SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Water customers here will pay an extra $140 a year if they choose not to have their meters read automatically by a wireless device.
The fee will be waived for anyone who presents a note from their doctor saying that the radio frequency (RF) emissions from the so-called “smart meters” would jeopardize their health.
The board of selectmen, sitting as the water and sewer board, has endorsed town manager Don Lagrange’s recommendation to charge extra to have a town employee go to a home or business to visually read the water meter. Meters are read quarterly, and the fee for each on-site reading will be $35.
The town isn’t actually switching to new meters, but installing the Firefly brand of “meter interface unit” to existing meters. The Firefly uses wireless technology to automatically transmit water usage data to a central location, thus saving the town the cost of having a meter-reader go house to house.
In 2010, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed studies of the relationship between smart meters and human health and concluded that the studies “do not indicate any consistent evidence to support a concern for health effects related to the use of radio frequency used by smart meters.”
Last month, a study of the possible health effects of the smart meters used to monitor electricity usage by Maine Central Power customers found that the meters’ RF emissions are well within the safety standards set by the Federal Communications Commission. The study was commissioned by the Maine Public Utility Commission’s Office of the Public Advocate.
Mr. Lagrange said in a memo to selectmen, “The evidence we have gathered indicates that the radio waves the Firefly operates on are less than any radio or microwave and is contrary to information presented by concerned citizens.”
Nevertheless, he recommended allowing residents to opt out of having the Firefly device installed on their water meters. He noted that the Maine Public Utilities Commission recommends giving utility customers that option.