Richmond Hill resident vows court challenge over water bill
'I'm not going to pay for something I didn't use'
July 9, 2014
A Richmond Hill resident is vowing to take the town to court over his sky-high water bill.
Igor Sapojnikov insists he did not use 3 million litres of water over 103 days this winter, and will not pay the $8,200 the town billed him.
“They tampered with my meter. They tested the wrong meter,” he said, adding he believes he has photographs to prove it.
“I told them I will speak to them in a real court of law.”
Last month, Mr. Sapojnikov appealed to council about a mysterious water bill that charged him more than 32 times his normal rate. He said a plumber checked out the home on Silver Linden Drive, where he has lived for 12 years, and found no leaks.
Council asked staff to investigate further and report back in July.
At Monday’s council meeting, the last regular meeting before summer break, councillors discussed a staff report saying their investigation showed the meter was accurate when it gave a reading of 27,000 litres of water use per day between December and February.
“All water works, Richmond Hill’s included, conduct their billing solely based on the flow of water through a sealed meter. The meters are quite simple but extremely reliable technology. Else, water works could not rely on these as the sole billing method,” the report said.
On the rare times when a meter malfunctions, it under-registers or stops registering water flow completely, erring in the customers’ favour, said finance commissioner Dean Miller, who personally visited the house last Thursday to learn more about the situation.
Staff also consulted with the provincial Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change regarding the model of water filter installed at the Sapojnikov’s home.
The ministry experts said if the filtration system had malfunctioned and the backwashing was operating 24/7, the flow rate would be 35,000 litres per day, consistent with the numbers that were being recorded by the homeowner’s water meter.
The Region of York delivers water to the town and the town is charged, Miller said.
If the homeowner was not billed for the 3 million litres of water, “the only place we could pay for this would be to spread it out over the other people who have paid their bills,” he said.
As did others at Monday’s lengthy council meeting, Miller expressed empathy for the homeowner’s plight.
However, he added, not charging a homeowner for water that a functioning meter said had been used would set a dangerous precedent. It could lead to an increase in calls from other residents complaining about any changes to their water bills, he said.
Councillors Greg Beros, Carmine Perrelli, Nick Papa and Godwin Chan (in whose ward Sapojnikov lives) voted to give the homeowner the benefit of the doubt and instead charge him for an average water bill.
The majority of councillors, however, agreed with the staff report and voted to allow Sapojnikov an interest-free payment plan.
But Sapojnikov said the matter is not over yet, and he plans to take the town to court.
“I’m not going to pay for something I didn’t use,” he said.
His daughter, Olena Sapojnikova, argued that the family would have heard running water if the water filter had malfunctioned or a pipe had burst.
“If my dad was on trial for murder or a criminal offence, he would have an easier time proving his innocence.”