Smart water meter project needs answers

A letter to the editor published in last week’s edition of the Ponoka News seems to have generated a lot of interest

A letter to the editor published in last week’s edition of the Ponoka News seems to have generated a lot of interest and discussion in the community as evidenced by the two letters to the editor on the same subject, which are placed next to this column.

One of the letters almost ridicules the health concerns raised in the original letter while the other finds those reservations justifiable.

If one carefully reads the first letter submitted by Mr. Huddleston, it is easy to conclude that there is more than mere microwave paranoia in that letter, including such matters as durability of the new water meters and the potential of this change bringing about unjustifiably higher costs to home owners in the form of bloated water bills, among others.

First and foremost, we have to be respectful to people’s health concerns whether we agree with them or not. Let’s remember that the jury is still out on whether and how much the electromagnetic waves are harmful to human health. While the extent of harmful effects of being exposed to those waves has not been definitively proven, the negative impact has not been disproven, either.

If anything, world’s most credible health authority, World Health Organization, says the following in a fact sheet on the potential harm caused by the electromagnetic waves on human health: “Mobile phone use is ubiquitous with an estimated 4.6 billion subscriptions globally. The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

That we are exposed to those waves either through cell phone communications or wifi networks on a daily basis does not mean that we shouldn’t refrain from more exposure to them.

Secondly, is there an ironclad case for the benefits that might be derived from the change to the new water meter? It is said that thousands of man/hours will be saved in labour costs by switching to the new gadgets. When the Ponoka News editorial desk inquired about the cost/benefit analysis of the change, the following response was given by the town office: “The Town won’t know this until every facility in the community is metered and then we can compare to the before project conditions; therefore the Town will not make any assumptions until we have the proper indicators in place and the time required to complete the proper comparative benefit analysis.”

Is this a sound basis to start implementing a project that will cost the town a more than a million dollars in taxpayers’ money in addition to the costs to be incurred by homeowners?

Readers and residents of the community should make up their own mind on this.

Thirdly, there is considerable suspicion about the durability of the equipment to be installed by the company contracted by the town administration for this project, Neptune Technologies. Our phone calls to the company and requests for interviews with the officials of the company appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Conventional wisdom would dictate that a company that would be taking on a big project in a new community would try to embark on an effort to establish communication lines with the main stakeholders and try to make its brand a household name.

Why is the company failing to respond to inquiries? Do they have something to hide?

And the town says they have contracted Neptune technologies but doesn’t say how. Was there a bidding process, if yes, was the community made aware of the process? Because this is a matter that will affect each and every household in the community, was there an informative town hall meeting explaining the ins and outs of the change?

Finally, let’s remember that smart water meters have been controversial in more than one instance: two jurisdictions, in B.C. and Saskatchewan, have either suspended or backtracked in the implementation of mandatory switchover projects within their territories.

It seems the onus is on the town leadership and management to allay the suspicion and concerns among townsfolk on the water meter upgrade project.