HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in 2000, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply paid $30 million for an automated meter reading system to help it measure the monthly water use of its 170,000 residential and business customers.
But a former meter reader said the automated system has been flawed ever since its launch nearly two decades ago.
“I don’t know why they kept the system because the system screwed up most of the time," said Nathan Kau, who retired this year after 35 years as a meter reader and supervisor.
Kau said when the system was first being built, it was tested on 4,500 homes. It was unable to pick up signals from the meter on 1,500 homes, he said.
More recently, in 2014, the Honolulu city auditor found that it could not read the meters nearly 15 percent of the time.
The Board of Water Supply did not respond to HNN’s questions about the accuracy of the meters.
But in response to the city auditor five years ago, it said it was able to reduce the no-reads to about 9 percent.
But Kau believes the rate is much are much higher than that.
“I can tell you 9 percent is not good enough,” he said.
“You wouldn’t take that as good -- not me -- because that many people are getting screwed."
Environmental activist Carroll Cox asked similar questions about the system last month and he said he only got evasive answers.
“We the consumers, the ratepayers are getting soaked. We’re actually being cheated out of our hard earned money," Cox said.
It’s unclear how much customers could be overpaying.
In a video produced by the BWS, a spokeswoman says meters are read by hand-held devices by staffer when they can’t be read by the automated system.
If that can’t be done, the company says customers’ water bill is estimated using past usage. It said only 2 percent of its customers bills are estimated each year.