Burr Ridge, Illinois, urges *permanent* opt-out option for ComEd smart meters

Robert Daniel 7 years ago updated 7 years ago 0

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James Holderman isn't taking any chances.

The Burr Ridge resident has a sign over his electric meter informing any subcontractor in the ComEd smart meter program that he has deferred installation and to not put one of the new radio frequency, message transmitting meters on his home. He said his 18-month-old son's main play area inside the house is just feet away from where the existing meter sits on the outside of his home.

With his son's new fascination of watching from the play area's bay window as his dad cuts the grass, Holderman said he does not want his son exposed to the radio-frequency pulses a smart meter would transmit during his 30 minutes of yard maintenance.

The Burr Ridge resident said he has been investigating radio frequency and smart meters ever since ComEd made a March presentation to the Village Board about meter installation in the community.

His research was instrumental in village trustees Monday unanimously approving a resolution urging ComEd to provide residents with a way to permanently opt out of the smart meter installation program. Right now, under state law, residents not wanting a smart meter in their home can only defer having the meter until three years after the completion of the installation program, slated to end in 2019.

"Every parent should have the right to not have a smart meter in their home," Holderman said.

The village's resolution will be sent to the chief executive officer of Commonwealth Edison, the chairperson of the Illinois Commerce Commission, Gov. Bruce Rauner, House and Senate leaders of the Illinois General Assembly, and state House and Senate members representing Burr Ridge.

The village will also put information in residents' water bills.

Holderman's research and the village resolution points out that a recent study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, a federal inter-agency group under the National Institute of Health, has found rare forms of cancer in some male rats that were exposed to radio-frequency radiation and lower birth weights in the litters of female rats exposed to RF radiation. In 2011, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones as a "possible carcinogen."

The American Cancer Society states that because smart meters give off RF radiation as well "it is possible that smart meters could increase cancer risk. Still, it isn't clear what risk, if any, there might be from living in a home with a smart meter."

ComEd has said the meters do not pose a health risk.

"Although smart meters use radio technology, under typical circumstances a person would receive significantly less RF exposure from a smart meter than from many other electronic devices that are used daily, including cordless phones, cell pones, microwave ovens and baby monitors," the company's website states.

Trustees noted with cellphones, microwaves and other radio-frequency transmitting devices, it is a person's choice to use them. Right now, residents have no choice regarding the smart meters, they said.

Two village trustees, Diane Bolos and Paula Murphy, have already deferred installation of the smart meters for their own homes. Both trustees called a one-hour meeting earlier this month with ComEd officials, as well as Holderman and village administrator Steve Stricker, disappointing.

"ComEd couldn't be bothered," Bolos said, noting the power company officials present spent much of the meeting reading the company's written responses to the village's questions about smart meters.

The trustee said that when people call ComEd at 1-866-368-8326 they need to use the right language and stand their ground on the phone. She noted if residents say they want to "opt out" of the program, they will be told there is no opt-out option.

"You have to say 'defer',' not 'opt out,'" Bolos said, adding that it took 35 minutes for her to get the deferral done with ComEd. "I would strongly encourage everyone to defer."

Murphy said she paid $75 to have a smart meter uninstalled from her home and is paying a $25 monthly fee to have her meter read manually. She said the additional money paid to ComEd is for her "family's health."

She said the village's resolution falls under the trustees' responsibilities.

"We have to be concerned for everyone's health and well-being," Murphy said.

The question was raised as to how much impact the village's resolution will have.

Stricker noted that the village is a smaller community "in a sea of a lot of other municipalities," but said he would spread the word on regional panels with which he is involved.

"It just takes one (community) to get things started," Bolos said.

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