Springdale woman who rejected smart water meter awaits resolution
Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of articles updating stories covered by the Valley News Dispatch in 2013.
A Springdale woman who refused to comply with the borough's mandated smart-meter system is receiving water service through her traditional meter as litigation continues.
The borough shut off water to Cindee Zlacki's Railroad Street residence for 11 days because she refused to replace her water meter with a digital reader by an Aug. 30 deadline.
The digital readers submit monthly consumption data to a centralized system via radio frequencies. The system is designed to save Springdale taxpayers thousands of dollars in labor costs each year, since borough employees would no longer need to read each meter, according to John Molnar, street and water chairman.
Zlacki refused to comply with the system over fears of radio emissions interfering with her husband's medical equipment. She's expressed concerns, too, that the emissions would cause seizures in her two epileptic sons.
The borough restored Zlacki's water on Sept. 10 when her Pittsburgh-based attorney, John Zagari, filed for an injunction with Allegheny County Court.
Allegheny County Judge Alan Hertzberg gave Zagari and Springdale Solicitor Steve Yakopec until Sept. 18 to reach an agreement lest the matter go to trial. Since then, Judge Hertzberg has called for two continuations, Zlacki said.
Zlacki was not present at either hearing. Zagari and Yakopec could not be reached this week for comment.
Molnar said another hearing date is set “sometime in the near future” but couldn't provide a date. He hopes there is a trial, he said.
“It's been dragging on for so long. I just want it to end,” Molnar said. “We've provided all the documentation needed to prove that they emit less than televisions or cellphones.
“It's not just Springdale doing this, either. It's the whole country. New Kensington is putting them in, and Penn Hills already has it.”
The smart meters installed by the borough are products of Sensus, which calls itself a global utility infrastructure company. The products emit frequencies for less than one second each day and comply with Federal Communications Commission and Environmental Protection Agency safety regulations.
Zlacki, however, cites studies such as one conducted in 2009 by the New York-based Institute for Health and the Environment, which found that the health effects of wireless technologies like smart meters are largely unknown. The report goes on to indicate that their effects could be more damaging than most studies indicate.
Zlacki was unaware of any hearings scheduled for January. She declined to comment on the record about negotiations with the borough.
Council President David Finley told the Valley News Dispatch in September that he believed an exemption for Zlacki would set a precedent allowing anyone to have a smart meter removed. Removing the entire system, he said, would cost about $14,000.
Neither Zlacki nor Molnar could predict how the situation will be resolved.
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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