Smart meters are coming to Chester in June Chester. Lack of action by state and town officials frustrate residents concerned about the hazards of radio frequency radiation emissions and the expense of opting out.
The Chester town board at its May 22 meeting (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)
By Frances Ruth Harris Smart meters are coming to Chester in June, despite the misgivings of residents about their potential threat to public health. The smart meters will allow Orange & Rockland utilities to monitor electricity usage remotely several times a day. They will replace the workers who since time immemorial did the checking by coming to each customer's house. Last October, residents Lydia Cuadros and Chris Maurer made a presentation before the town board on the hazards of smart meters, which emit radio frequency radiation. Then-supervisor Alex Jamieson said the town would adopt a resolution condemning smart meters. However, no one on the board ever followed though or did any investigation. At the town board's May 22 meeting, Supervisor Robert Valentine read portions of a letter from O&R listing the neighborhoods in the village and town that will be getting smart meters over the next few weeks (see sidebar). Several in the audience moaned. One person said, "Oh, no!" In the letter, Eric D. Fuentes, O&R Manager of Corporate Affairs, offered to meet with town officials. "If you would like to learn more about the meter deployment, please contact me at (845) 344-8882 to set up a date and time convenient for you to meet with me and our AMI staff," Fuentes wrote. "Should you decide that a meeting is not necessary please notify me by return e-mail." Valentine did not say whether he would be taking up Fuentes's offer, and did not return calls from The Chronicle requesting comment. The $15-a-month opt-out option Residents may opt out of the smart meters for an extra charge of $15 a month. Councilman Orlando Perez said he was sure a lot of people will be choosing this option. Maurer told Valentine that the Town of Woodstock adopted a resolution banning its power company from charging opt-out fees. Valentine said he would look at the Woodstock resolution for guidance. Cuadros said that last fall, a Montgomery resident sued to stop the smart meters. The case is still pending. In February, a bill was introduced in the NYS Assembly that would "restrict the use of advanced metering infrastructure devices by electric, gas and water-works corporations." "It looks like this bill never goes anywhere past the Energy Committee," Cuadros said. "Anyone with health issues who can't afford the opt-out fee is putting their health at risk." Cuadros said it was all very frustrating. She shared a series of emails she exchanged with NYS Senator James Skoufis. "While I continue to support the bill, it remains stuck in the Senate Energy Committee, which I am not a member of," Skoufis wrote. "The bill's status is identical in the Assembly. I will continue to push for its passage however I can." 'A job-killing proposal' David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, part of the State University of New York, listed his concerns about smart meters in a letter to Cuadros that she shared with The Chronicle. "The use of electronic utility meters is unwise from both a public health point of view, which is where my expertise lies, but and also from a purely short and long-term economic point of view," Carpenter wrote. He said smart meters threatened health and jobs too:
1. The benefit of the electronic meters is entirely to the utilities, and is economic in nature. If they install these meters, they can fire those individuals who at present are employed to go around reading meters. Thus this is a job-killing proposal, and will increase unemployment which is already too high. 2. When an electronic meter is installed, residents have no choice in the matter or ability to avoid exposure. There is a major difference between an exposure which an individual chooses to accept and one that is forced on individuals who can do nothing about it. 3. Most electronic meters transmit signals to the utility for relative short periods of time, but generate radio frequency pulses at frequent intervals all day and night. Thus the device continuously generates RF radiation that will expose anyone nearby 24/7. 4. The evidence for adverse effects of radio frequency radiation is currently strong and grows stronger with each new study. Analog meters with shielded cable do not increase exposure. 5. In my view, as public health physician with specific expertise in human effects of radio frequency radiation, I urge you to require Central Hudson to install analog meters where residents request them. Related stories Please see these related stories at chroniclenewspaper.com: "Goodbye meter readers, hello smart readers?" "O&R to install smart meters throughout Orange, Sullivan counties"
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect David Carpenter's correct title, which was incorrect in the original story. The Chronicle regrets the error.