Newly implemented electronic meters raise questions about potential health risks

Some Friendly neighborhood residents skeptical and some comfortable with the EWEB’s Smart Meter Pilot Project

By Ashley Shaffer

Friendly neighborhood residents have mixed feelings about the 100 “smart” meters currently being tested in the neighborhood by a local electric company.

Eugene Water and Electric Board is conducting a Smart Meter Pilot Project which replaces mechanical electric meters with new “smart” meters that read electronically on a number of homes in the neighborhood. Some Friendly residents are concerned about the potential health risks associated with the meters radio frequency transmissions.

Deborah Simmons and her husband volunteered to be one of the 100 residents who took part in the Smart Meter Pilot Project conducted by EWEB.

“The negative side of the health seems to be a little bit unclear as to what it is and when you include wireless routers and cell phone towers and everything else I’m not sure that it really adds significantly,” Friendly resident Deborah Simmons said. “We know that there are health risks related to cell phones but people use them all the time.”

John Femal, the community education coordinator at EWEB said that the amount of transmission exposure from the meters is unbelievably small. “Wi-Fi, baby monitors, radios, all members in this electro-magnetic spectrum are used from radio frequency waves,” Femal said. “You don’t sleep on your smart meter, but you sleep next to your phone.”

According to Femal, the electronic meters placed on houses broadcast radio transmissions of 0.25 watts and lasts about 0.25 milli-seconds at a time. In comparison, an Apple technician said that most cell phones maximum transmission is from 0.75 to one watt of power.

The pilot project is part of a 12-month testing period that began last September. “We are just doing a pilot, a full-development of smart meters has not been decided yet,” Femal said.

Many electric companies around the country have already switched to “smart” or electronic meters such as Portland General Electric. Femal said that electronic meters come with many benefits for customers because they are able to view more details about how and when they are using energy in their home through in-home display screens. “In home displays are wireless communications directly from the meter and shows in real time what energy the home is using at that moment and what that is costing you per hour if you continued using it at that level.”

“The old system is kind of busted where the dude has to walk around and creep in my backyard and read the meter and do all that stuff,” Kevin Poehner, a beer manager at Capella Market said. “I guess if there’s a possibility that it’s going to emit radioactive particles, they should probably test it out but I think I’m in favor of it for the most part.”

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