Some Springdale residents resisting 'smart' water meters
Since the borough shut off her water Friday, Cindee Zlacki of Springdale has been using her neighbor's outdoor hose to fill her ailing husband's nebulizer.
It's but one of the many hardships she's faced since refusing to comply with the borough's mandated smart meter system by its Aug. 30 deadline.
The system uses radio technology to replace traditional water meters as a way to reduce costs and expedite services. But some people are resisting smart meters over the perceived health risks of its microwave radiation emissions.
With two epileptic sons and a husband with emphysema, Zlacki is one of six Springdale residents refusing to adopt the mandated system.
The mother of seven finds herself in a standoff with the borough, which won't provide water service until she installs the smart meters in her home.
“I'm not putting anything in my home that will harm my kids,” she said. “This is a democracy and you're supposed to have choices. I don't understand how the borough thinks they can force me into this position.”
Springdale crews began replacing traditional meters with the radio technology more than two years ago in every residential and commercial building, according to council President David Finley. By this August, the borough had installed smart meters in all but 22 of the borough's buildings and residencies.
Finley said the borough delivered doorknocker notices in mid-August to those 22 residencies, warning of an end-of-the-month water shutoff should they fail to comply with the mandate.
By the month's end, 16 had installed the smart meters. The borough shut off water to the six that refused or failed to install the radio technology.
“It was a very simple decision,” Finley said. “Either we showed those 22 people out of about 1,700 preferential treatment, or we issue a response and get everything back on track.”
John Molnar, Springdale council street and water chairman, said the $300,000 project was a necessary upgrade from the decades-old water meters. With all of the user's consumption data being streamlined into a centralized unit, the new service saves residents hundreds of dollars each year, he said.
“We used to have to pay for guys to physically go out and check the meters,” he said. “Now, that cost is essentially eliminated as all of the information we need is funneled into one location.”
The streamlining of user data is another aspect of the system that its opponents criticize. Groups such as the Harrisburg-based Stop Smart Meters in PA decry the consolidation of data because they say it leaves users' sensitive information vulnerable to computer hacking.
Lisa Nanollas, the group's founder, said smart meters deliver to utility providers information regarding the time and location of when various water functions occur within the person's residence. A computer hacker, she said, could determine patterns like when the homeowner typically showers.
“If someone breaks a pattern for a couple days, or if there is no activity at all, hackers could tell when you're not home,” she said. “It's like living with your door open every day.”
While Zlacki also considers this aspect of smart meters a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, the Springdale woman's top concern rests in the safety of her husband and children.
A Vietnam veteran, her husband requires a nebulizer and assisted oxygen to battle his emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Two of her seven children, both adolescent boys, suffer from epileptic seizures. The older of the two spent 153 days in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC last year after a bout of frequent seizures. His condition is still very unstable, while his younger brother has been seizure-free for over a year.
Zlacki said she worries that the microwave radiation that smart meters have been found to emit will cause muscle spasms and subsequent seizures in her epileptic boys. She also said the meters have been known to disrupt pacemakers and fears it could interfere with her husband's ventilator.
“I'm not going back to where we were last year,” she said. “They will not make me do this.”
As the distribution of water is controlled by the borough, Springdale doesn't fall under the oversight of the Public Utility Commission, so Zlacki can not exercise her right to opt out under Pennsylvania Act 129.
And Springdale Council would not consider authorizing the borough to turn on Zlacki's water should she present the council with a valid medical excuse, according to Finley.
Zlacki said she's unsure what her next move for her children and sick husband is as her family remains without water.
“I'm probably going to have to move,” she said. “Where, I don't know.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Leechburg man charged with molesting girls, watching child pornography
- Teenage suspect in Leechburg killing held for trial
- Springdale Township standoff ends peacefully
- Brackenridge nonprofit organization dreams BIG
- Death of Burrell student-athlete prompts Noah’s Law
- Blasting to last a year at Freeport Brick mine location
- Stray bald eagle does flyby at Hays nest
- Mia Z (Zanotti) of Hyde Park advances on NBC’s ‘The Voice’
- Late-night fire that gutted Springdale house not suspicious
- Eagles again flourishing in Western Pa.
- Changing drilling climate could limit Tarentum’s chances of leasing land