Sebastopol: Rethink smart water meters

Years of support for reducing EMF’s in Sebastopol evaporated on Oct 19, 2021 when the city council unanimously approved the use of smart water meters. We are strongly opposed.  We want Sebastopol to maintain the legacy meters, with a possible opt-in to a digital non-transmitting meter for people who want detailed water usage data.

Smart water meters will harm the EMF aware and injured community. They will harm our quality of life, disturb our sense of safety and peace and create a nuisance throughout our city.  You can’t opt out of a “smart city”.

Sebastopol banned smart meters in 2013. In 2019 this ban was referenced in a letter to PG&E signed by Mayor Neysa Hinton. Sebastopol’s General Plan calls for minimizing EMF’s and community wide opt out of public utility smart meters.

The public process on the smart water meters decision was limited and confusing. Technical details about how the water meters worked were sparse and the issue was hidden under energy efficiency.  City staff marginalized “anti-EMF” people and created a survey to support an outcome they wanted. They asked, “do you want a cellular water meter?” What if they had asked, “do you want a smart water meter?” or, “do you want a city wide radar installation for water meters?”

We are in a pandemic and meetings are only on zoom, which makes participation and advocacy more difficult and adds to the city’s responsibility to honestly and transparently vet major planned installations especially where historically community values are to minimize EMFs.

An activist obtained a public records act (PRA) request of 933 pages of emails between the city and Syserco on the smart water meters.  A timeline is included in the Jan 15 update below.  EMF Safety Network also submitted a PRA to find out how the meters actually work.  The PRA responses did not directly answer our questions, so we had an RF engineer explain how the meters work. Those answers are included below.

Adding 3002 smart water meters will increase EMF radiation in our community. Peer reviewed published studies find EMF radiation threatens nature and causes a wide range of health impacts: “Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans.” https://www.emfscientist.org/

In February of 2021 the Public Works director said they were testing 56 new digital water meters. He said they would be manually read and that they did not have a radio transmitter. A few months later the city started a survey asking if the community wanted “cellular” water meters. There were 329 responses to their water meter survey. 54.7% of respondents approved, 31% opposed, and 14.3% were undecided. The survey is an unreliable source of community input, because people were not given any details about the cost or how the meters work. Anyone could have taken the survey including the company who stands to profit and people who don’t live in town. 

Facts about Sebastopol’s Badger Orion smart water meters

  • Smart water meters are two way radios that collect granular data about customers water use.
  • Smart water meters use sound waves, batteries and transmit EMF radiation.
  • The batteries are non-replaceable. The entire unit will need to be replaced if/when the battery fails.
  • This purchase is inconsistent with Zero Waste Sonoma Purchasing Policy which calls for purchasing products that minimize environmental impacts, toxins, pollution and hazards to worker and community safety, as well as to purchase durable and long lasting products.
  • Despite the claim we need smart water meters to reduce climate change, there are no reductions in GhG expected from water meters.
  • Santa Fe is using Badger meters and they say their system will use 4G and 5G frequencies.
  • Scientists are warning against 5G:  http://www.5gappeal.eu
  • The city is borrowing over 5 million dollars to pay for improvements to city infrastructure. Included in that cost is over 2 million dollars for smart water meters.
  • In order to pay back the money it was proposed that the city raise water rates by 4% a year for 15 years. See Sebastopol city council video to see their financial plan starting at 2:42:00
  • For the past fourteen years the Sebastopol City Councils have been given many independent peer reviewed studies on the risks and harm from EMF radiation smart technologies to people and nature.
  • Sebastopol has taken action by writing letters to officials, banning smart meters, defending senior residents at the mobile home park from PG&E smart meters, and getting lower kelvin LED streetlights.
Sebastopol’s General Plan calls for minimizing EMF’s, including:
  • Minimize unsafe EMF radiation levels near sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals, playgrounds, high density residential, and libraries when planning for electrical transmission facilities repair and new construction.
  • Promote community education and awareness on EMF health information and stay abreast of current research and regulations.
  • Explore programs and legal remedies available to the City in order to reduce unsafe EMF exposure to the greatest extent allowed by State and federal law.
  • Advocate that all new major electrical transmission projects and telecommunications facilities evaluate EMF as part of the project’s environmental review pursuant to CEQA.
  • Request from PG&E and wireless telecommunications facilities providers, public disclosure of existing and proposed electrical transmission and wireless telecommunications facilities projects in the vicinity of Sebastopol and their anticipated EMF levels in the Sebastopol Planning Area.
  • Maintain data regarding the location, size, strength, and EMF levels of major cell and radio towers, public power facilities, including transmission and distribution lines, and other substantial public or community EMF sources in the Sebastopol Planning Area, to the extent that data and information is available.
  • Support efforts to approach and encourage the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to allow the City to opt out of public utility wireless data transmission systems (such as smart meters).

UPDATE: On Dec 21, 2021 the Sebastopol city council approved the financing for smart water meters, which were already ordered! The vote was 3-2. Sarah Gurney and Una Glass opposed.  Diana Rich, Mayor Patrick Slayter and Vice Mayor Neysa Hinton approved. At this meeting the Superintendent of the Water Department dismissed evidence presented by a council member that the smart water meters transmitted a signal every 4 seconds as a “typo” and he evaded the Mayor’s question about the meter’s use of 5G technology. Meeting video here (starts at 4:55:02)

EMF Safety Network sent this APPEAL to the city on 12/23/2021. However we have been told we cannot appeal, instead our only legal recourse is to sue the city.

UPDATE: Jan 15, 2022

The following is a timeline of information found in 933+ pages of emails on the smart water process:

  • Oct. 2018:  Syserco stated the water meters could be drive-by or AMI and that AMI meters transmitted every 4 seconds at 1 watt of power and additional repeaters and collectors would need to be installed.
  • Oct. 2020: water meters could be drive-by or touch stick.
  • Jan. 2021: the options for RF transmissions were none, touch, drive-by or remote.
  • Feb 22 EMF Safety Network director emailed the city with questions about the 56 water meters being tested.  The Public Works Director wrote to Syserco and Badger meter asking for a “standard reply” to our inquiry. At that time we were told the meters were digital, but there were no RF emissions from the water meters.
  • Feb 24 city staff suggested a survey and wrote that customers support radio read meters and sent some “useful information” about EMF concerns that included a page on EMF protections products and smart meter papers from CCST, EPRI, UTC, FDA, (ie government assurances that smart meters are safe.)
  • Feb 25 the city manager advised the Public Works Director to say the city has no plans for wireless water meters.
  • Feb 25, the Public Works Director supports a survey to gather a representative tally of residents desires, and not just the opinion “of a few anti-EMF voices that frequent city council meetings”.
  • Feb 25 the Public Works Director writes the water meters transmit “a minimal ping of information every 15 minutes”.
  • May 2021 the Public Works Director wants to poll the council on using radio read [wireless] meters.
  • June 14, 2021 the Public Works Director repeats the water meters transmit “a minimal ping of information every 15 minutes”.
  • July 6 at a late night city council meeting the idea of a one question survey is discussed but approved by the council and they are told the water meters transmit a “small ping 4 times a day. “

EMF Safety Network  submitted a PRA about how the technology worked. The city sent attachments of technical specifications. An RF engineer reviewed this information. This is what we understand to be true.

Sebastopol ordered 3002 Badger Orion E series water meter “endpoints”. An endpoint houses one antenna.  The 56 test meters Sebastopol trialed last year did not include an endpoint. 3002 Badger water meters collectively transmit approximately 12,000 times a day unless they are in activation or troubleshooting mode when each meter can transmit every 15 seconds. They transmit in the 902-928mHz range. This is the same frequency range the Navy used for radar. The meters transmit pulsed radiation and use a frequency hopping system. The meters can emit spurious accidental emissions in the 30 mhz-40 ghz range. These are created by harmonics and reflections within the action of the meter. The meters work with infrared signals. The maximum power output per meter is 1/4 watt which would add 750 watts throughout the city. The antennas are isotropic, meaning they radiate out in all directions. Water absorbs radiation. One meter can transmit about 1/2 mile, depending on factors like how tall the cell tower is, interference in the area, buildings and trees etc. They work with the internet of things cellular network and are smart city ready. No new repeaters are used. 

The engineers report can be found here.

The City manager will be giving a report about the smart water meters at the council meeting on January 18.  He is now stating “City staff is currently developing a program to support offering our customers a choice in metering infrastructure as a cellular Opt-Out option. This program will support residential customers who prefer not to have the data collector/ transmitter installed with their water meter. The program will allow customers to have their meter read manually at the end of every month. ” 

The city council can be reached at citycouncil@cityofsebastopol.org or by calling 1-707-823-1153

PG&E refunds smart meter “opt-out” fees to EMF disabled customer

On April 16, Pacific Gas and Electric refunded Smart Meter “opt-out” fees paid by the family of Nina Beety who is disabled by electromagnetic sensitivity. Beety requested disabled accommodation from PG&E to have analog electromechanical meters on her family’s home when the company initiated its wireless Smart Meter roll-out in her community. She explained that EMF-emitting devices cause her disabling health effects. PG&E ignored Beety’s requests for disabled accommodation, and refused to allow residential customers to have analog, non-digital meters without paying a so-called “opt-out” fee. The family was forced to pay $415. in fees to avoid Smart Meters on their home. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits surcharge fees for disabled people.
When PG&E filed for bankruptcy in 2019, Beety’s family then filed a proof of claim with the Bankruptcy Court for the “opt-out” fees they paid, stating the claim basis as “Smart Meter opt-out fees that were unlawful surcharges against a disabled person (ADA Title II Technical Assistance Manual, II-1.3000 Relationship to title III)”
PG&E objected to this claim, and on February 25, 2021, asked the court to expunge it. “The simpler Customer Bar Date Notice made clear that Customers were not required to file Proofs of Claim for ordinary and customary refunds, overpayments, billing credits, deposits, or similar billing items. The Customer No Liability / Passthrough Claims listed on Exhibit 1 arise from either (1) Customer Security Deposits or (2) Claims that arise from Customer Billing Disputes…Accordingly, for the reasons set forth herein, the Customer No Liability / Passthrough Claims should be expunged because, in accordance with the Bar Date Order, they will be resolved in the ordinary course.”
On March 24, 2021, Beety submitted this timely Response to the Bankruptcy Court: Our claim is not an “ordinary and customary” customer billing item. We have a special type of billing claim dispute that rises on the fact that I am disabled, and unlawful charges were placed on the household account that interfered with my disabled accommodation. Those unlawful charges were surcharges that are not allowed under the ADA/ADAA and FHAA. This is a meritorious disabled rights claim that was never resolved. It should be resolved by a full and complete refund. Closing my claim would be yet another burden, abrogating my civil rights. Please ensure that my rights are protected.
Faced with a federal judge who had read Beety’s response, PG&E withdrew its objection to the family’s claim to the Bankruptcy Court and did not further contest it (recorded in Judge Dennis Montali’s ruling, April 5, 2021).
On April 20, Beety’s family received a full refund check from PG&E for the $415. surcharge fee, plus $24.17 interest which they had not requested. It is noteworthy that this refund was not a percentage of claim or pennies on the dollar which bankruptcy claims often receive, but a complete refund with interest.
It took facing a bankruptcy judge in court for PG&E to quit fighting and refund fees that were unlawful surcharges under the ADA and that discriminate against disabled people.
Beety said, “With this action, PG&E and other utilities must now halt their practice of charging unlawful “opt-out” surcharge fees to customers disabled by electromagnetic sensitivity or who have other EMF-sensitive medical conditions, and the companies must refund all unlawful surcharge fees already paid by these disabled customers. Utilities must allow the simple, readily achievable, and reasonable disabled accommodation of analog, electromechanical, non-digital utility meters for all disabled persons who require them.”
Remember in 2015 when PG&E was threatening to turn off power to customers refusing to pay their “opt-out” fees.

California Wildfires and EMF radiation pollution


In Sonoma County California we’ve had 3 major wildfires in the past two months, evacuations, and weeks of toxic smoke. This deadly scenario has played out for several years in a row and the damage to lives, homes, nature, and towns throughout California is unprecedented.  California’s investor owned utility, PG&E, has been found guilty for the majority of the previous fires, including many lives lost.

In 2019 Business Insider reported, “Over 1,500 California fires in the past 6 years — including the deadliest ever — were caused by one company: PG&E.” 

National Geographic reports on the science connecting wildfires to climate change, stating: “Increasing heat, changing rain and snow patterns, shifts in plant communities, and other climate-related changes have vastly increased the likelihood that fires will start more often and burn more intensely and widely than they have in the past.”

What if there are other unexamined reasons for the intensity of these wildfires? Or maybe a combination of reasons? How might the following be a factor? 
 
  • Smart grid equipment that emits microwaves was installed on utility power lines starting around 2013 throughout California.
  • Utility smart meters have caused fires at the meter or in an appliance. Smart meters transmit pulsed radiation every few seconds have dramatically increased microwave pollution. 
  • Trees and plants are stressed, drier, and more fire prone from years of microwave radiation pollution from cell towers, cell phones, smart meters, etc. 
  • Stressed trees and plants emit terpenes which makes them more fire prone.
Scientists conclude plants are stressed by microwave radiation. Here are a few studies:
  •  Eklipse Report: The impacts of artificial Electromagnetic Radiation on wildlife (flora and fauna) “Terpene emission was reported to be enhanced by EMR and could also be considered as a marker of stress perception.” https://www.eklipse-mechanism.eu/documents/15803/0/EMR-KnowledgeOverviewReport_FINAL_27042018.pdf/1326791c-f39f-453c-8115-0d1c9d0ec942

  • Radiofrequency radiation injures trees around mobile phone base stations “Statistical analysis demonstrated that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts is harmful for trees.” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306435017_Radiofrequency_radiation_injures_trees_around_mobile_phone_base_stations

  • Influence of microwave frequency electromagnetic radiation on terpene emission and content in aromatic plants “There was a direct relationship between microwave-induced structural and chemical modifications of the three plant species studied. These data collectively demonstrate that human-generated microwave pollution can potentially constitute a stress to the plants.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25050479/

  • Plant Responses to High Frequency Electromagnetic Fields “Indeed, numerous metabolic activities (reactive oxygen species metabolism, α- and β-amylase, Krebs cycle, pentose phosphate pathway, chlorophyll content, terpene emission, etc.) are modified, gene expression altered (calmodulin, calcium-dependent protein kinase, and proteinase inhibitor), and growth reduced (stem elongation and dry weight) after low power (i.e., nonthermal) HF-EMF exposure.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769733/

City of Sebastopol defends senior residents against PG&E smart meters

Half of the gardens in front of mobile park homes have been removed for new electrical work.

A majority of residents from Fircrest Mobile Home Park in Sebastopol signed a petition asking the City of Sebastopol to help them avoid the installation of “smart meters” and to retain analog meters in their senior community. PG&E has been working in the mobile home park since July replacing utility lines in order to switch all homes from sub-metered analogs to smart meters.

In support of the residents’ petition, the City of Sebastopol sent a letter to the mobile home park management with a copy to PG&E, with a reminder that in 2013 the City of Sebastopol adopted a temporary moratorium on smart meter installations and related equipment.

The letter stated that the park’s initiation of the electrical work has resulted in residents facing the need to meet an unanticipated fee in order to “opt out” of smart meter installations that they did not request. They ask, “The Sebastopol City Council asks your cooperation in either paying the opt fee for the residents of the park, and/or your request of PG&E that they retain the analog meters.” 

The letter pointed out that Fircrest Park’s residents can be considered “Captive” in the mobile home park by reason of their dual status as both home owners and tenants which the City maintains is both unfair and possibly a violation of the protections of the California Mobile Home Residency Law.

81 residents of Fircrest Mobile Home Park have signed the petition (from 68 out of 87 total households) to oppose smart meters. Many believe smart meters would negatively affect the aesthetics and significantly decrease the value of their home. As park residents learned more about how smart meters emit pulsed microwave radiation 24/7 very near to their bedrooms and living quarters, they have expressed a growing concern about the negative health and safety impacts of these devices.  The fact that Fircrest Mobile Home Park is a high density senior residence adds to the concern about the cumulative effect of so many microwave emitting devices in such a small area.

Peer-reviewed scientific research shows that exposure to wireless smart meters is associated with increased health problems. Dr. Martin Pall reports, “18 more recent epidemiological studies, provide substantial evidence that microwave EMFs from cell/mobile phone base stations, excessive cell/mobile phone usage and from wireless smart meters can each produce similar patterns of neuropsychiatric effects, with several of these studies showing clear dose-response relationships…Among the more commonly reported changes are sleep disturbance/insomnia, headache, depression/depressive symptoms, fatigue/tiredness, dysesthesia, concentration/attention dysfunction, memory changes, dizziness, irritability, loss of appetite/body weight, restlessness/anxiety, nausea, skin burning/tingling/dermographism and EEG changes.” See also this smart meter study. 

Media and numerous customer complaints reported electrical costs skyrocketed after smart meter installation.  Smart meter malfunction has also been implicated in smart meter fires and burned out appliances.

Sebastopol’s General Plan includes protective electromagnetic field (EMF) policies; for example Community Health and Wellness Policy 4-2: “minimize unsafe EMF radiation levels near sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals, playgrounds, high density residential, and libraries when planning for electrical transmission facilities repair and new construction.” (page 10-6 in the General Plan.)

11/27/2019 UPDATE:  Gas analog meters have been installed and electric analog meters are currently being installed. Thank you PG&E!

Insects in crisis: Murder by Emoji

The Washington Post recently reported “‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss” stating, “Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.” 

The report blames climate warming for the declines. But what about the toxic Electro soup (cell phones, cell towers, smart meters, IoT, radar cars, etc.) as a potential cause?  In this video below, the link between the alarming insect decline and electromagnetic radiation is investigated.

Free smart meter opt out for North Carolina

Great big thanks to activists in North Carolina who won a free utility smart meter opt out provided they submit a simple note from a doctor to the utility.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) decision states, “…the Commission believes it is inappropriate to require customers who maintain that they need to avoid exposure to RF emissions to the extent possible to protect their health to pay [Duke Energy Carolinas] DEC’s proposed smart meter opt-out charges.

Andrew McAfee, an activist leader in this case said: “The removal of Duke’s opt-out fees stops that added insult to injury for many who suffer debilitating electrosensitivity conditions and their associated health costs,”  “Most importantly, the NCUC order recognizes our medical doctor’s proper role in determining what is healthy, not the FCC.”

The note from the doctor does not need to explain any diagnosis or symptoms, but would need to be signed and notarized and simply state:

“I am a medical physician licensed by the North Carolina Medical Board. ______________(Name of Duke Energy Customer) must avoid exposure to RF emissions to the extent possible to protect ______ (his or her) health.”

In California, and in other states, utilities charge extortion fees to avoid smart meters. This case in North Carolina sets an important precedent.

More: Landmark NCUC decision