A group of residents from across metro Detroit has implored Canton officials to adopt a resolution seeking a moratorium on DTE Energy smart meters, alleging they pose health threats, invade privacy and could usher in higher electricity costs.
The lobbying has occurred during township board meetings, despite a report last year by the Michigan Public Service Commission that concluded the health risks are “insignificant.”
Ypsilanti resident Timothy King told the Canton Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday he believes the MPSC can expect “a rude awakening” from smart meters being installed across Canton and other communities. He said he believes the new technology has caused his diabetes to worsen.
“I believe this is a big problem we are facing ...,” he said.
Smart meters, or advanced meters, have a digital read-out and allow for a remote read using radio waves, eliminating the need for a manual reading. The technology is being used by utilities across the nation to replace older meters.
Canton resident Melanie Brosnan told the board she believes technology such as smart meters are emitting dangerous levels of radiation.
“It’s killing us. It’s dicing up and splicing up our DNA,” she said.
Such opinions sharply differ from conclusions reached last year by the MPSC.
“After careful review of the available literature and studies, the staff has determined that the health risk from the installation and operation of metering systems using radio transmitters is insignificant,” the report stated. “In addition, the appropriate federal health and safety regulations provide assurance that smart meters represent a safe technology.”
The staff also recommended that residents be allowed to opt out of the smart meter program. DTE has allowed it, though consumers have to pay certain costs to do it. Critics have said they shouldn’t have to opt out if they never opted in.
Livonia resident Suzanne Yarbrough, during Tuesday’s township board meeting, called smart meters “spying meters” and said they can gather information from inside a residence. She also blasted cell phone towers as a threat, saying they are like “a nuclear bomb on a pole.”
Smart meter critics say Canton should follow the lead of nearly 30 government bodies that have adopted resolutions seeking a moratorium on installation. Canton officials have listened to the comments but haven’t indicated any action.
Shelby Township resident Pauline Holeton alleged the smart meters could increase the risk of cancer, lead to residential fires and cause surgically implanted medical devices to malfunction.
“This is a public health problem,” she said.
Canton resident Nancy Abney implored local officials to act on behalf of senior citizens as the debate over smart meters continues.
“Who’s going to fight for them?” she asked. “I hope you will.”
DTE has indicated the smart meters are a safe way to measure energy usage in homes and businesses. However, a vocal group of opponents has taken its battle to the local government level in an attempt to push back the technology.
Smart meters have become the primary replacement meter to older electromechanical meters, with supporters saying they are more accurate and can enhance power outage response. Supporters also say the meters offer more opportunities for customer energy management.
According to the MPSC study: “The traditional electromechanical meter is obsolete and currently not in production. Smart meters are an important component to the success of a much larger picture, an emerging smart grid. As the U.S. Department of Energy states, ‘(a) smart grid uses digital technology to improve the reliability, security and efficiency of the electricity system ... ’”
DTE officials have said they are confident the technology is safe. Officials also have said the smart meters allow employees to quickly locate and reduce the length of power outages and to remotely connect and disconnect service for a faster response to consumers.
Some critics, however, fear that faster efforts to disconnect service could leave some elderly and disable residents at risk if their electricity is shut off.