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City digs deeper into smart meters

The City of Richmond wants to dig deeper into the growing BC Hydro Smart Meter controversy before it calls for a moratorium on the wireless devices being installed into people's homes.

The City of Richmond wants to dig deeper into the growing BC Hydro Smart Meter controversy before it calls for a moratorium on the wireless devices being installed into people's homes.

A 40-strong delegation of concerned residents descended on city hall Tuesday night to call on city council to demand a halt to the smart meter installation until more research into the effects is carried out.

Many of them believe the state-of-the-art meters will, over time, cause health problems and invade the privacy of the homeowner.

The residents, led by mom-of-one Michelle Khong, requested the city put pressure on the province and BC Hydro to slap a moratorium on the meter installation in Richmond.

City council, however, decided to ask staff to look into the issues first before it officially asks the province to stall the smart meter program. "The residents who were there were from all age groups and backgrounds and quite a few with medical concerns," said Khong, who got involved after signing a petition driven by one of the smart meter protest groups - Citizens for Safe Technology.

"A few members of council echoed our concerns, which is good, considering this whole thing has not been handled in a very democratic way.

"This has not been monitored and not been scrutinized by a third party."

Khong, who lives in west Richmond's Seafair community, said she's managed thus far to fend off BC Hydro from installing the new meter, telling them blankly over the phone not to bother coming to her house and posting a notice to the same effect over her current hydro meter.

"My street does have the meters, but some of us have refused," she said.

"I was told that I have no choice and that they would send out a specialized team to contact me. But that was a month ago and I haven't heard anything from them."

Although municipalities appear not to have any power over whether the smart meters can be installed, they can bring pressure to bear, Khong said.

"There are 20 other cities in B.C. that have requested a moratorium be placed on the installation of the smart meters," she said.

"The cities have no jurisdiction, but they can represent the people and give them a voice."

Khong said she's especially worried about the accumulative exposure over time to the wireless waves emitted from the new meters on her child.

Coun. Ken Johnston was one of a few on city council who would've been quite happy to call for a moratorium right off the bat, similar to the one called for last month by the Union of BC Municipalities at its annual convention.

"I didn't have a problem with a moratorium being called for now, especially since it followed on from the UBCM resolution," Johnston said.

"The moratorium is just that, something that puts the breaks on while we get more information."

Any moratorium that might be called will be too late for Johnston, who came home about a month ago to find his computer and other electrical devices blinking away, as if the power had been out.

"These characters (BC Hydro) trumped in and changed (the meter) over without me knowing," he said.

"I came back one day and the computer wasn't working and everything was blinking, like after an outage. I didn't receive any notification.

"So I do understand the part about intrusion and it being forced down our throats."

Among the areas city council asked staff to look into were: the issues raised by the delegation; get input from the city's medical health officer; get information on the status of smart meters in Richmond; matters of jurisdiction between the various parties involved; what the city's role in granting protections may be, and the associated costs.

Staff are expected to report back to council early in November.

Earlier this year, Richmond homes were the first in B.C. to have the new meters installed.

Hydro crews have already installed 100,000 smart meters across B.C., scheduled to rise to 250,000 later this fall.

acampbell@richmond-news.com