Years of support for reducing EMF’s in Sebastopol evaporated in October 2021, when the city council unanimously approved smart water meters.
Update: We hired attorney Ariel Strauss and he presented the city attorney with a compromise to only install the digital readers without antennas. The council rejected the compromise claiming the meters were a public good because of the drought. The council later approved a FREE opt out for anyone who doesn’t want the smart water meter. The meters are planned to be deployed in January 2023.
Beware of Climate Washed Smart Water Meters!
Why did Sebastopol, who banned smart meters in 2013, do this? Syserco, a registered contractor for PG&E, sold the 2.2 million dollar project to Sebastopol as a water and energy savings initiative. Council members promoted the meters as a climate action solution. When asked to provide clarifying information on the purported savings, Syserco wrote:
“…there has never been a claim that the new meters “save energy, save water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
The real reason for the new meters according to Syserco is money. However, Syserco did claim the meters would save water and were energy efficient, and the staff report called the meters a “green initiative”. This is climate-washing, the use of deceptive marketing spin.
By approving the smart water meters the city failed to comply with:
- Sebastopol’s 2013 Ordinance 1057 that banned smart meters for “matters of public health, safety and consumer protection…”. This ban was referenced in a letter to PG&E signed by Mayor Neysa Hinton in 2019.
- Sebastopol’s 2016 General Plan Community Health and Wellness Goals call for minimizing EMF’s and community wide opt out of public utility smart meters.
- 2019 Telecommunications Ordinance 1123 which requires a conditional use permit for utility antennas, including: notice and public meeting to vet the cost and technical specifications prior to a planning commission review.
- California Environmental Quality Act as referenced in the General plan and Telecommunication Ordinance 1123.
- Sebastopol’s 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. (The meter batteries are non-replaceable. The entire unit will need to be replaced if/when the battery fails.)
- CA Government Code 4217.12 (a) “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a public agency may enter into an energy service contract and any necessarily related facility ground lease on terms that its governing body determines are in the best interests of the public agency if the determination is made at a regularly scheduled public hearing, public notice of which is given at least two weeks in advance, and if the governing body finds:…” (Two weeks notice was not provided to the public.)
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”.
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/
Dr. David Carpenter, a Harvard trained physician and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment wrote a letter opposing smart water meters and said:
“Governments should be reducing RFR exposures, not increasing them.”
He warns that the greatest risk from exposure to radiation (RFR) is cancer, and there’s growing evidence for brain and reproductive impacts. He writes, “Some people develop a condition called electro-hypersensitivity (EHS). These individuals respond to being in the presence of RFR with a variety of symptoms, including headache, fatigue, memory loss, ringing in the ears…” among many symptoms. He further warns, “exposure to smart meters is a trigger for development of EHS.”
“It is time to recognize ambient EMF as a novel form of pollution and develop rules at regulato- ry agencies that designate air as ‘habitat’ so EMF can be regulated like other pollutants.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34047144/
More background information!
The public process on the smart water meters decision was limited, deficient and confusing. Technical details about how the water meters worked were sparse and the issue was hidden under energy efficiency. Staff purchased the software before the meters were approved, and they ordered the meters before the financing was approved. They approved a 5 million dollar project in one late night meeting!
In February of 2021 the Sebastopol 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. What if they had asked, “do you want a smart water meter?” or, “do you want a city wide radar installation for water meters?” There were 329 responses to their water meter survey. 54.7% of respondents approved, 31% opposed, and 14.3% were undecided. Nearly half were opposed or 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 will profit from the sale.
- 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.
- 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
- Sebastopol 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).
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)
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, 2021 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, 2021 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, 2021 the city manager advised the Public Works Director to say the city has no plans for wireless water meters.
- Feb 25, 2021 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, 2021 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, 2021 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. “
- Oct.19, 2021 the Sebastopol City Council approved a $5 million dollar “energy efficiency” project, which included 3002 smart water meter antennas in the sidewalks. 5-0 vote.
- Dec.9, 2021 Sebastopol signed a contract with Syserco
- Dec. 16, 2021 City staff places a purchase order with Syserco for the water meters
- Dec. 21, 2021 Council approved the financing in a 3-2 vote.
- Dec. 23, 2021 EMFSN filed a PRA with Sebastopol on how the technology worked and sent this APPEAL to the city. We were told we cannot appeal, instead our only legal recourse is to sue.
- Jan. 2021 Hired Mitch Maifeld, RF engineer to review and explain the RF emissions from water meters.
- Feb. 7, 2022 Syserco denied the water, energy and greenhouse gas savings claims for smart water meters
- Feb.15, 2022 Council discussed a pay to opt out of water meters and this issue will return to council for final approval. EMFSN comments sent to the city council asking for an OPT-IN: smart meter opt-in.
- Feb. 17, 2022 EMFSN filed second PRA with Sebastopol
- May 6, 2022 EMFSN hires attorney Ariel Strauss of Greenfire Lawfirm in Berkeley CA.
- July 2022 EMFSN proposed a compromise of installing only the digital readers without the antennas. We were told the Council was split and that their reason for rejecting our compromise is that at a time of continuing drought the greater public good is best served by allowing use of the monitoring functions of the new meters.
- September 2022: The city Council approves a FREE opt out of the smart water meters.
How the Orion Badger Smart Water Meters work
An RF engineer, Mitch Maifeld, reviewed the RF information from Badger Meters and the FCC. This is what we understand to be true about how the meters work..
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 endpoints. 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 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 RF engineers report for the Badger smart water meters can be found here. Here’s a comparison chart for water, electric and gas smart meters.