Couple join the smart meter class-action suit

Ron and Nan Latchford of Campbell River believe they're entitled to tell BC Hydro 'no'

Nan Latchford wants BC Hydro to keep “hands off” from her analog meter. She and her husband have joined a class-action lawsuit.

A Campbell River couple has joined a lawsuit against BC Hydro after the utility threatened to cut off their power if they did not consent to having a smart meter installed on their home.

Ron and Nan Latchford have joined a class action lawsuit brought forward by Salt Spring Island resident Nomi Davis who said her analog meter was replaced last year by a smart meter in a deceptive fashion.

According to a video Davis posted on Youtube, she was promised by a representative from Corix, which has been installing the new meters, that her meter would have the radio switched off.

But immediately after the meter was installed, a friend was able to measure electromagnetic frequencies coming from the smart meter every five seconds – some from 40 feet away.

The Latchfords signed onto Davis’ lawsuit on April 30, but the papers were just filed to B.C. Supreme Court on July 25.

The suit demands that BC Hydro remove unwanted smart meters, that BC Hydro stop installing the devices without the consent of the home owner, that BC Hydro be prohibited from declining to sell power to properties who don’t want the meters, and that the power corporation be restrained from accepting payments in exchange for not having a smart meter.

Nan Latchford said the lawsuit is about rights and freedom.

“We feel our civil rights are being ignored by not giving us a choice and not giving us the freedom to have our homes free of an intrusion of a radiating device that BC Hydro wants to put on our homes and keep track of every little step we take by recording our power usage in a manner that you can detect whether we’re home, whether we’re not at home, whether we’re on vacation and if we are at home, what we do at home,” Latchford said.

Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro, told Strathcona Regional District directors last year that many of the concerns people have about smart meters are based on false information.

“The Internet is a great place for information, but not all of it is correct information,” he said. “There’s misinformation out there that BC Hydro will know who you have over for dinner, when you’re eating dinner…because of smart meters.”

Olynyk also tried to lay to rest fears over emissions, noting the radiation levels from smart meters are so low that public places with Wi-fi pose potentially greater health risk than having a smart meter.

But Latchford, who has a steel cable around her analog meter and a sign asking Corix to please not install a smart meter, doesn’t buy it.

Latchford claims she knows someone with a health condition who has been advised by her doctor to stay away from wireless devices such as smart meters because they could prompt a stroke.

Latchford said after she and her husband told Hydro last summer that they wanted to opt out of smart meters, the utility wrote her an e-mail, dated September 2012, which warned them that, “any obstruction or interference with the installation of the smart meter…could subject you to penalty and to the disconnection of your electrical service.”

The Latchfords then sent a final refusal notice to BC Hydro early this year that they would not accept a smart meter. So far, they have not heard back.

Since then, Energy Minister Bill Bennett has announced an opt-out program which includes having the meter, but with the radio turned off or keeping the analog meter, but with an extra monthly charge for meter readings.

Latchford said Bennett’s opt out is “a farce” and there’s no way to know if the radio is actually turned off, as what happened to Davis on Salt Spring Island.

BC Hydro reports that 96 per cent of its customers have already switched over to smart meters and 1.8 million are in use across the province.

The utility maintains that the smart meters will allow the corporation to get the lights back on faster in the event of a power outage because the meters will alert BC Hydro immediately of an outage.

Hydro said the devices will also allow customers to save money on their hydro bills because the meters allow customers to see their daily energy use and make adjustments as necessary.