Smart meter critics energized to keep fighting

Campbell River council isn't doing enough to 'protect the public' say BC Hydro critics

The local chapter of a movement to stop smart meters says the city has a responsibility to protect citizens from the controversial devices.

John Warn, the head of the Campbell River chapter of the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters, made a presentation to council last month encouraging councillors to ask for a moratorium on smart meters.

Tim Benoit, spokesperson for the local branch, says since the coalition’s delegation June 26, council has “done nothing” and in the process reneged on its responsibilities.

“Local government has the responsibility to protect its residents’ health and security,” Benoit said in a news release. “A municipality must take action when it learns of something that could be harmful to its residents. It must notify the Minister of Health or take immediate action.”

The coalition claims smart meters pose a health threat because they run on Wi-fi and emit radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, which have been classified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen.

BC Hydro points out that smart meters use the wireless signal to transmit power consumption to BC Hydro three times a day and that the meters are active for an average of less than one minute per day.

Hydro also says the signal is similar to a radio or television signal and that the radio frequency from a smart meter over 20 years is equivalent to a single, 30-minute phone call.

Still, critics of the smart meter warn of other problems.

Warn says there have been unverified reports of fridges, ovens and other appliances being destroyed from power surges after and during smart meter installation. The devices also pose a potential fire hazard, he claims.

Benoit says the bottom line is BC Hydro did not do proper research before it began putting in  the devices, which are scheduled to be installed in Campbell River over the next couple weeks.

“The B.C. government legislated this change-over and bypassed the BC Utilities Commission, allowing BC Hydro to ignore the public’s comments and concerns,” Benoit says.

Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro, says there’s a great deal of misinformation spreading over the Internet about smart meters.

“The Internet is a great place for information, but not all of it is correct information,” he says.

Olynyk notes the radiation levels from smart meters are so low that public places with Wi-fi pose a greater health risk than having a smart meter outside your home. He says a one-way trip from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay on the ferry is the equivalent of the amount of radiation someone would be exposed to in 35 years of having a smart meter.

Hydro says 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 says the devices will also allow customers to save money on their hydro bills because the meters allow customers to see their daily energy use.

“The rates will go up, but because of a hand-held device people can choose to have…you can see what your consumption is so you could make adjustments,” Olynyk said. “Consumers can save five to 15 per cent by making small adjustments.”

Still, anyone who wants to delay installation can put a signed note on their old meter. BC Hydro says it will follow up with the customer to discuss any concerns, but what happens long-term is still undecided.