well and septic tank, with a leeching bed. Your bill would be $35,000-$35000. I low balled this number. If you want off the grid for electricity, be prepared to shell out around $65,000-$100,000. Now lets say you get 20 years out of both with no upkeep on anything which is total bull but lets keep it simple. thats 100k on the low end and 135k on the high end. It would cost you $416 - $563 a month. You would still have a gas bill because to price out a solar system to run electric heat, ranges, or any heavy current demand would double your price for a system.

No one pays this much in puc unless they have electric heat,water tank,stove etc.. and if you do then double at least those prices up top. Its a fair price for what they charge and the system 98.94% of the time.
shju 3/19/2014 9:49:42 PM Report

wow I was on glue for typing.
*runs 98.94% of the time.
Wisenheimer 3/19/2014 10:31:57 PM Report

Sam, sure the breakage would have occured anyways.
Maybe if they didn't build the Taj Mahal they wouldn' t have to come suck holeing to the public for more money.
Rachel01 3/19/2014 10:34:45 PM Report

What a crock of bull crap. PUC is making outrageous amounts of money from everybody because of their old systems...time we start fighting back !!! Who thinks that meter reader always has his digits right. I'm pissed.
thumbs4208 3/19/2014 10:45:15 PM Report

How do we stop this - bs - !
Great news 3/19/2014 10:58:00 PM Report

I was told today that PUC sent a bill of $400.00 plus HST $452.00 to unfreeze a water line leading to the property. If there is a charge than the increase makes no sense
Firefly7 3/19/2014 11:00:35 PM Report

shju obviously works for the PUC and thinks we can all afford to pay more for everything we don't all make the wages PUC employees make - it would make your head spin if you knew what they made and what about the operating costs for this expensive new building yes we are tired of paying more for everything I would like to retire as well but can't afford to because we're getting hosed from every angle and the government isn't helping - we pay way too much for our utilities and everything else and if you think we're crying about it you're obviously overpaid.
Javaman 3/19/2014 11:17:35 PM Report

Bitching on here has yet to lower PUC bills. You have to throw out all of city council who obviously support what the PUC does. I have yet to see one councillor get really upset and demand answers. Heads will have to roll at the PUC as well.
shaun6969 3/19/2014 11:19:35 PM Report

p.u.c is outrageous and rediculous as someone who just spent 13 days with no water I can definitely say that p.u.c needs to changes something and the only way I got my pipes unthawed was I had to call my alderman of my district before anything was done and yes there is a fee of 450$ to get them to unthaw your lines which take 15 mins to do btw .. They kept coming to put a garden hose through the window for me to have water which then I had to leave my window open causing my heat to escape in what way shape or form is any of this logical fix what is broken when it happens and you won't need to make people wait so long without water .. I do agree we pay way to much for utilities and in the long run get screwed. P.u.c wants to increase everything then why not make everything new and more efficient rather then build a new building and waste money ... We pay so we can have these services not go days/weeks without!!
Johnedater 3/19/2014 11:57:23 PM Report

Rachel01 3/20/2014 12:13:03 AM Report

So the answer is...does the city pay or do we as individuals. Sounds like double dipping to me once again.
tipper 3/20/2014 12:48:09 AM Report

It looks like Shju works for puc or the city and since he owns 'a few house's I can see it won't matter to him how much puc costs!! However people that barely get by have a lot to worry about where puc is concerned. I pay at least $300 a month and my sister who lives in a small one bedroom apt by herself also pays $300 a month!! Where is the justice in this? Pretty soon with the rising costs of puc, gas, rents etc we will be those homeless people we all turn our noses up at! I don't know about anyone else but to me that is a scary reality!
David Poluck 3/20/2014 5:36:31 AM Report

Java, Could you break it down what exactly you think city council should or could do?

nanci 3/20/2014 6:48:51 AM Report

Severe weather has affected my budget!!
CherRN 3/20/2014 6:49:04 AM Report

Maybe it's time to think about a composting toilet, candles and rain water.... :P
plr 3/20/2014 7:06:51 AM Report

Perhaps before they make $100,000 donations to the university and the college they could put some of that money into their budget for repairs. I understand education is important but sometimes you have to take a step back and take care of your own.
TFinn 3/20/2014 7:09:03 AM Report

Sam C 3/19/2014 8:55:54 PM

Yes they may have broke and froze ... however if they didn't spend an excess amount on a new facility they would have more $$$ to attend to aging, water mains, power stations and grids etc...
bugalugs 3/20/2014 7:23:23 AM Report

This is a joke...when are we going to say enough is enough...people can't afford heat and water anymore! It's just so wrong...get rid of delivery charges..there is no way we should be paying more in delivery charges then usage! Think about that charge for every house on every's just pure greed!
bugalugs 3/20/2014 7:26:29 AM Report

Love it nanci no one thinks of our budgets, we are just suppose to come up with extra one for us to charge our debt to!
bugalugs 3/20/2014 7:26:43 AM Report

Love it nanci no one thinks of our budgets, we are just suppose to come up with extra one for us to charge our debt to!
soowat 3/20/2014 8:15:03 AM Report

When the two wars one incumbents knock on my door looking for my vote,I will politely advise them that they did such a poor job representing me regarding the water issue with PUC that I think I'll "hire" new people
Verbatim 3/20/2014 8:31:18 AM Report

This is typical of a business in North America. They budget for a certain amount of money in the year. Unforseen expenses occur so they decide that in order to make sure THEIR bottom line isnt affected they raise the price and make everyone else cover THEIR costs so that they still make THEIR profits.

Wouldnt it be nice if we could go to our employer and say listen, I had some unforseen expenses this year so you will have to pay me x amount of dollars more this year so that i can still bring home a certain amount of money

Corporate B.S. once again.
SuperiorYardCare 3/20/2014 8:35:30 AM Report

Poor puc and there 40 million dollars building
BigDaddy 3/20/2014 8:39:38 AM Report

I completely understand that costs do go up eventually, it's the time value of money...inflation.

But speaking of this...inflation has been approximately 1 to 1.5% over the last several years. This "modest" increase is what 200% of the annual inflation rate. As nanci cleverly pointed out, perhaps others like myself, had 0 wage increase over the last few years and not expecting to get any more going forward. So I appreciate the angry from the public. I questioned to assist with the "modest" water increase has the PUC put forth any, any type of costing saving measures themselves...wages freeze, down down their thermostat, watching THEIR water usage...something tells me no.
mudrunner 3/20/2014 8:49:50 AM Report

An this is what happens when people cry to have min wage raised, everything else will go up.
Ski-Dude 3/20/2014 9:05:06 AM Report

Calendar year budget period? So, the amount of snow, ice, frost level, was a surprise to a budget that was finalized for January? It was a surprise that a extremely low frost line in combination with old infrastructure was going to increase water main breaks? What kind of dog and pony show is being run over there in that fancy ivory tower? Just wild! "Shakes head in disbelief"
OMGWTF 3/20/2014 9:15:16 AM Report

Sounds like the PUC is living off of a budgeting issue so one good way to counter this is to cut expenses. We obviously feel that the revenue we are providing is sufficient. If they do propose to raise rates then have your Council member come to a neighbourhood meeting to explain why and challenge them on it. Put them in the hot seat. We are all too cozy with what they do
Battler213 3/20/2014 10:33:57 AM Report

You would be crazy to think that PUC keeps ALL of the money charged on your bill. They are merely a DISTRIBUTION company. They don't make and then sell the power.

They roughly get 40%(ish) of what your bill is. So for every $100, PUC receives $40 of it. 41%(ish) goes to Ontario Power Generators, 11.5(ish) goes to Ontario Tax, 3.3% for debt retirement and 3% for regulatory charges.

Their $40 million dollar building. You think they just cut a cheque for that and was left broke? You're crazy.

Although I do agree it really sucks for being without water. I do believe more money should go into upgrading the infrastructure. I do believe rising costs are driving more and more into debt and poverty. But complaining here will not do a thing.

If you are that passionate about it. Do something about it. If you don't, then technically it isn't an issue to you - or you're lazy.

A little education goes a long way.
Christina216 3/20/2014 1:43:34 PM Report

Severe increase in rates cause me to not be able to pay my bill :)
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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