Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 27, 2013

It takes a good thief to steal 221 tons of water

The winter of 2013 seemed to be uneventful in many ways. Well, with one exception and that is that on Feb. 2 in Gobblers Knob, Pa., Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow indicating that spring would come early.

However, either he lied or we have been fed a bill of goods about Groundhog’s Day because we have had several winter storms well into March, which has led a few people to file charges against Punxsutawney Phil for misrepresentation.

I always thought that the people of Gobblers Knob ought to let that poor groundhog go, take off their stovepipe hats, join the 21st century, and get out their snow shovels, but that would mean a loss of tourism revenue and we know how that goes. Anyway, I digress from my story.

In March 2013, I also received my city of Frostburg water bill. This bill indicated that I had consumed 109,000 gallons of water in three months. Second to this was one month where I consumed 56,000 gallons of water during a single quarter dating back to when I built and moved into my house.

There are fixed costs in my bill such as a bay restoration fee and other fixed surcharges, but, like every other resident, we pay for water as it comes into our home and as it exits to the sewer.

Coincidentally, we pay more for sewer then we do for water, and we also pay a fee for the Piney Dam.

The bill also contains trash pickup once a week, which has been reduced from the twice-weekly pickup we had a year ago. However, $500 of the $600 bill was for water.

I contacted the city because I couldn’t fathom what could have happened to 53,000 gallons of water. The city administrator was outstanding, as he always is. He had suggestions of what could have happened.

First, he suggested that the volume was consistent with a leaking toilet. He suggested I put food coloring in the tanks overnight to see if the color migrated to the bowl. I did and there were no leaks anywhere.

I checked all my faucets inside and out and there were similarly no leaks.

Figuring there were no leaks in my house, the only logical thing left was that the city had faulty equipment. I asked if they could come re-do our water reading. They came that very same day and the volume was confirmed.

I was baffled. I went down to my basement and searched for the water and couldn’t find it. I figured that 53,000 gallons of water could not hide easily. I have boxes stored in the basement and I even opened one of them to be sure it didn’t contain water.

Sure enough, my possessions were still there, and dry at that. One gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 pounds, so I had misplaced 442,000 pounds of water, or 221 tons. That is a lot of water to simply misplace.

I asked the city administrator if perhaps there was an unforeseen technical problem, and he said that there was not-the equipment was functioning and the calculations were correct.

He also said that at the current rate of water usage, we were on track to return to our normal volume and rate of use.

So, we misplaced 221 tons of water, only during this one billing cycle, over the past 5 years and there was no technical problem? HMMM!

The question remains, what has happened to 221 tons of water? Where is it hiding? Did someone come into my house one night and steal it?

This would be quite the operation and would likely require an entire team of people. They would have to have trucks with either large buckets or even tanks. And, they would have had to steal it late at night while we slept. Imagine, such a dastardly deed.

We even have a Neighborhood Watch program and nobody reported this crime. So, I am cautioning my neighbors in Frostburg. There may well be a conspiracy to steal water and, if there is, I highly recommend that you very carefully monitor your use.

You just never know when these same scoundrels might attack in the night and steal water from your house.

Jonathan Gibralter

Frostburg

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