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Newton to launch $16.6m project replacing every water meter in city starting this summer

Newton will spend more than $16.6 million to replace roughly 30,000 aging water meters starting this summer, according to the city’s Department of Public Works.

The project, which will include new meters and a web portal for customers to track their water usage, also will install new transponders that transmit data from the meters directly to the city’s billing department.

The project is due to start in July, and continue through December 2023, according to Shawna Sullivan, the deputy commissioner of the city’s public works department.

The city’s existing water meters were installed in 2009, and have begun to reach the end of their useful lifespan, according to a presentation to the City Council, which approved the project earlier this month.

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The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recommends replacing water meters every 10 years, according to the presentation. Replacement meters will be more accurate, and the online portal will allow customers to track their water use over time.

The project will replace all existing meters and transponders used in Newton, including roughly 29,000 residential customers and 125 commercial customers, according to Sullivan.

The city will pay for the work by using $6.6 million from its sewer enterprise fund, and borrowing the remaining $10 million, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s funding request to the council.

The city is expected to select a vendor for the project in June or July, according to the council presentation, with public outreach expected to start around the same time.

The replacement project is separate from the widespread failure of existing water meter transponders in Newton, according to officials.

Last year, the city reported more than half of the transponders did not correctly report water usage data.

The units had been installed from 2010 to 2012 and had an estimated life span of 20 years, but began to fail when their batteries died prematurely, officials have said.

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While city crews have been working to replace the transponders, work has been slowed by pandemic-related supply chain issues, Fuller has said.

The city has started estimating water usage for the affected customers, who also have the option of photographing their water meters and sending the meter reading to the city’s billing office.

In December, Mueller Systems — the company that purchased the original manufacturer of the transponders — had committed to the replacement and installation of the failing transponder units, according to Jim McGonagle, the city’s public works commissioner.

Sullivan, last Tuesday, said city officials were working with Newton’s Law Department on whether Mueller would help pay for the upcoming project.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.