Residents across B.C. are being asked to join a class action lawsuit against BC Hydro that would deliver a permanent opt-out from the controversial smart meter program.
Delta resident Maria Plant plans to pony up the $100 cost to join the lawsuit, saying she’s upset with the way the meters were rolled out.
Plant said BC Hydro assured customers the smart meters aren’t harmful, but have not assured people they’re safe because they don’t know what the long-term effects of exposure to smart meters might be.
“People assume, as I did, that technology is safe for us because Health Canada and the government protects us,” she said. “So, I had assumed that, for instance, my cordless phone technology was getting better, not worse.”
But Plant said she started getting reactions in her eardrums to electromagnetic field emissions (EMFs) from objects like cordless and cell phones, microwaves, televisions, and other electrical devices. During prolonged exposure to EMFs, Plant said she gets headaches, a common side effect of those who are sensitive to the emissions.
As smart meters emit EMF pulses to BC Hydro data collectors installed throughout the province, Plant said she is upset she needs to be exposed to them everywhere she goes.
Many objectors claim health concerns or sensitivity to EMFs, although third-party tests have found emissions from smart meters are low compared to other sources.
BC Hydro’s smart meters operate at significantly lower radio transmit power than cell phones and are active for less than one minute for day, transmitting the radio frequency equivalent of a 30-minute cell phone call over its 20-year life span. As well, the smart meter collector uses about one watt of power.
Dr. Patricia Daly, the Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, confirms there is no known health risk and no reason for concern.
Plant lives in a condo strata and was concerned BC Hydro would do a blanket installation while nobody was home. So she wrote to her strata property manager, who took her concerns seriously. Only one smart meter has been installed in her building so far.
The provincial government has indicated those who still have analog power meters they want to keep will be able to pay around $20 a month extra to continue manual meter readings.
“What is the government allowing this sort of experimentation to be done on human beings?” said Plant. “To me, it’s outrageous, unethical, and totalitarian.”
BC Hydro has installed an estimated 96 per cent of the smart meters across B.C., although 60,000 households have refused their installation.
Victoria resident Sharon Noble, with the group Citizens for Safe Technology, said success in convincing a judge to certify the class action may hinge on how many people take part.
She estimated Wednesday that 100 to 150 people are registered–a start she called slow–but added hundreds more sign-ups are likely in progress.
Given the number of people who have blocked smart meter installation or had one installed against their wishes, she said, it would be surprising if thousands don’t join the lawsuit.
“The courts would be very influenced by having a large number,” Noble said, adding a judge could soon begin considering whether to certify the class action.
“The more people we have signed on by then, the more likely the courts would look on this as being a very significant movement, as opposed to a movement of a handful.”
BC Hydro has not yet issued its response to the claim filed on July 25.
“BC Hydro will work through the judicial process to explain why we are obligated to replace a customer’s meter when there is potential for a safety hazard,” said Greg Reimer, executive vice-president of transmission and distribution, in a statement.
He said both the B.C. Court of Appeal and B.C. Utilities Commission have previously dismissed smart meter legal challenges and that Hydro has “acted at all times within the law.”
–with files from Jeff Nagel