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Council to address Monroeville residents' smart meter concerns

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, 5:42 p.m.

Monroeville officials plan to reach out to the state Public Utility Commission after hearing residents' concerns that smart meters measuring electrical usage may be a health hazard and a cause for other concerns.

A state law requires utilities to install the new electronic meters for customers.

But residents urged council at separate meetings this month to help stop utility companies from installing the meters.

“We're looking into it and looking into what the smart meters are really all about,” Mayor Greg Erosenko said Monday. “We heard from some residents and have (our) solicitor looking on his end.”

The issue was first brought up by resident Francis Hriadil at council's Oct. 6 workshop meeting. He said he has health, safety, privacy and security concerns about the meters. Critics say health concerns are rooted in the radio frequency emitted by the meters.

“I think this is a public safety issue and a serious one,” he said.

PUC press secretary Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said Tuesday the state statute requiring the digital meters addresses energy efficiency, reliability improvements and potential cost savings for consumers.

Duquesne Light spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling said the meter exchange program is part of Pennsylvania's Act 129 of 2008, which requires all customers in the state to receive a digital meter.

“Duquesne Light takes customer health and data protection very seriously,” Yingling said. “The radio frequency output of the new digital meters is consistent with the output of our current meters that have been transmitting data for the past 20 years. In addition, smart meters are being deployed with multiple layers of security controls designed to protect the privacy and security of customer data.”

The digital meters provide 24/7 usage information, high-bill alerts and a variety of information to help customers manage their bills, she added.

Councilman Paul Caliari said he would like to find a way to give residents who do not want a smart meter an option not to have one.

“I think it's a good fight to pick,” Caliari said.

Hraidil said he posted signs notifying Duquesne Light that he does not consent to the company being on his property and installing a smart meter, and he was the only one on Shady Ridge Drive that has not received one. He said he contacted Duquesne Light and the PUC seeking to opt out of the meter exchange, but to no avail.

Resident Rose Reed said at council's Oct. 11 regular meeting that she contacted Duquesne Light and the PUC as well about smart meters, and was told they are safe.

“I wish we would have done something two or three years ago to do something about this,” Reed said. “I truly believe that these are dangerous. I have three young grandchildren in Monroeville. I don't want them to get sick.”

But unless the state law is changed, conversion to smart meters is inevitable.

“Under the law, there is no opt-out provision,” Hagen-Frederiksen said. “The reality is opting out would require a change in state law and that's not a change that the PUC could institute.”

Yingling said Duquesne Light customers receive letters about 30 days prior to when meters will be switched and reminder phone calls one week in advance. On the day of an exchange, if property owners aren't home, workers will leave a notice that the meter was changed.

“In Monroeville, the residential smart meter exchange began in May and is nearly complete today,” said Yingling. “While we have not been recently contacted by Monroeville officials about any concerns, we're happy to meet with them.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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