West Bloomfield resident Kathy Warras knew there was something wrong when she started waking up in the middle of the night last May with horrible headaches.
Kathy and her husband Bryan had spent several months away from their Oakland County home, as they do each winter.
Upon returning last year, they discovered that a Smart Meter had been placed on the home they have lived in for the past 25 years — just 10 feet away from their bed.
And Kathy said this is what is making her sick.
“Eventually, I was waking up every night like that,” Kathy said. “I thought, maybe I’m dehydrated … I started filling up a thing with water and I was drinking it everyday. That didn’t help … and the headaches were getting more intense.”
Smart Meters, or advanced meters, use radio frequency networks similar to those in cell phones, wifi signals or microwaves to record the amount of electricity used in a home or business.
The West Bloomfield Township board unanimously supported a resolution on Nov. 17 in support of a residential opt-out of Smart Meters.
West Bloomfield has 33,000 homes with Smart Meters — some homes with two meters, according to Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste. DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons said there are 50 million, advanced meters across the U.S., or 43 percent of homes.
“There’s been a lot of different tests and basically we remain confident and the safety, security and benefits provided by the meters,” Simons said.
Out of those 33,000 in West Bloomfield, only 22 have opted-out and many residents don’t even know they have one. West Bloomfield joins 35 communities across the state to pass these resolutions, Ureste said.
The outcry has prompted the Michigan House Oversight Committee will hold a special hearing on Dec. 2.
State Rep. Tom McMillin, committee chair, called for the hearing after being contacted by many constituents and other citizens about privacy, health and safety concerns relating to the meters.
“With this hearing, we’re giving the people of Michigan an open and transparent platform to not only voice their concerns but hopefully have them addressed by public utility officials” said McMillin, R-Rochester Hills. “Residents have contacted my office, terrified that their power will be shut off after receiving letters from utility companies threatening to do just that if they don’t allow a smart meter to be installed on their home, even though they have a perfectly working analog meter.”
One of those constituents is Clarkston resident Georgetta Livingstone, a former engineering instructor at Oakland University, who said DTE cut her electricity this spring after she paid someone to install an analog meter back on her home.
“When the smart meter went on my home, I had a total breakout on my body. It looked like an allergic reaction,” said Livingstone. “I decided to take action myself, and had the analog meter put on.”
After her power was cut, she was reduced to “primitive life,” she said, having to use the restroom at a nearby Kroger and take showers at a neighbor’s home. When she searched for answers, she connected with the group working with McMillin.
“I was so glad that someone else sees the problem here,” Livingstone said. “These companies should allow the customer to have a choice … I don’t want to be told what to do.”
DTE’s Simons in October said that out of two million meters installed by DTE, there have been 3,200 requests to opt out. He added that DTE takes every case on an individual basis, but “to take our meter and replace it with something else is against the law.”
While many are against the meters, Oakland County resident Pat Priestley said she’s happy to have hers.
“I live in Rose Township where the electric lines are all overhead that run through trees … it’s a very rural area,” said Priestley, a retired Holly Area Youth Assistance worker. “In 2012, my electric went out 19 times. Before the smart meters were installed, if the electric went out, I had to call to report the outage and then wait sometimes 8-12 hours before a DTE truck would show up to find out where the outage was.”
Now, with the smart meters, Priestley said she still calls when her electricity goes down, but “DTE knows quickly where the outages are and sometimes they just flick a switch and we are back with electricity.”
Oak Park resident and President of Michigan Stop Smart Meters David Sheldon is against the meters for three main reasons: Health, safety and privacy.
He said that while DTE Energy does have an “opt-out” program for these meters, it is not a true opt-out. When you opt-out now, the DTE customer has to pay an initial $67 and then around $10 per-month for meter readings.
Simons said: “We’ve completed installation in West Bloomfield. Analogue meters just aren’t available anymore, they’re totally obsolete.”
Additionally, the Smart Meter stays on the home and DTE does not put the old analogue meter back. In turn, Sheldon said this gives the homeowner “dirty electricity,” which can actually be worse.
Trustee Lawrence Brown commented that residents haven’t seen any savings with the new meters and supported the resolution for that reason.
“I don’t think anyone should have to pay (to opt-out),” Brown said.
The West Bloomfield resolution is to encourage DTE Energy to give customers a choice between Smart Meters and the traditional analogue meter.