Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Now, it appears, American consumers also may have reason to worry about their water meters.
Word of the issue comes from a resident of Arden Hills, Minn., who is fighting the city’s demand to install new remote reading units on all city water meters because of the possible health and privacy impacts that he says still are undetermined.
Arden Hills officials announced months ago that they were upgrading their remote water meter reading system with units from a company called Badger Meter.
Public Works Director Terry Maurer told WND that all of the actively used meters in the city – except one – have been changed.
The apparent holdout is Steve Cook, a website operator, who says there are privacy concerns that should be alarming, as well as health issues that have raised still-unanswered questions.
“The new smart water meter’s signal is stronger than a cell phone or cordless telephone,” Cook told WND. “We all know about the health studies of people who are on cell phones too much. Cell phones should not be near your head hours a day, seven days a week because the signal is not …. good for you – the same goes for cordless phones.”
He continued: “Well, these new water meters will be right in your home, only a few feet from infants, kids, and adults, sending an even stronger signal 24/7 using the 450-470 Mhz band, making it a major health concern. Can you accept that?”
WND previously reported on the dispute over “smart meters,” the electric grid units that transmit radio waves and have been linked to heart irregularities, memory loss, anxiety, dizziness, nausea, headaches and insomnia.
The report noted that multiple studies have documented such problems, and the World Health Organization officially has recognized that wireless radiation such as that emitted by smart meters is a possible carcinogen.
Further, WND reported that more studies have tied cell phones to problems, including tumors.
In fact, Apple routinely warns mobile phone users to keep iPhones 5/8 of an inch “away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the maximum levels.”
Cook says the city told him officials were confident of the safety of the system, but the manufacturer declined to return WND requests for comment about its “high-power” transmitters that are integral to the system.
But its website notes that its products are powerful enough for various Wi-Fi, direct computer connection, cellular network, point-to-point radio connections and “other” networks.
City officials said the new radio transmission would not be significantly different from what previously was used.
Cook also raises privacy concerns, noting that the system is set up to monitor water consumption every four seconds.
Have the flu and flush at 2 a.m.? The city could know, he said.
“If you stop using water for the night at 10 p.m. the city will know because they will get signals during the night of no water usage. If the city gets a signal at 2 a.m. saying you used 1.5 gallons, then the city knows you just flushed your toilet. The government does not need to know when we flush our toilet (each flush uses the same amount of water in your home). They will even use the information to prosecute you if you water your lawn on the wrong days,” he told WND.
“After a few weeks usage patterns will emerge. The city will see water not being used specific times of day and on specific days of the week giving the city (and anyone else) information regarding when we are gone for work/school. We cannot trust government officials with this data OR even the company that sends the signal to the city. Worse yet, the Freedom of Information act allows this data to be given to anyone who asks, including prospective burglars and pedophiles who can figure out when we are home and when we are gone, making it a prime database for criminals,” he said.
Maurer told WND that every other water meter in the city near St. Paul, Minn., already has been changed to the new system, without complications.
“There’s no controversy,” he told WND. “Only one of our 2,600 residents hasn’t allowed us to put the reader on.”
He said the new system essentially is the same technology as used before. But instead of having a truck drive down each street taking “readings” from the transmitting water meters, the meters now will contact a central office in the city directly.
Meanwhile, Cook has received a second notice from the city for permission to install the new transmitter.
“If we do not hear from you to get your new reader installed, your future water bills will be estimated as the old technology will no longer be in operation. Additionally, the city council will be asked to consider a surcharge on future water bills as a disincentive to get the remaining readers installed,” it said.