Customers reject MTEMC's request to install smart meters - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

More than 400 MTEMC customers reject company’s request to install smart meters


While the vast majority of Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation customers approved a switch from analog meters to what’s called smart meters, 468 other customers refused to allow the new technology on their homes, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.

Some of those customers cite health issues and privacy violations as the reasons for their refusal.

Among them is Ellen Goldberg from Franklin, who said she’s uncomfortable with the low-level radiation used by the smart meters.

Goldberg’s adult daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 7, and Goldberg says an experimental surgery and the radiation that followed left Jenna mentally challenged.

"My poor daughter's had enough radiation for all of us," Goldberg said.

So when MTEMC put a smart meter on her house, Goldberg did research and asked the company to take it down.

"It's almost like I’m traumatized with this," Goldberg said.

The I-Team found other customers in Franklin, including Kathy Greenberg and Mary Ellen Murphy, who rejected the company’s request to put in smart meters.

"I'm up in arms about it," Murphy said. 

MTEMC is replacing aging analog meters with smart meters, which constantly measures the amount of energy people use and transmit that information wirelessly every four hours.

The controversy about the smart meters is spreading nationwide, with websites and YouTube videos describing the smart meters as a kind of “Big Brother.”

"There are some people out there that think, with these meters, that we can monitor what you have in your house, we can tell what TV you have, or what refrigerator you have - that's not the case," said Josh Clendenen, communications coordinator with MTEMC.

Other critics said the repeatedly generated low-level radio frequency radiation coming from the devices has harmful effects.

"This bizarre spiked pulse radio frequency transmission that's playing havoc with our bodies," Greenberg said.

On the website for the Federal Communications Commission, which governs how much radiation came be produced by electronic devices, there is a section devoted to the kind of radiation emitted by the smart meters and other technology, like cellphones.

It reads in part, “A number of reports have appeared in the scientific literature describing the observation of a range of biological effects resulting from exposure to low-levels of RF energy.  However, in most cases, further experimental research has been unable to reproduce these effects ... It is generally agreed that further research is needed.” You can read the FCC’s website here.

"Can you, 100 percent guarantee, that these devices will not make people sick?” asked chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.

"I can't. I cannot. Because there's no conclusive evidence either way," Clendenen said.

“Is it unsafe to gamble with that?” Finley asked. 

"I don't know that it's unsafe, because with the amount of RF that people are exposed to daily, the amount that these meters uses is so much less, it's almost a non-issue," Clendenen said.

The I-Team asked MTEMC to prove how much radio frequency radiation these smart meters are putting out.

We met their team at a house with a smart meter and used a device that measures how much radio frequency radiation was coming from both right outside the smart meter and also inside the house.

The readings showed that the smart meter put out 1 percent of what the FCC allows for radio frequency radiation.

We also tested a microwave with that device, and the microwave put our more radio frequency radiation that the smart meters.

But that’s not comforting to people like Goldberg, who said her daughter lives with the effects of radiation everyday.

"You know you're going to run into people that will say you're making a big deal out of nothing,” Finley asked.

"I consider this an individual choice. I think we all have a responsibility to our children and our family and our home,” Goldberg said.

To put the MTEMC numbers into context, while 468 have rejected the smart meters, 65,904 have agreed to have the smart meters installed.

Some customers are opting instead for what’s called digital meters, which as the name suggests, displays a digital reading of energy use but does not transmit the data using radio frequency radiation.

A spokesperson for Nashville Electric Services said about 30 percent of their customers have switched out to smart meters, and only one customer so far had opted out. 

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