Craig Ruttle works at Antique Alley Movie Props on Front Street, and he has a cautionary tale for people in the city who support the installation of Smart Meters.
"We had a Smart Meter installed in our home in Vancouver and immediately felt ill," said Ruttle. "My wife and I both suffered headaches, nausea, depression (and) difficulty concentrating. - Our general health did not really improve until we moved into a home without a Smart Meter."
Ruttle said that while he can't isolate his health problems to just the installation of the Smart Meter, he believes it is a contributing factor.
He pointed out that the construction of new cellular phone towers in his neighbourhood has also been detrimental to his health and the more he reads up on the issue, the more concerned he becomes.
"Wireless technology that emits microwave radiation causes an instantaneous physical reaction in roughly three per cent of the population," said Ruttle. "It is a cumulative effect. Cellphones, Blackberries, iPods, iPads, wireless phones, Wi-Fi, wireless Smart Meters - are changing the very nature of the element in which we live."
Ruttle even ordered a radiation tester from Israel to monitor the readings in his home.
The solutions to lower microwave radiation can be as simple as having a different kind of Smart Meter. Ruttle pointed out that similar meters in Idaho and Italy are hard-wired to existing phone lines and their net radiation output is zero. In contrast, the Smart Meters B.C. Hydro is putting in, according to Ruttle, emit more than zero and are also more expensive to purchase and operate.
After moving from one place to another in Vancouver, Ruttle found his radiation readings much lower. With Ruttle working in New Westminster, he wants the city to know about the potentially negative effects of Smart Meters and people should be given a choice of the type of technology that enters their home or business.
The good new for Ruttle is that the City of New Westminster said in January that it is in no rush to make a decision about Smart Meters.
While B.C. Hydro plans to install 1.8 million meters in homes and businesses across the province by December, New Westminster owns its own electrical utility. It distributes electricity to 28,000 residential customers and 3,000 commercial/business customers.
The city has until the end of the year to decide whether it wants to piggyback on B.C. Hydro's purchase of Smart Meters and take advantage of their attractive price point or opt for a different digital meter system.
"We are monitoring what B.C. Hydro is doing," said Rod Carle, general manager of the city's electrical utility. "We are not required to put smart meters in."
Carle said the city has yet to determine what technology will be used to replace New Westminster's aging meters.
"Our meters are getting at an age - they are 50-plus years old - where we are going to have to do something," he said. "The current methods we use are outdated."
Carle said the city will be moving to a digital meter but hasn't decided what form that will take.
"Smart meters are the same as digital meters, they just come with different programming which makes some of them smarter than others," he said.
City staff will be holding information sessions with council and its electrical utility commission between March and May.
"Before we do anything at all, they (council) wants to have some kind of workshop," Carle said.
B.C. Hydro said its new meters include measurement technology to determine how much power is being consumed and produced, a computer to store the data collected by the measurement technology, two radios (one to send consumption data and another to allow the customer to help with conservation) and a battery to send a signal to B.C. Hydro when the power goes out.