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Billings residents receive false messages about water leaks because of old meters

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Posted at 8:27 AM, Oct 23, 2023

BILLINGS - Billings residents have been able to use Water Smart, which helps show how much water a home is using.

However, some have received an alarming false message that there is a leak at their home.

It turns out it was the wrong information because the old analog meters were not communicating properly with the new software.

People received the wrong messages on their phones by text, app or by email.

 T.J. Wierenga was at work earlier this year when she received a strange text alert.

“All of a sudden, I get a text on my phone,” Wierenga said. “You've got a leak alert. You've had continuous water usage for over 24 hours.”

 She rushed home, trusting the information.

“Every time they had ever texted me, they've been accurate so I was a little alarmed,” she said.

With the help of YouTube, Wierenga figured out that she did not have a leak.

"Imagine if I had been out of town or something like that and gotten that,” Wierenga said. “That would have been pretty scary.”

Several responded to a post on the Q2 News Facebook post, asking if anyone had received these types of messages.

One woman said: “We paid lots of money to have a plumber come out because of this.”

Another viewer said: “I kept getting these about once a month for the past year or longer.”

The issue is centered around old water meters still present in around 2,000 to 3,000 homes.

“We did this upgrade where they're older Neptune equipment doesn't work with the newer software,” said Jennifer Duray, city of Billings deputy public works director.

New software isn't fully compatible with those meters which the city began replacing in 2016 and complaints have started more recently.”

“Back in the fall of 2022 was when we started hearing complaints,” Duray said. “And we usually receive a few of those a month, is all.”

Duray said the majority of the 30,000 meters in Billings are the newer digital version which works well with a water smart software.

“It's a great too,” Duray said. “Customers can see their consumption day by day, really key in and analyze that.”

 If you receive a continuous water use message, Duray’s advice is to call the city water department before calling a plumber.

“We always walk them through a few leak detection,” Duray said. “The common ones are running toilet, different things that we try. And Water Smart also walks them through that leak detection. They want to do it there. But they can always call us for help.”

“Everything was fine,” said Wierenga with a laugh. “I was really relieved but at the same time it's like I need to be at work.”