Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Alliant responds to worries over smart utility meters

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Oct 09, 2017
Photo by: Nicole Major/Ledger photos Katheryne Seranduc speaks during a public meeting called to discuss smart meters at the Fairfield Public Library.

Around 150 community members showed up for a public meeting in late September at the Fairfield Public Library to discuss Alliant Energy’s impending installation of electronic utility meters in Jefferson County.

Speakers discussed the possible side effects associated with electronic meters, known as “smart meters,” as well as other changes in store if digital meters were replaced.

“Smart meters pulse microwave radiation 24-hours per day, seven days per week,” Katheryne Seranduc told the crowd, later saying that the radiation could be similar to standing in front of an open microwave all day.

Seranduc, who has resided in other states throughout the country, said she’s seen the results of smart meters firsthand, and that they could pose problems for individuals with compromised immune systems.

Seranduc said that five years ago, a portion of the community stood up against smart water meters, and prevailed.

During the meeting, Seranduc read a statement from Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy.

The Ledger reached out to Malloy after the meeting.

“I’ve tried to communicate to Alliant that we have a large number of customers who do not want the technology of smart meters forced upon them,” Malloy said during an interview. “They want to have the option for that due to sensitivities of being exposed to health risks because of them.”

“The industry told the city that the water meters were transmitting once per month, but we measured them ourselves, and found out that they had a field of radiation all of the time,” Seranduc said during an interview. “People are getting sick from these things.”

The sicknesses she mentioned included cases of insomnia and headaches.

“Given the experience that the city had five years ago with water meters with a similar technology, we moved quickly to allow customers the right to choose those meters or use an analog meter,” Malloy said.

Seranduc said that although the industry doesn’t acknowledge any health concerns from smart meters, the issue has come before Maine’s Supreme Court.

Seranduc said companies in other states provide consumers an opportunity to opt out, allowing them to choose what type of meter they want to use.

“All people need to be able to think; if you can cook something in your microwave oven then obviously you can change the quality of tissue,” she said. “Constantly being hit with pulsed radiation at a low level damages human tissue ...”

Senior communications partner for Alliant Energy Justin Foss said that the company wasn’t aware of a public meeting in Fairfield, and that if it would have known, Alliant would have been there to address community members’ questions and concerns.

“We want to be transparent,” Foss said of Alliant. “If they would have invited us, we would have gladly answered their questions. Yes, we are installing smart meters throughout Iowa. However, everyone will have that opportunity to make that decision. We’re not going to force anyone who doesn’t want the system, but it still is in the works, because we need to find an alternative that works for both us and our customers.”

Foss said the system works best if all meters are the same, so customers choosing to opt out would incur a fee.

He also explained that Alliant would allow customers to opt out unless the state intervened.

“It would depend on what the state says,” Foss said. “Sometimes, things are taken out of our control. Some states say ‘yes’ to an opt out, while other states say ‘no.’”

Foss said that the company is currently researching a viable option for customers who choose to opt out, but that it’s important people  understand the big picture about smart meters.

“Radio frequency is not something new. Everyday there is a good portion of the population that uses wifi, Bluetooth, baby monitors, clothing with anti-theft tags on them ... the smart meters only measure the electrons that flow through them. They send a signal, just like all of those other things do.”

Foss said there are many benefits to switching to smart meters, such as the ability to pinpoint an exact outage location.

“Now, we send out a crew to where we think there might be an issue. Crews have to spend a long time walking through backyards, looking for the outage,” Foss said. “With smart meters, the signal comes in very quickly so that you can easily and quickly tell where the outage is so that the crews can work on the outage faster. You can’t do that with traditional metering equipment.”

Foss said meter readers have to physically access properties every month.

“The smart meter would actually increase privacy,” he said. “Also, here we have wicked snow storms, where the meter reader can’t always get out to a home, so bills are sometimes estimated. Smart meters allow us to provide more accurate billing.”

Foss said that the meter reader role is typically an entry level position, and that Alliant provided internal job fairs that offered meter readers other opportunities within the company.

Although options will be offered to customers, Seranduc said that she’s still not convinced that the opt out would be the most feasible option,

“What we really want to do is use the fiberoptics in this town,” Seranduc said, adding that she wondered if the option that Alliant provides might be a system that could be easily switched to a smart meter from a remote location.

Foss disagreed, and said that Alliant wouldn’t attempt to mislead its customers.

“We wouldn’t do that; it’s important to remember that we are working with our customers,” Foss said. “We’re making sure that our customers know exactly what’s going on.”

Foss said that the smart meter installation process is a multiyear project.

“We are reaching out to our customers directly, before we are in their areas. We are making sure that we are transparent,” Foss said. “We don’t expect to be in Fairfield until 2019.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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