Compensating customers because of broken water mains over the past several weeks would be illegal, a Niagara Falls Water Board attorney says.
"The Water Board does not guarantee to the user any fixed or constant pressure, nor a continuous supply," attorney Sean W. Costello wrote to board member Nicholas J. Forster, who inquired about compensation.
Costello compensation would violate the Water Board's own regulations.
Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Andrew P. Touma and Councilman William Kennedy II want the Water Board to work out a compensation program.
"If you're paying $102 a quarter and you didn't receive first-class service, you should be compensated," Kennedy said. "The people of Niagara Falls need to stop suffering. We shouldn't be treated like a Third World country."
The Water Board is a separate agency independent of city government.
A Water Board spokesman said 18 mains have broken this winter. The most serious happened near the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and 47th Street. That break closed Niagara Falls High School for two days the week before Christmas.
That 36-inch pipe still hasn't been repaired, although excavation began this week and progress is being made, according to the spokesman.
The other broken pipes caused less serious problems and have been repaired. The most recent repair was completed Friday on 87th Street. But the breaks reduced water pressure at various times, affecting some residents as well as Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, two nursing homes and Seneca Niagara Casino.
Water board regulations say if the mains fail or some other equipment breaks, the water supply may be cut off without notice and "no claim will be considered."
"An analogy can be made to the supply of electricity," Costello wrote. "When the power goes out, the electric company does not provide a bill credit. However, electric customers do not use electric during that period, and thus are not charged for electricity that they do not use.
"In the case of the recent pressure issues that affected Water Board ratepayers, no one went without water service. The majority of a ratepayer’s bill is based on consumption. To the extent that a ratepayer used less water during a period of low pressure, this automatically will be reflected in their bill."
Kennedy said cable and satellite TV companies give prorated discounts in case of service outages, and that's what he wants from the Water Board.
"Not everyone in the city experienced low pressure, and most ratepayers experienced low pressure for only a short period," Costello said. "It would be nearly impossible to determine an appropriate credit for customers who have been affected differently, and unjust to give credits that are not in proportion to the inconvenience sustained."