Opponents sound off on Port Angeles controversial 'smart' meters

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The controversy surrounding Port Angeles' “smart” meter project has not gone away.

Opponents, who have spoken at several City Council meetings, addressed the council again Tuesday.

Five people spoke during the meeting's public comment period, including Dr. Eloise Kailin, a longtime opponent of the fluoridated water supplies of Port Angeles and Forks.

“Please stop deployment of smart meters until it can be demonstrated that there will be no increase in electromagnetic pollution in residences beyond that from analog meters,” said Kailin of Sequim, one of five speakers.

Kailin is an environmentalist and recipient of the 1987 Clallam County Community Service Award and the 2007 People for Puget Sound Legacy Award.

Kailin was joined at the meeting by her son, Harvey.

Surprised by meter

Harvey Kailin said during the meeting that he was surprised earlier this week to find a smart meter installed on his home.

He said he learned from the city that the meter had been installed in December after his old analog meter failed.

Harvey Kailin said he is also concerned about the potential health effects of smart meters.

“I want [the city] to prove it's safe, which they haven't done so far,” he said.

Said Craig Fulton, city public works and utilities director: “We confirmed the radio transmitter is not turned on, so basically [Harvey Kailin] has a dumb digital meter.”

So-called smart water and electric meters would wirelessly transmit usage data from homes to City Hall and be able to receive information from city utility software.

Some 30 smart meter opponents showed up at March council meeting to protest and speak against the devices.

At that meeting, Judi Hangartner, organizer of a group called Smart Awareness, presented a petition signed by 342 residents opposing the devices.

Between 60 and 70 people attended a September council meeting to oppose the project.

On Tuesday evening, Hangartner said she was concerned about the effects smart meter electromagnetic waves could have on personal medical devices, such as an insulin pump she uses.

“The [smart] meters are a death sentence to many,” Hangartner said.

Council members took no action nor discussed the matter during Tuesday's meeting.

Opponents of the $4.9 million system, which has been delayed by software problems by at least two years, say the meters violate citizens' right to privacy and pose dangers to human health through the wireless signals they use to transmit data.

City officials have maintained that the devices will collect only utility usage data, as current analog meters do, and pose no greater risk to human health through their wireless signals than cellphones do.

New equipment

Fulton said the city has installed some smart meters separate from the larger project when analog meters on city homes and businesses fail.

“If we put in equipment in [the city's] electrical system, it's going to be new equipment, not used equipment,” he said.

“We do not maintain an inventory of analog meters.”

Under a contract with Atlanta-based Mueller Systems, 2,080 smart electricity meters and 1,200 smart water meters have been installed on residences and businesses across the city.

These are separate from meters installed when analog meters fail, Fulton explained.

All are still being read manually.

In tests, the meters have failed to consistently send accurate usage data from the meters to city servers, according to a report presented in February by West Monroe Partners, a consultant the city hired to evaluate the system.

The city declared Mueller in breach of contract in January, and Fulton said negotiations between city staff and Mueller continue, with staff planning to present on options for moving forward at the May 20 council meeting.

“It will be a presentation on ways forward for the council to decide upon,” Fulton said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 09. 2014 12:41AM
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