Chicago - Two vocal opponents of Naperville’s initiative to install wireless electric meters on homes were arrested after interfering with the installation process, according to city officials.
Police are accompanying crews this week as they install smart meters at homes that previously sent away installers.
“The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees’ safety,” City Manager Doug Krieger said.
Naperville has installed smart meters on 57,000 homes and is about 99 percent through with the process. Officials have said the project will make the electric system more reliable and efficient and reduce costs.
The two arrested women -- Jennifer Stahl and Malia "Kim" Bendis -- were leaders of an anti-smart meter group dubbed "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness". The group's website links to a critical article on the project which points out its $23.6M USD cost, only $11M USD of which came from a federal grant. The group has a federal lawsuit pending against the city.
Bendis of the 2200 block of Mercer Court was charged with two misdemeanors - attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer.
Stahl of the 1400 block of Westglen Drive, received two ordinance violation citations - interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.
Stahl, who was released from custody about 4:30 p.m., said when she refused the smart meter, installers accompanied by police cut the bicycle lock she had placed on her fence and entered her backyard. She then stood in front of her electric meter and refused to move.
“It was forced on my house today,” she said. “It was really a violation. I violated something, but I’ve been violated too so I guess we’re now in a society of violating one another.”
The city, which has repeatedly declared the wireless meters to be safe, offers a non-wireless alternative meter to residents with concerns. There is a $68.35 initial fee for a non-wireless meter plus a $24.75 monthly fee for manually reading it. Stahl said residents who want a non-wireless meter should not have to pay for it, and said she represents other homeowners who were not able to continue to refuse the wireless meter installation.
The group links to a number of speculative websites that compile information on the supposed "health risks" of smart meters. The commentary on one site (electricalpollution.com) echoes the medically unfounded claims that similar campaigns have leveled against cell phone towers or Wi-Fi networks. Comments the site:
This is of great concern because the exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation from these meters is involuntary and continuous. The transmitting meters may not even comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "safety" standards ... However, those standards were initially designed to protect an average male from tissue heating (cooking) during a brief exposure. These standards were not designed to protect a diverse population from the non-thermal effects of continuous exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation. Therefore, these "safety" standards were not designed to protect the public from health problems under the circumstances which the meters are being used.
To date, there has been no comprehensive peer-reviewed work supporting the notion that Wi-Fi or cell phone signals cause cancer or other health effects, but that hasn't stopped critics from suggesting that undiscovered risks may indeed exist.
Despite the shaky science, one must wonder whether the city's strong-arm tactics are justified for citizens who don't want the meters.
While the cost is one reasonable criticism against smart meter projects, another more ground criticism is security. Prominent sources, including defense contractor Lockheed Martin Comp. (LMT), have suggested that Chinese or other sophisticated rivals of the U.S. could "hack into" smart meter networks and use attacks to cripple or otherwise interfere with the U.S. power grid. If this premise holds true it would represent a tremendous new national security risk.
Another interesting criticism comes from security researchers [Pdf], who report that smart meter data, if carefully analyzed, could reveal intimate details of one's life. For example, a house hooked up to smart water and electric meters could allow a third party to track when people shower, whether a home alarm is on, and how often people use their televisions.