Meaford's council has softened the municipality's stance for those who would prefer to have the new municipal RF water meter transmitters installed outside their homes by abandoning an application form that required homeowners to make a declaration that they have a hypersensitivity to radio frequencies and that they have purged their homes of other sources of RF emissions including cell phones, microwave ovens, and wi-fi networks.
The decision comes after a number of residents attended the November 27 council meeting to show support for a presentation focused on concern about the radio-frequency (RF) water meters being installed in Meaford homes.
At that November 27 meeting, Meaford resident Mike Belec spoke to council on behalf of a community group called 'Meaford Citizens 4 Safe Technology', and he shared the concerns of a number of residents about the safety of RF meters, and the wisdom of adding yet another wireless device into homes already saturated with electromagnetic field-emitting gadgets, from cellular phones to wireless routers. There is growing concern that the increasing exposure to emissions from wireless devices is harmful to our health.
“There's widespread concern about the biological effects of these long-term, low level, constant, ubiquitous exposures being emitted everywhere in our lives,” Belec told council. “We are in fact surrounded by what's called 'RF smog'.”
In July council approved a plan to replace Meaford's 2,700 aging water meters with Neptune R900 RF water meters at a cost of $823,000. Council was told that the RF meters would allow municipal staff to read all meters in a single morning by simply driving past the homes of municipal water customers, reducing the time required from 540 hours per year to roughly 72. The RF technology that allows for that efficiency is a concern to some residents.
Of particular concern to residents opposed to adding another RF emitting device into their homes was the application the municipality asked to be signed by homeowners that preferred the installation of the transmitter for the new meters to be installed on the outside of their homes.
“To their credit, the municipality is providing one safer option by installing the transmitter portion of the device on the outside of the house; unfortunately there are several problems with this,” Belec told council on November 27. “First, an external installation might reduce exposure levels, but keep in mind that RF moves through concrete and could still emit radiation into the house. Second, this safer option is available only to those with electromagnetic hyper-sensitivity to RF, the rest of us get the less safe option. Also, qualified residents must get rid of all wireless devices in their homes, and they must assume liability for any damages to the Neptune R900.”
At their December 11 meeting, council voted in favour of eliminating the contentious application form in favour of a simple request by the homeowner for an outdoor installation.
While the criteria for outdoor installations has been loosened, the municipality defended the choice of technology for the water meter replacement project, and they assured the public that the devices meet Canadian safety standards. Municipal staff also noted that while some have suggested that Meaford should have installed a similar system to that which has been installed in Toronto, the cost would have been prohibitive.
“The presentation from Mr. Belec highlighted that consideration should be given to switching to the Toronto solution (Aclara meters). It should be noted the Toronto option was considered by municipal staff prior to proceeding with the current solution. Neptune Technologies was the company that installed the Toronto solution, so (they) have intimate knowledge of the requirements to implement that system,” noted Meaford's Director of Development and Environmental Services.
Armstrong told council that the implementation of the system being used in Toronto would have cost $400,000 more than the more than $800,000 the municipality was already spending on the project, and it would have required the installation of five to six towers in the community to transmit the signals to the municipal office. A Toronto style installation would also require an annual licence to operate on the frequency required for the Aclara meters.
While residents can now make a simple request for outdoor installations at no cost, those who have already had their water meters replaced are out of luck.
“I would say this is for going forward for any meters we haven't installed yet, because going back there's going to be a cost,” Armstrong told council.