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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-707-823-1153