NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - The Niagara Falls Water Board will no longer grant an allowance for customers who run their faucets in order to avoid freezing pipes, according to a letter sent to 380 homes this winter.
The program, known as the "Drip Program," was intended to help the dozens and dozens of people who lost water service during the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15. Customers could run their water up to a certain point without having to pay an extra costs on their water bill.
David Bieksza, who lives on 24th Street, has been receiving the water allowance for five years.
"The allowance was the right thing to do," he said. "And now they took it away from us."
The Niagara Falls City Council will introduce a resolution at its meeting Monday night to demand the Water Board reinstate its allowance for these customers.
Councilman Kenny Tompkins said it's his understanding that the program costs about $8,000. The Niagara Falls Water Board has told 2 On Your Side in the past that the drip program would shave off an estimated $30 from a $100 bill.
"So it's not killer money. But, when you're an elderly person, on a fixed income, it's a lot of money," Tompkins said.
The Niagara Falls Water Board would not grant an on-camera interview. However, it issued a statement acknowledging that the drip program is now "voluntary," since there were no reports of frozen pipes last winter.
That statement reads as follows:
"NFWB has 15,927 residential customers and 380 letters were issued in mid-January to all addresses as well as owners of those properties that experienced frozen private services in the past harsh winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15. There were no reports of frozen private services in the winter of 2015-2016. At this point the program is voluntary in compliance. The critical time is between January 30 and March 1. The NFWB continues to fully monitor weather trends and conditions that could cause the freezing of privately owned service lines. Currently the weather is tracking well above the historical averages from the 2015-2016 winter."
People like Bieksza, however, aren't so confident their pipes won't freeze again.
"There's a lot of elderly people in the Falls that are on fixed incomes, fixed pensions, people that are 80, 90 years old. They have a small retirement, small pension," Bieksza said. "How are they gonna pay a water bill like this, put food on their table, and heat their house? There's no compassion at all with this."
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