“All these wireless devices aren’t safe,” resident Steve Romine, a frequent letter writer to this paper, said. “Especially smart meters.” Romine wants the issue on the agenda next month so he can make a presentation about the health and safety risks.
Romine, active with the group Stop Smart Meters, said a child absorbs twice the radiation of an adult and 10 times the radiation in their bones as an adult, yet when devices emitting radio waves are tested with a 200-pound man with an 11-pound head in mind.
“We’re all being overexposed. Now they want to put ERT meters on people’s houses?” he said. “Even if you don’t have it on your house, you still have all your neighbors with it.”
Smart meters can transmit usage data through the power lines to the utility. They can also communicate with some newer appliances, gathering specific consumption data and in some cases, even command appliances to turn off if a brownout or blackout is imminent.
Opponents cry foul, saying the electromagnetic and wireless radiation affects some people’s health.
Central Hudson allows ratepayers to opt out of the smart meters, but the only alternative is installation of an ERT, or Encoder Receiver Transmitter meter. These meters do not transmit usage data through the grid, but they do emit radio frequencies allowing utility personnel to take readings from their vehicles or with a handheld reader. Foes say the electromagnetic and radio frequencies emitted by ERT meters make them just as unhealthy as smart meters.
Many want the ability to keep their old analog meters, but Central Hudson claims the old meters aren’t being made anymore and aren’t supported. But Romine said that isn’t true. In fact he recently purchased a new analog meter.
Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli wants the board to pass a resolution that gives Woodstock residents the ability to purchase an analog meter. Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said at the very least, residents should be able to keep their existing analog meter.
Randi Steele said the threat of canceling service seems to work, but that requires an alternative source of power. “I still have an original analog meter and the reason why I do is because when Central Hudson tried to switch out ours, I showed them our generator,” Steele said. “I said if you take the analog meter, you say you’re going to measure me through digital meter and I cancel my account. They have left me alone since.”
Resident Chris Finley said he had to call an ambulance to his ERT meter-equipped apartment last week because his wife had collapsed on the floor. “My wife is a 44-year-old mother of three children. Very healthy. Strong as an ox,” Finley said. “She was in terrible pain. She was in a heap on the floor.”
He has had his share of symptoms, too. “I get these terrible pains in my neck. These terrible Charley horses and I’m a rugby player. I played for years. I’m very physically fit,” Finley said.
He asked for a ban of the meters, which was already done two years ago through a resolution that was more symbolic than anything.
“We won’t be able to help you there. They’re regulated by the State of New York. They’re not regulated by us,” Wilber said. “For instance…We know that cigarettes kill people. But we cannot ban the sale of cigarettes within the town of Woodstock.” Wilber suggested complaints are better directed to the Public Service Commission, but Finley said that’s been tried with no result.
“They won’t do anything. They are basically bought and sold by the utility companies and they won’t do anything,” Finley said.
Wilber said the town could pass another resolution or even a law, but he doesn’t see the point.
“You’re adopting a law that’s saying if you don’t follow this law you are going to be punished, either by fine or by jail,” he said. “And then we’re going to adopt this knowing that it wouldn’t stand the first test in court. It’s too cynical.”
Councilman Ken Panza said the town has a “pretty good track record” of getting information out about the meters through resolutions and community forums. While he understands people may suffer from effects of energy emitted by the meters, Panza said he’d like to see data about whether the old analog meters are any more effective in keeping electromagnetic energy to a minimum.
Steele thinks the push for smart meters is more sinister and energy efficiency is not the top goal.
“The reason why the Public Utilities Commission and all the other commissions up to the FCC are actually pushing this is because this is all a part of the surveillance state,” she said. “Every new appliance that’s sold now has to have a WiFi chip in it with the specific purpose of communicating with these infernal fourth-amendment-violating meters,” giving the electric company the ability to turn off appliances because of an alleged power or grid issue, Steele added.
Wilber said the board can place the matter on the agenda if Romine or anyone else specifies what action they want the board to take.
Protecting the aquifer
The Town Board agreed to take advantage of the New York Water Association’s assistance as it considers drafting an Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Through its Source Water program, the association provides help at no charge to communities attempting to protect its water sources through zoning and other local legislation.
As chair of the Aquifer Overlay subcommittee, Councilman Jay Wenk has worked with Steve Winkley, who is NYRWA’s source water protection specialist on a plan for finalizing the text of the protection language and a map of the proposed district.
Winkley will help the town plan for the future and identify threats to drinking water.