Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2014

83 request water meter opt-out

By DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND, Ledger staff writer | Jan 10, 2013

To date, 83 Fairfield homeowners have exercised their newfound right to have radio-read water meters removed from their home at no cost.

Last summer’s swell of discord regarding the meters has subsided since the city council revised its policy in September. But Fairfield water superintendent Carl Chandler said his personnel are still shouldering an extra workload because of the change.

The ordinance reinstated touch-pad meters as the city’s default device as a response to public concern that radio-read meters could be harmful to their health. It also gave the water department the responsibility to remove unwanted radio-read meters for free.

Starting a decade ago, the water department began a gradual switch to radio-read meters as older meters periodically needed replacing. As of last year, the city had replaced one-third of residents’ touch-pad devices with radio-read meters.

While the opt-out list comprises a fraction of the homes harboring wireless devices, Chandler said he’s had more requests to switch out than he anticipated.

“It’s more than I expected,” he said. “It creates an additional workload for the water department, we have to do the same thing all over again.”

Chandler said the water department has switched out 65 percent of the residences on his list, and will get to the remaining homes as time allows.

“We had a really busy summer and fall with 90 leaks, so our personnel were extremely busy trying to keep the water in the pipes,” he said.

The city has maintained the safety of the devices throughout discussions, as the water meters’ signal is much weaker than a cell phone and the radiation exponentially drops off at further distances, where the device is likely to be. The city chose the wireless system for its improved accuracy and convenience, which allows water department personnel to read meters from a vehicle within roughly three blocks of the device.

Those opposed, however, said the city should never have installed devices with any radiation whatsoever without permission from residents. They formed a coalition, presenting a petition to the city in July with more than a thousand signatures in opposition to the meters and opt-out fees.

The city’s initial response was to establish an opt-out fee of more than $100, which residents could pay to have meters replaced. The city also sent out a letter to homeowners informing them of the possible presence of a radio-read meter in their homes.

Chandler ultimately proposed removing the meters for free, “in an effort to relieve tensions in the community.”

The opt-out list quickly topped 40 after that, but Chandler said requests have subsequently tapered off.

“We started the list when the issue was in full bloom during the summer,” said Chandler. “It’s died off since then.”

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