Tuesday, May 23, 2017

E. Franklin Street Sewer Replacement Project

DPU is replacing 850 linear feet of a combined sewer on E. Franklin Street between Ambler Street and N. 19th. A combined sewer collects stormwater and sanitary sewer. The existing sewer was constructed in the 1880's or earlier!

The work will involve replacement of the existing sewer with new PVC pipe, installation of six new manholes, connecting the new sewer to the existing combined sewer system, reinstatement of multiple storm sewer and sanitary sewer laterals to the new combined sewer, and site restoration.

Here's the schedule:

Work Between Ambler St. and N. 17th St. (42” Pipe):
• May 2017 – June 2017
Work Between N. 17th St. and N. 18th St. (36” Pipe):
• July 2017 – August 2017
Work Between N. 18th St. and N. 19th St. (24” Pipe):
• September 2017
Final Restoration Work:
• October 2017

What is the purpose of the project?
The existing combined sewer is over 135 years old and is deteriorating.

How will the combined sewer replacement impact my sewer service?
We anticipate minimal sewer service disruption during construction to the three parcels located along the project corridor. Owners of these parcels will receive a minimum seven-day notice when the disruption will occur and its duration. Replacement of each lateral will be scheduled with each parcel owner for a time -- weekends, nights -- when the impact will be minimal.

Will the combined sewer replacement impact any other utilities?
No. Existing utilities crossing the excavation area will be temporarily supported in order to remain in service until the excavation is backfilled and compacted.

Will this work impact traffic in the area?
The work is primarily in the westbound lane of Franklin between Ambler and N. 19th. Road closures will be required, but will be phased so only a single block of Franklin or an intersection of Franklin and a cross street are closed at any given time. Roads will be reopened at the end of every work day unless there are unforeseen conditions.

Will this work impact on-street parking?
Yes. On-street parking will be restricted on roads closed during construction working hours. On-street parking will be available outside of construction work hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., week days. Some isolated tasks may need to be performed after hours or on weekends.

How long will this take?
Five to six months, weather permitting.

Will the project impact the Lumpkin's jail archeological area?
No. In the event that archeological findings are unearthed during excavation, the project will be stopped and the State Department of Historic Resources contacted.

Project manager: Quinton Nottingham, 646-5365
Media contact: Angela Fountain, 646-7323

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nutrient Pollution - Get a Free Soil Test

From the Environmental Protection Agency:
Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are natural parts of aquatic ecosystems. Nitrogen is also the most abundant element in the air we breathe. Nitrogen and phosphorus support the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which provide food and habitat for fish, shellfish and smaller organisms that live in water.
But when too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment - usually from a wide range of human activities - the air and water can become polluted. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.

Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats, and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Large growths of algae are called algal blooms and they can severely reduce or eliminate oxygen in the water, leading to illnesses in fish and the death of large numbers of fish. Some algal blooms are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people sick if they come into contact with polluted water, consume tainted fish or shellfish, or drink contaminated water.

Nutrient pollution in ground water - which millions of people in the United States use as their drinking water source - can be harmful, even at low levels. Infants are vulnerable to a nitrogen-based compound called nitrates in drinking water. Excess nitrogen in the atmosphere can produce pollutants such as ammonia and ozone, which can impair our ability to breathe, limit visibility and alter plant growth. When excess nitrogen comes back to earth from the atmosphere, it can harm the health of forests, soils and waterways.

Sources of this pollution:
  • Agriculture: Animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields, and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the country.
  • Stormwater: When precipitation falls on our cities and towns, it runs across hard surfaces - like rooftops, sidewalks and roads - and carries pollutants, including nitrogen and phosphorus, into local waterways.
  • In and Around the Home: Fertilizers, yard and pet waste, and certain soaps and detergents contain nitrogen and phosphorus, and can contribute to nutrient pollution if not properly used or disposed of. The amount of hard surfaces and type of landscaping can also increase the runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus during wet weather.

What can you do? Pick up after your pets, use commercial car washes and or wash your vehicle on the lawn, not the street or driveway, and don't overfertilize, and then just in the fall.

For a free soil test kit to see how much or how little fertilizer you really need, email gay.stokes@richmondgov.com. Kit includes instructions and a voucher to pay for the test.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fire Hydrants

Fighting fires is a tough job! No one knows that better than the firefighters at the city of Richmond. In 2016, city of Richmond firefighters put out an estimated 528 fires. This includes structural fires, vehicle and brush fires.

The city’s Department of Public Utilities are critical partners in this effort by maintaining the more than 6,000 fire hydrants owned by the city of Richmond. DPU currently inspects fire hydrants under a manual system on a bi-annual basis. By this summer 2017, DPU’s automated fire hydrant inspection program will be in effect, enabling DPU to inspect each one of the 6,000 fire hydrants every 12 months with the goal of one complete circuit per year.
To ensure adequate fire protection, each city owned fire hydrant is within 500 feet of another. Fire engines arrive at a fire with 500 gallons of water to combat the fire. The fire engines are equipped with hoses to reach hydrants within two blocks of any direction.
Of the 426 house fires reported over the last year within the city, hydrants have never been reported as being an issue or had any material effect on fire suppression efforts.

Residents with concerns about the operability of fire hydrants should call DPU at (804) 646-8600 

Friday, April 28, 2017

NOTICE to DPU Apartment and Small Commercial Natural Gas Customers

As part of the Department of Public Utilities' (DPU) ongoing commitment to compliance and safety standards, DPU is making apartment and other multi-family residential, as well as small commercial customers, aware of a recent regulation issued by federal regulatory agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). This new regulation requires natural gas utilities to offer an Excess Flow Valve (EFV) on new and replaced service lines to its multifamily residential and small commercial customers. 

An Excess Flow Valve (EFV) is a mechanical shut-off device that can be installed on the natural gas service pipeline that runs from the street to the natural gas meter that serves the property. This is also referred to as a “service line."  An EFV is designed to shut off the flow of natural gas automatically if there is a break in the natural gas service line.

As an apartment building and small commercial natural gas customer, you may request that DPU install an EFV on the natural gas line that runs to your property. DPU will inform customers of the actual cost before the final decision.

Please note that EFVs cannot be installed on some service lines due to high gas flow, low pressure or other factors. If you request an EFV but your service line cannot accommodate it, you will be advised of this. Customers who request an EFV whose natural gas load does not exceed 1,000 SCFH (standard cubic feet per hour) must coordinate installation at a mutually agreeable date.

To request that an EFV be installed on your apartment building or small commercial natural gas service line, call DPU's Permitting Office at (804) 646-8544.

For more information concerning this new regulation, click on links below:



American Public Gas Association:


Richmond Public Schools Rain Barrels

The winners are:
Best Environmental Message: No. 2 from Redd Elementary
Most Creative: A tie! No. 5 from Overby-Shepherd Elementary and No. 20 from J.B.Fisher Elementary
Big Reveal
1. Lucille Brown 2 Redd 3 Bellevue 4 Holton 5 Overby-Shepherd 6 Lucille Brown 7 George Mason 8 Reid 9 Chimborazo 10 Woodville 11 Elkhardt-Thompson 12 Westover Hills 13 Miles Jones 14 Unknown 15 Eklhard Thompson 16 Elkhardt Thompson 17 Southampton 18 JL Francis 19 Oakgrove Bellemeade 20 JB Fisher

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cheverly Road Drainage Study

Residents in the neighborhood bounded by Cheverly Road, Custis Road, and Kenmore Road should be aware of an engineering study to evaluate increased reports of drainage problems including culverts clogged with debris, ditch erosion, localized flooding, basement water damage, driveway and lawn damage, and untreated stormwater runoff.

Engineering staff from A. Morton Thomas and Associates will be visiting the neighborhood to investigate drainage concerns. This will require access to both public and private drainage systems throughout the area. Two public meetings will be announced to discuss the findings, possible solutions and get resident feedback.

The engineering study should be completed by July 2017. Site surveying, engineering design and construction will follow once funds are available. Residents will be notified when this begins. If you have any questions, call the project manager, Syed Imran, at 646-1394 or email syed.imran@richmondgov.com.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Customer Photos

Customer Tara Thomas makes instant coffee and tea on her natural gas stove instead of leaving a coffee pot plugged in all day.

Sigi, Laura Dvorak's year-old Boston Terrier, wants everyone to know to pick up their pet waste. "We always carry baggies with us, and even have a sign in our yard to remind our neighbors to do the same."

Customer Stacey Heflin repurposes her trash to start seeds. She uses egg cartons, plastic cups and plastic strawberry boxes and uses coffee grinds for mulch.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Clean and Safe Water: Our Commitment to You

Clean and safe water. It is something everyone expects when they turn on the tap in their home. During the moments teeth are being brushed, water glasses are being filled or showers are being taken not many think about the source of the water. Clean and safe water takes work. Considering the city of Richmond’s water supply is the James River, consider the work it takes to pull water from that body of water to transform it into something we normally don’t give a second thought to consuming.

The city of Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities has a robust water treatment plant, which produces award-winning water. The water it delivers meets and exceeds federal and state water quality standards including those regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Through the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the EPA mandates the monitoring of various contaminants to ensure levels found in drinking water have no adverse health effects. With ongoing research and cautionary actions prompted by various factors, the spotlight on particular contaminants occasionally rise to the level of public concern. Chromium is a recent one.

Chromium is a naturally occurring contaminant that is in water supplies. It is an odorless and tasteless metallic element. According to the EPA, “chromium is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil, volcanic dust, and animals. Chromium-6 occurs naturally in the environment from the erosion of natural chromium deposits. It can also be produced by industrial processes. There are demonstrated instances of chromium being released to the environment by leakage, poor storage, or inadequate industrial waste disposal practices.

“The national primary drinking water regulation that established the [maximum contaminant level] for total chromium of 0.1 mg/l was promulgated in 1991. The SDWA requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed total chromium as part of the second six-year review that was announced in March 2010. The Agency noted in March 2010 that it had initiated a reassessment of the health risks associated with chromium exposure and that the Agency did not believe it was appropriate to revise the national primary drinking water regulation while that effort was in process.”

To assess the levels of chromium-6 in drinking water, EPA is requiring a selected number of systems to perform chromium-6 monitoring under the third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR 3). The city of Richmond has undergone four rounds of this testing. Test results have shown chromium-6 concentrations of between 0.00013 and 0.00052 mg/L. Currently, chromium-6 is unregulated by EPA.

However, there are EPA limits for total chromium, which would include the chromium-6 form. The regulatory limit for total chromium in drinking water is 0.1 mg/L. The City's results for total chromium on the same UCMR 3 testing events resulted in concentrations between 100 and 238 times lower than the EPA standard. The chromium-6 concentrations are even less. In comparison, California has some of the strictest limits for chromium-6 in the country. They set a limit of 0.01 mg/L for chromium-6 in drinking water. The City's water is well below this standard by a factor of 20 or more.

After incidents like the contaminated drinking water supply in Flint, Michigan, more people are paying closer attention to the quality of water they are consuming from their tap. Citizens should expect the providing authority to ensure the delivery of clean and safe drinking water and communicate issues openly and respond to customer questions. The city of Richmond goes above and beyond and consistently meets federal and state drinking water standards for public health.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pilot Program to Find Alternatives to Permeable Pavement Receives Funding

The State Water Control Board has authorized funding from the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Fund to the City of Richmond of an interest-free loan in an amount up to approximately $1.3 million.

The loan will be used to finance a pilot program to identify the benefits and cost-effectiveness of alternatives to permeable pavement surfaces in city alleyways, and the impact of these alternatives on storm water runoff reduction.

“This loan will greatly benefit DPU’s ongoing commitment to utilize green infrastructure Best Management Practices within the storm water utility,” s­­aid DPU Director Bob Steidel. “Ratepayers will also see a benefit as a result of the interest-free funding.”  

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Water Smells Like Sulfur

If your tap water smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, there's probably sulfur bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas in your building's water supply. If you only smell it when you turn on the hot water, it is highly probable it's a problem inside your hot water heater. In most instances, the water is still safe to drink, but hydrogen sulfide can damage your pipes as it is corrosive to many types of metal. It can cause black stains on silverware and plumbing fixtures.

Drain your water heater, and then turn on the hot water taps and let them all run for about 10 minutes to clear out the water still in the pipes. Raise the temperature of the hot water heater for 145 degrees for eight hours, but only if your hot water heater has a functioning temperature and pressure relief valve. Be sure to warn everyone in the household that the water will be unusually hot, and after eight hours, turn your water heater back to 120 degrees and not less. Less encourages bacteria growth, but higher than 120 can result in scalding burns.

If this doesn't solve the problem , then you may have to get a plumber to replace the magnesium anode rod -- if you have one -- with an aluminum one in your hot water heater.

If the smell is limited to the kitchen sink, then you have a partially clogged drain or a dirty garbage disposal.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Albert Hill Middle School Students Mark Drains

One of Stormwater's community projects is to affix markers on drains reminding people that the water in the drain travels back to the river and only rain should go into the drain, not litter, trash, and yard waste. Stormwater recruits community groups and volunteers to help mark the thousands of drains around town. Here students from Albert Hill Middle School pitch in on a spring day in March.

MetroCare Golf Tournament is Fri. May 19 at Providence Golf Course

The MetroCare program was designed to provide bill-paying assistance to eligible families that have special needs or who are experiencing a hardship during the winter heating season. Recipients of MetroCare live within the Richmond Department of Public Utilities’ service area.

The program began in 1999, started by a dedicated group of DPU employees in an effort to help meet the needs of customers who were experiencing problems paying their heating bills. They organized MetroCare’s flagship event, the MetroCare Golf Tournament -- scheduled for May 19 this year -- to provide an additional source of funding for the MetroCare program.

Additional funding for MetroCare comes from DPU customer bill contributions, contributions through the United Way campaign, the DPU Matching Funds Program, DPU Friday Jeans Day, and individual and/or company donations.

MetroCare is administered by the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg and its partner agencies (Capital Area Network Uplifting People and The Salvation Army). It is listed as a qualified agency through which donations are accepted in the annual United Way campaign. The agency code is 0246.

All donations are used to aid in the payment of primary home heating bills that may include, but are not limited to, natural gas, oil, electricity, propane, wood, coal or water (hot or steam) and disbursed under the program from December 15 to April 30.

No funds contributed to MetroCare are used for administrative expenses. After expenses, the 2015 MetroCare Golf Tournament raised $18,823.18, bringing the year-to-date total to $260,347.09.

Since its inception, and through March 2016, MetroCare has raised more than $749,142 and assisted more than 2,373 families. This includes $267,250.41 provided by DPU through its Matching Funds Program that was established during the 2005-06 program period, as well as the MetroCare Golf Tournament funds raised.s.

We Accept Donations!

DPU employees and other donors provide support to MetroCare through DPU-sponsored events such as the spring golf tournament and other special event fundraisers. Additional support is provided by customers through donations made through their utility bills and from contributions to the annual United Way Campaign (agency code #246). Direct contributions can be made by sending a check to DPU/MetroCare, 730 E. Broad Street, 6th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219.

How to Apply:

Application Period:  December 15 - April 30

1. Whose eligible? Any person who lives in the DPU service area who have a combined household  I
     income equal to or less than 225 percent times the federal poverty guideline, or who are
     unemployed, or who have a demonstrated family crisis, may receive MetroCare assistance.

2. Persons must be determined by an authorized intake and disbursing Agency (see agencies below)
    to meet eligibility guidelines.

3. Participants must first have used any federal/state/fuel assistance, EnergyShare or other similar
    program, or have been determined ineligable for such programs.

4. MetroCare will pay one bill payment of last resort up to $500 per heating season.

If your income falls below the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you are unemployed, or have a family crisis, apply at one of the following locations:

Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People (CAPUP)
1021 Oliver Hill Way
(9:30 a.m.- Noon and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.)

Salvation Army Central Virginia Area Command
2 W. Grace St.
(804) 225-7470
(8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.)

For more information, call DPU's Customer Care (804) 646-7000

How to Participate:

Date:  Friday, May 19, 2017.

Time: 12 p.m.  Shot-Gun Tee-Off

Location:  Providence Golf Course
                  1160 South Providence Road
                  Richmond, VA

Cost: $80 entry fee includes green fees, cart, prizes and cookout and awards ceremony afterward.

In addition to donations from sponsors and players, individuals and businesses are welcome to make tax-deductible contributions that will go directly to the MetroCare program.

To register for this year’s event, or for donation information, call 646-1120 or e-mail Thomas.Fuschini@RichmondGov.com.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Water Smells and Tastes Like Bleach

Occasionally we receive calls from customers complaining that their water smells or tastes like bleach. People often associate the smell of chlorine with bleach. Chlorine is added to public water systems as a disinfectant to eliminate any possibility of waterborne disease. Small traces of chlorine in your water is not harmful and is actually required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

If it is too much for your taste, try boiling your tap water or chilling it in the refrigerator. Both methods will remove the bleach smell. Filtered water coolers or pitchers with carbon filters will remove the smell and taste of chlorine. You can also install carbon filters at the tap.

Sensitivity to the odor of chlorine varies among consumers, so you may find your water disagreeable, but your neighbors may not notice.

City E-Cycle Day is May 6

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Customer Photos

Customer Dannita Trice stores tap water in the refrigerator to refill her own water bottles instead of buying bottles of water.
Teresa Strickler's cat Stormy helps her recycle.
Customer Aaron Bond discards his cooking grease in the trash can, not down the drain.

Customer Mark Meier uses heat vented from baking to make his own yogurt on his natural gas stove.

Steve Perky never pours any leftover water down the drain. His family saves it all to water the plants, "like indoor rain barrels."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Customer Photos

Customer Candy Buchanan uses this bin next to her trash can for recycling. "I've found this to be the easiest way to collect recycling since it's so close to my trash can. I take my recycling to our local fire station drop-off bin. I always have so much more to recycle than I do trash."
Customer Molly Brannan makes loose leaf tea for her children and herself on her natural gas stove.

Jerri Buford wanted recycling containers that went with her kitchen decor. These are recycled fabric storage vessels from England. The one labeled P is for paper and PL for plastics.

Jeff Morley's son Jack recycles.

Jeff Morley's son Jack smells the foul odor of natural gas.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Update on the Church Hill Water Tank Replacement

The city is replacing the five million gallon ground storage Church Hill tank located at 714 N. 30th Street between 29th, 30th, M and N streets. The tank holds drinking water provided directly to customers.

The existing tank was built in 1954 and has been in service 61 years, reaching the end of its useful life. Replacement work involves building a new tank and demolishing the old tank once the new one is in service. The new tank is anticipated to be south of the existing tank, behind the Church Hill Pump Station building.

Construction of the new tank's concrete foundation has been completed and construction of the tank walls is expected to start this month (March 2017) and take about six months to complete.

The construction will be within a fenced area and public access will not be allowed due to safety considerations. Full use and access to the Ethyl B. Furman Park remains unchanged. Some short-term lane closures will be needed. Lane closures will be scheduled for minimal disruption during peak traffic hours.

During construction, on-street parking on N. 30th between M and N streets will be restricted on the northwest side, closest to the tank. Lane closures and restricted parking may span over multiple days and weekends. Signs will be posted two days before work starts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Customer Photos

Chef "Jammer" Talley says professional chefs prefer to cook with natural gas because of the response speed, ease of control, usability with varied cookware, ease of cleaning, and inexpensive maintenance!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

SunTrust No Longer Accepts Utility Payments

Effective March 31, 2017, Suntrust Bank is no longer accepting utility payments. DPU customers who use Suntrust Bank may now make payments at other acceptable payment locations listed on the back of your bill. If you have questions, please visit the website at richmondgov.com/DPU or call DPU Customer Care at 804-646-7000.

MetroCare Golf Classic Fundraiser is May 19

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities’ annual MetroCare Golf Classic benefit tournament is Friday, May 19.

The MetroCare program, created by DPU and administered by the United Way, assists eligible families and individuals residing in the DPU service area with paying their heating bills during the winter months.

So join us May 19 at the Providence Golf Course, 1160 S. Providence Road, at noon for the shotgun tee-off and prepare for fun! The $80 entry fee includes green fees, cart, prizes and a picnic and awards ceremony afterward.

A portion of the entry fee goes directly to MetroCare to help eligible families. In addition to donations from sponsors and players, individuals and businesses are welcome to make tax-deductible contributions that will go directly to the MetroCare program.

To register for this year’s event, or for donation information, call Al Scott at 646-8307 or e-mail alfred.scott@richmondgov.com.

Time to Get Cooking!

 The decision to use natural gas in the kitchen is, of course, a nat­ural one! A national homeown­er
energy preference study found that 75 percent of new homeown­ers prefer natural gas for cooking. Several benefits make natural gas an attractive option. Cooking with natural gas costs about half as much as electricity, and many new models of natural gas ranges, stoves, ov­ens and grills use electronic spark ignition rather than a continuously burning pilot light, saving as much as 30 percent of the gas cost.

Professional chefs rave about the intricate heat control natural gas of­fers. Primary benefits also include even heat with greater control over temperature; faster cook times; and immediate heat. And now, some gas ranges and cooktops even come with special high-Btu burners for rapid heat and low-Btu burners for simmering; further increasing cooking control and efficiency.

But the real beauty of natural gas is that, although it is synonymous with precision cooking, it’s also the economical choice to save both time and mon­ey in the kitchen, allowing you more time with family and friends. So give us a call today at 646-8544 to ignite your culinary passions and cook like a pro without sacrificing your time. (Excerpted from Natural Living Magazine)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Customer Photos!

Customer Bianca Otey collects plastic bottles she can recycle. (Notice you can now leave the caps on!) She keeps one to keep water in for ironing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Gas Meter Maintenance Project Continues

The Department of Public Utilities’ four year maintenance project to update residential natural gas meters has been ongoing since July 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in July 2019. During this time, subcontractor Vanguard Utility Service, Inc. is updating the Encoder Receiver Transmitters that electronically report natural gas usage for monthly billings.

Vanguard may require access to properties where meters are located inside or behind a locked gate. Doorhangers with contact information will be left to schedule alternative times if customers are not available when technicians arrive.

All natural gas meters will be serviced including those in the city of Richmond, Henrico County, and part of North Chesterfield. For questions concerning this project, call DPU’s Customer Care Center at 646-7000.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Explaining High Customer Bills

The city of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) receives a fair share of customer calls concerning high utility bills. Recently, there was one such example in the media from a customer contending that they were overcharged. More often than not, there is more to the story than what the media reports when their community reporters investigate. The following is an explanation of how a customer bill can be impacted when it is not paid on time and the customer does not contact our Customer Care center for assistance early:

It is very easy for utility bills to snowball. When balances are left or payments are skipped, not only is that payment still due, but there are late fees that are assessed. If the same payment amount is made every month, regardless of whether its winter and gas usage is likely higher, in just a few months, the bill will accumulate enough of an unpaid balance to trigger a disconnection warning.

Say you move to a new residence. Unpaid bills from old accounts in your name follow you. So your first bill at a new address may be a surprise to you, but it shouldn’t be, because you still owe for utilities used by you at a former address. The bill doesn’t stay with the address. It travels with the account holder.

In order to open a residential utility account in the city of Richmond, a customer or applicant may be required to pay a security deposit if they have a history of paying utility bills late. The security deposit is $100 for water service and $200 for gas service. These charges will appear on the first utility bill. There is also a service establishment fee of $35 each for gas and for water. This fee covers the administrative cost of establishing the account. These charges will also appear on the first utility bill. Understandably, it may seem like a lot to pay on the first bill and the temptation may be to let it roll over to future bills. But, it's important to remember that late fees will then be added on, and eventually the balance will snowball into an amount triggering a disconnection notice.

Water leaks can be devastating to a customer’s utility bill total, and also hard to spot if there is a large
unpaid balance being carried over from month to month. This can happen when only partial payments or no payments are made on the account. If a spike in your water charges is seen and you know it is definitely not a past due amount – look at individual lines on your bill, not just the bottom line. Then contact DPU Customer Care immediately to discuss the increase in your water consumption. If necessary, DPU will perform a site inspection to see what may be causing the increased water consumption. If it is found that the leak is on the city side of the meter, your bill will be adjusted 100 percent for the excess water and wastewater charges.

We try our best to come to a resolution with all of our customers, but there is not much we can do if a customer’s bill-paying strategy is to skip payments or make partial payments until the bill becomes excessively high. There are equal monthly payment plans available to deal with seasonal spikes in heating bills to make your monthly payment uniform year-round.

And when you call us, please stay calm and help us work with you. Our Customer Care representatives work with compassion and empathy, but if customers become angry to the point of shouting or using inappropriate language or making threats, Customer Care representatives have the right to disconnect the call. After all, we are here to help you.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why Your Water Bill May Be Higher Than Usual

Over the last few weeks, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has received a number of customer calls concerning unusually high water bills. A thorough investigation of customer accounts by the DPU Customer Care team found that most of the increases were caused by a combination of watering from irrigation systems combined with the end of DPU’s summer sewer discount period. 

Here’s how it works:  Normally, wastewater charges are based on the volume of water a customer uses. That's why you will see on your bill the amount of CCF for wastewater is often the same as the amount of CCF for water.  However, for a residential customer during the months of March through November, DPU bases the amount of wastewater CCF on either the customer’s average monthly wastewater volume for the months of December through February, or the actual amount of wastewater CCF for the billing period, whichever is less.  DPU refers to this as the summer sewer discount.

DPU provides this discount because many customers during the months of March through November use water for activities beyond daily personal needs. Some of these activities include, but are not limited to, lawn and garden irrigation, car washing, swimming pool maintenance, and more. The water used during these activities does not make its way into the sewer system for treatment at DPU’s wastewater treatment plant, so DPU’s summer sewer discount eases the wastewater charge for customers during these months when water consumption from such activities is found to be the highest.

As a result, customers who irrigate far into November, and who have a meter reading period on their December bill which includes water consumed for irrigation, have seen a significant jump in the wastewater portion of their water bill.  This is because the wastewater charge for the months of December through February is based upon actual water volume consumed.  Many customers probably never noticed the jump before because they did not continue to irrigate their lawns and gardens late into the season when the summer sewer discount is no longer in effect.

If a customer experiences an increase in his or her wastewater volume during December as a result of activities such as lawn and garden irrigation, the customer may contact DPU’s Customer Care Center at 646-7000 to request an adjustment to their wastewater charge.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gas Meter Snow Safety Tips

Did you know accumulated snow and ice can damage natural gas meters and pipes?

Using a broom to keep gas service equipment clear during the winter can help ensure safe use of natural gas.

Chimneys and vents for gas appliances should also be cleared following a major snow or ice storm to enable proper venting and prevent equipment malfunction and carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure to locate your vents before the first storm of the season.

Here are some more winter natural gas safety tips:
  • Remove snow and ice from the meter or appliance vent pipe carefully with a broom or by hand. Do not use a shovel because it can damage the meter. 
  • Do not shovel snow up against the meter or vent pipe. 
  • Remove icicles from overhead eaves and gutters to assure dripping water does not splash and freeze on the meter or vent pipes. 
  • Do not kick your gas meter to break or clear ice. 
  • Clear a path to the meter so that Public Utilities employees or emergency responders can access it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sneak Peek at New Utility Bill Design

1. Account information -- Account number, bill date, next date your meter will be read, next bill date
2. Payment due date - Your bill is due on or before due date
3. Bill Summary - Previous balance, payments received, balance forward, current charges, total charges due
4. Stormwater Details - Current stormwater charges. More details on back of bill.
5. Water/Wastewater Details - Current water and wastewater charges. More details on back of bill.
6. Water Historical Usage -- Water usage from last year, last month, current usage and number of days in billing period
7. Gas Details -- Current gas charges. More details on back.
8. Gas Historical Usage -- Gas usage from last year, last month, current usage and number of days in billing period.
9. Remittance Stub -- Part you detach and mail back with your payment.

Look for this flyer in your February utility bill with all this information and more.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Customer Photos

Customer Lauren Figg shows her recycling station, which "makes taking the recycling out on collection day so easy!"