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Water bill irregularities land Ignace, Ont. councillor in hot water

A report from a municipal integrity commissioner shows a water bypassing device in Ignace, Ont., landed one municipal councillor in hot water.

Four properties found to be bypassing water meters

Four businesses were investigated in Ignace, Ont., for having bypasses on their water meters, to lower their recorded water consumption. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News)

A report from a municipal integrity commissioner shows a water bypassing device in Ignace, Ont., landed one municipal councillor in hot water.

The report, prepared for the township, shows in 2015, municipal council voted to look at what it was calling irregularities from water meters in the community. Some businesses were using substantially less water than their counterparts, even though their business would require the use of more water.

At that time, water meters in Ignace had only been installed in businesses; homes in the community all had meters installed in the summer of 2017.

The township hired a private contractor to look into the matter, highlighting ten of the most oddball readings. The contractor found that four properties had bypassed the meter, including a hotel, a campground, and two garages/service stations.

Three other businesses had cross contamination issues, such as a well also feeding into the water system.

One of the four businesses, the hotel, was owned at the time by a municipal councillor. The councillor had voted against looking into the ten most concerning water meter readings, but voted for looking into all water meters in 2015.

The businesses that had bypassed the meter had a "T" bypass hooked up to the water line, which meant most of the water used by the business never passed though the meter, lowering sewer and water bills.

In the report to the township, the investigator found the former CAO never acted on concerns about the water irregularities, and effectively, never made any decision to correct the issue. the report noted that, "procrastination was part of the problem."

The township told the municipal investigator that it will recoup the past two years of reduced payments from the water accounts, including the new and former owners of the hotel in question.

The Ontario Provincial Police have information on some of the irregularities, and could press charges.

The township said it has now replaced and corrected all of the issues regarding water billing, although households still pay a flat fee for water. Rates will be established once historical data is collected, and water meter reading is figured out.

The report recommends the councillor receive a reprimand as a penalty under Ignace's Council Code of Conduct, while also reviewing the definitions of their oath of office and pecuniary interest definitions.

The full municipal investigation can be found here.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.