Resistance to smart meters high: CST

Citizens for Safe Technology’s Barry Belec, Tanesa Kiso, Linda Ewart balk at BC Hydro’s claim that smart meters are totally safe. CST has launched a province-wide petition to halt the rollout of the program. - Alex Browne photo
Citizens for Safe Technology’s Barry Belec, Tanesa Kiso, Linda Ewart balk at BC Hydro’s claim that smart meters are totally safe. CST has launched a province-wide petition to halt the rollout of the program.
— image credit: Alex Browne photo

B.C. Hydro claims that only one per cent of its customers have balked at the installation of smart meters – but don’t tell that to Una St. Clair, executive director of Citizens For Safe Technology, or White Rock CST supporters Linda Ewart, Tanesa Kiso and Barry Belec.

The latter feel, from conversations with residents, that opposition to the wireless meters is higher than Hydro would like people to believe.

“If I were to go around my neighbourhood and speak to most of the people, pretty much 100 per cent are opposed to a number of issues around smart meters and the mandatory nature of their installation,” said Belec.

The Langley-based St. Clair – who owns property in White Rock – and the White Rock opponents charge that Hydro is engaged in an aggressive propaganda campaign to downplay legitimate concerns about the safety threats to humans, animals and plant life from radio frequency electro-magnetic radiation produced by wireless technology.

CST has launched a province-wide petition opposing smart meters and is also seeking an injunction from the B.C. Utilities Commission to bring the rollout to a halt, arguing that the wireless technology chosen exceeds the mandate provided by provincial legislation enabling the smart-meter program.

Last week, Hydro communications manager Cindy Verschoor told Black Press “the meters are absolutely safe.”

But local opponents said they can’t understand such an unequivocal statement, given the level of concern expressed by scientists around the world about wireless radiation, and a World Health Organization call for further investigation of health and environmental impacts.

Asked why more residents aren’t telling Hydro they don’t want smart meters, St. Clair cited fears of retribution, such as power being cut off. Her group is advising those who want to say no, to communicate with Hydro in writing, she added.

St. Clair said she is also investigating reports of B.C. customers receiving hikes to their bills, some by hundreds of dollars, after smart meters are installed.

“This has happened before now in Ontario, in New Zealand, in Australia, in Fiji – wherever smart meters are being rolled out,” she said.

And even balking at the installation of smart meters has not been enough to stop it, St. Clair charges.

Ewart said she has heard of seniors who openly resisted installation of the meters being subjected to daily return visits.

“People are having a hard time standing up to that,” Kiso said. “It’s up to a few of us to be spokespeople for all of us.”

Contacted about CST allegations that Hydro might be using intimidating or bullying tactics, Verschoor said, “that is not our policy.”

If Hydro is contacted by a customer who has questions or concerns about smart meters, the customer will be put on a delayed installation list, she said, and if concerns are not addressed in the first call, a second dialogue with the customer will be initiated.

“If a customer feels we haven’t handled the issue appropriately, we hope they would contact us,” she said. “We take that kind of thing very seriously. We record calls for quality assurance and we would investigate that.”

But it’s not just individuals who have concerns, St. Clair said.

She points out that while White Rock council passed a resolution calling for residents to have choice in whether they had a smart meter installed, some 30 B.C. municipalities – as well as the Union of B.C. Municipalities – have voted individually for a complete moratorium.

She said CST members are not “Luddites” opposed to progress, but they question why Hydro is pushing for smart meters when hard-wired options are available – even for the meters Hydro is installing.

Ewart said she has personal health concerns due to a heart arrythmia, for which she has told Hydro she has a doctor’s written opinion that a wireless meter would be harmful to her. Kiso has also had long-term concerns about the effect of wireless technology – including White Rock’s Marine Drive Wi-Fi system – on her health, while Belec, who was brought up at a series of military bases where wireless technology was rampant, has long had suspicions about severe effects on both friends and family.

Their concerns about smart meters, they add, are drawn not just from personal experience, but based on a body of knowledge being gathered internationally.

Last year, scientists at the Karolinska Institute Department of Neuroscience in Stockholm, Sweden warned of dangers to children and pregnant women from radiation from wireless technologies.

Their release said researchers are calling for more stringent limits on electromagnetic fields and wireless exposures, believing existing safety limits are “inadequate to protect public health” because they don’t take into account long-term exposure to low emission levels that are now widespread due to the proliferation of wireless technology such as Wi-Fi routers and cellphones.

“The SmartGrid concept could require every home to have a wireless electric and gas meter in place of their existing meters. If implemented, it will greatly increase the intensity of new wireless emissions in homes, schools and every other building that uses electricity and gas,” the release noted.

Scientists who participated in the International Workshop on Non-Ionizing Radiation, Health and Environment in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2009 signed a resolution agreeing that the “protection of health, well-being and the environment requires immediate adoption of the precautionary principle”, which, in the presence of indications of possible adverse effects, “shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk to those who discount it.”

St. Clair, Ewart, Kiso and Belec said the current rollout of smart meters seems to be the antithesis of the precautionary principle, and they are skeptical of the evidence Hydro has provided that smart meters are safe.

According to CST, Hydro’s suggestion that 20 years’ exposure to a smart meter is the same as 30 minutes on a cellphone is an apples-to-oranges argument in which whole-body exposure to a smart meter is being compared with peak exposure of one ear to a cellphone.

And St. Clair said Hydro figures concerning acceptable levels of RF (radio frequency) exposure seem to be based on averaging. That would be, she said, like saying a desert is a nice place to live by taking midday temperatures and nighttime temperatures and arriving at an average that suggests a temperate climate.

St. Clair said Hydro’s claim that signals transmitted by smart meters amount to less than one minute per day are misleading.

In reality, she said, this translates to thousands of electromagnetic pulses – milliseconds long – throughout the day and night.

“And that doesn’t count the co-ordinating signals between smart meters,” she added.

“The signals are 24-7,” Ewart said.


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