Town says ‘smart meter’ concern unfounded

smart meter web 2

Town officials say the new meter (left) is as harmless as the old (right) Photo by Mookie Forcella

The word around Glasco last week was that the new water meters being installed could cause illness and track a customer’s water use in real-time. That information, some of which appeared in the letters to the editor section of the local papers, led to several residents cancelling their installation appointments and scores of anxious phone calls to town officials. But Supervisor Kelly Myers said there was a problem with the case against the meters.

“None of that’s true,” she said.

Myers believes some residents are confusing the water meters with some new models of electrical meters and associated technology. Unlike the electrical meters, the new water meters don’t emit a continuous signal, she said. Instead, they will be activated just twice a year, for a half-second, as the meter reader drives by in a vehicle. “This is really just a call and response system,” said Myers, who described the signal as “the same strength as a cell phone.”


(Read comparison provided by the town)

As a result of public concern, the town will hold a public information meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Glasco Firehouse.

Some of the confusion at all levels stems from the definition of “smart meter.” The Federal Energy Regulation Commission defines it as “usually an electrical meter that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes.” By that definition, the meters in Saugerties aren’t smart meters. But others speak of any meter capable of reporting usage remotely as a smart meter and the town has referred to these water meters by that term frequently-including in the announcement of the public information meeting.

The latest generation of utility meters—all of which have the ability to communicate remotely—have led to health and privacy concerns whenever they’ve been installed. On the health side, the issue is radiofrequency energy, which is also created by microwaves, AM/FM radios and, by far the largest source, cell phones. While anecdotal evidence of illness and discomfort abounds among those who describe themselves as having “electromagnetic sensitivity,” scientific studies haven’t shown a clear link between this radiation and cancer or other diseases. Privacy concerns center on electrical smart meters, which are already being used by PG&E in California to measure real-time usage and encourage conservation by charging a higher rate during peak times. Opponents object to utility companies having access to that information.

In Saugerties, the Glasco water district will be the first large-scale deployment of the new meters. Other towns, like Ulster, have had them for years.

“I’d like to ask these people who are objecting how much they use their cell phones,” said town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley. He said the Ulster meters are activated for “three seconds, four times a year. I would guess people use their cell phones a lot more than 12 seconds per year.” He said the town has never had a complaint.

Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilbur said his town has been using water meters that can be read remotely for many years, also without complaint. He said the water meters are not the same as the electrical meters that some say are causing health problems. “These are not smart meters,” he said. “That’s a whole different ball game.”

About a dozen of the new type of meters have been installed on Kings Highway as part of the upgrade three years ago, said Deputy Supervisor James Bruno, also with no complaint.

But Bob Aiello, county legislator and Glasco native, has heard some complaints. Since learning about the new meters, he’s done research on the Internet and spoken with several local people who say they suffered ill health effects from new electrical meters, including tinnitus and headaches. He said his wife became uncomfortable when standing near a neighbor’s recently installed electrical meter.

“We know they’re efficient,” he said. “The question is how safe are they?”

Aiello said most complaints have been about electrical meters, but the new water meters are also a concern because they operate in a similar way. The cell phone comparison doesn’t persuade him—he almost never uses one. A cancer survivor himself, he’s not sure they’re safe. He compares science’s lack of concern about the health effects of radiofrequency energy to medicine’s denial of the existence of chronic Lyme disease, an advocacy issue for him.

Aiello plans to hold a public hearing on the issue in the county Legislature later this year.

The installation, which includes 1,838 meters, began July 31. According to Myers, several residents have not allowed contractors from National Metering Services to install the meters. Apparently they’d taken the advice of Glasco resident Donna Greco, who has written several letters opposing the meters.

“For those who are concerned that RF [radio frequency] radiation is harmful to humans and causes a vast array of deadly health conditions, please take the initiative to preserve your health: Slam your door shut and don’t let him in,” she wrote.

There are 11 comments

  1. Ashley Drewes

    Thanks Will & David for fleshing out this story so thoroughly. I’ve been following the letters to the editor, and much appreciate that you’ve painted in the rest of the picture. Also glad to hear the town is holding another meeting. A major change without everyone in the loop is bound to be met with resistance, whether or not the change is widely seen as good, wanted or necessary.

  2. Kelly Myers

    The photo of the electric meter on Town website (chosen by Town Web-Master – Mike Campbell) to go with the Water Department’s announcement of public meeting is inaccurate. He was notified by the Water Dept. of this and provided a new photo. The photo will change to accurately depict what the water meters look like.

    The water meters are being replaced- to comply with a change in federal law, requiring replacement of meters that contain lead/lead components beginning January 2014.

    1. Donna Greco

      There is no law that requires citizens to get smart meters. Kelly Myers is absolutely WRONG about this. She is lying to the Saugerties citizens to get them to accept these dangerous devices without question. WHY are you doing this to the constituents who elected you, Kelly? WHY? If the feds were so concerned about the very minute amount of “lead” (which is in the form of brass and only in the fittings) WHY are they not concerned about the mass majority of lead in the PIPES? Kelly was NOT ABLE to answer that question, nor were her hired smart meter sales people who are eating up your tax money. None of them could answer the “lead” queston. Thats becasue it is nothing but an excuse. SAY NO TO SMART METERS and SAVE YOUR HEALTH!

  3. Wes Adams

    The anti smart meter people are nuts. Keep fighting them. Let science and reason win, not crazy beliefs. Did you know people who believe smart meters are dangerous are twice as likely to believe in unicorns? Seriously. OK, not really I made that up, but still they are nuts. Please send harassing emails to

    1. Donna Greco

      Hey Wes, hate to be the source of your demise, but the PRO smart meter people like you are not only clueless, they are also hypocrites. What happened to the 1st amendment? Out the door with the 2nd, I presume? Kelly Myers didnt stick up for Saugerties on the 2nd amendment, so why whould she do anything to protect us from people like you who want to take away our choices and freedom of speech? If you want a smart meter, go ahead and get one! Soon you will be crying. And we will be saying “Told ya so… Too bad you were not ‘smart’ enough to listen.” I am keeping my dumb meter, along with my health. You can watch and weep the first 60 sec of this video as your red blood cells turn into mush, like this:
      Cant get much more “scientific evidence” than blood cells from exposed victims.

  4. Donna Greco

    Kelly Myers: If you keep this up and try to impose smart meters on the people of Saugerties your gonna lose the election. You got in because you promised to help the people stop Dickenson’s Keep and once in, you did basically nothing to stop it. It was a small group of concerned citizens that stopped that project. You showed up at a couple meetings and were as quiet as a church mouse, not a peep out of you to defend this town. And now you are going OUT with this smart meter issue. Who would support someone who is trying to compromise the health of the citizens, whether because you didn’t do your research, dont understand the implications, or because you and that board of yours have collectively become prositutes to grant money? It is you who needs to smarten up. Don’t any of you people do any research before you spend hundred$ of thousand$ of other people’s money? Don’t you see that people across America are getting sick from these devices? People like you who don’t do their research and don’t care about the people you are affecting should not run for office. People like you who impose dangerous health compromising devices on the townspeople should be fired immediately.

    1. Derek

      Except of course there is precisely zero scientific evidence that smart-meters in any way “compromise the health of citizens”.

      Put away the tin-foil hats, everyone, please.

  5. common sense

    Science? Science? We don’t need no stinkin science. Can’t you tell by how wide-eyed we are that we are true believers. You Derek are a Herbert. Some of you will recognize the reference – so beam me up Scotty.
    A couple of Luddites in the town.

  6. NYArtist

    Where is an independent 20 years scientific study of these meters? The people who arrogantly call those who are concerned tin hatters etc are the very ones that live on their cell phones, smoke, use stinky toxic dryer sheets, eat lunch meats filled with nitrates and salt and absolutely have no clue why they get cancer or why anything else happens the way it does. I do not want any change in meters. Don’t we have other things to spend money on in this town? Education. A town swimming pool, a dog park, etc. I always say when something like this happens, FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL and you will find the reason for something that is purchased that will ultimately harm people.

    Additionally, some people are indeed sensitive to these meters and should not be forced to endure them by the town.

Comments are closed.