Bill Bunch, Pineville Utility Commission Manager, recently commented on customers who have been stealing their water service.
“We may find three to five infractions per month,” said Bunch.” This is not a new thing. I think this is probably common to every utility company.”
The perpetrators are usually customers who have just had their service cut off. We are not looking at large sums of money being lost, said Bunch. When asked to estimate how much money is being lost due to water theft, Bunch figured it was somewhere around $150 per month.
The cases that happen in Bell County are mostly residential. No known businesses, schools, clinics or larger facilities have committed such violations.
It was someone in the community that alerted Bunch to the most recent case of water theft. Someone actually approached him with the information and it was found to be true.
Bunch appreciates such tips and feels it is the public’s civic duty to speak up if they know of such wrongdoing. The act of tapping into water without paying for it is considered a federal crime.
However, Bunch has never had to push a case that far. Instead, Pineville utilities allows violators to pay a $300 penalty fee, and only then can they have their water service reconnected.
Bunch said so far, the penalty fee has served as a lesson and possible deterrent.
“I feel that water thefts like these are common to every utility company,” said Bunch.
However, James Leonard, Regional Manager for Utilities Inc. in Middlesboro, reported that he can’t remember the last case of water theft in Middlesboro.
“It happens here too, it’s just rare,” said Leonard. “Furthermore, we haven’t had any of those straight pipes like they find over in Pineville. Our violations are customers who’ve had their service turned off and then they try to break our padlock, and turn their meter back on.”
Bunch and Pineville Utilities asks the public to report known violations. Water thefts can even be reported anonymously in our night, drop box, said Bunch. Or, if they prefer, they can call in at (606) 337-6611.