By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Audrey Parker says she has paid her water bill on time for the past 20 years, but that didn’t stop the city of Baraboo from shutting off the great-grandmother’s water supply Tuesday.
The 81-year-old Parker says it’s because she wouldn’t let the city replace her analog water meter with a new ‘smart meter’ – a battle she’s fought with City Hall for more than a year now.
“(Monday) I went to see the Mayor (Mike Palm). The cutoff day was this (Tuesday) morning and I thought the city might relent,” Parker told Wisconsin Reporter. “Yesterday they came and I wouldn’t let them in.”
A little after 9 a.m. Tuesday, though, Parker left her house to go to the post office. When she returned she found a disconnect notice taped to her front door.
“I saw the blue flag marking the water line and I said, ‘Uh-oh,’” she said. “I thought they might have relented, but not this time. They’re trying to set an example of me.”
Parker received similar notices over the past year, but the city didn’t act on its threats.
Parker told the committee she’s had heart palpitations since the city installed ‘smart’ gas and electric meters outside her home in spring 2012, and that she had health and privacy concerns with the smart meter for her water.
And, she just doesn’t like the city telling her what to do inside her own home.
The committee denied the opt-out and gave Parker two weeks to allow the city to change the meter. Those two weeks turned into more than nine months.
Smart meters use radio frequency waves to send usage information between a utility customer’s home and their utility company. The high-tech gauges are a key link in the transition to the Smart Grid, the shared initiative of the federal government and the energy industry to modernize the nation’s electricity transmission and distribution system. There’s a lot of taxpayer money involved in a myriad programs to bring the Smart Grid and smart meters online.
The U.S. Department of Energy has spent at least $$2.96 billion on Smart Grid projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus.
The use of radio frequency, the technology used in microwaves, cell phones, Wi-Fi networks and baby monitors, has some, like Parker, concerned about the long-term health effects.
Opponents of the meters cite anecdotal evidence of a variety of health-related problems, from migraines and nausea to insomnia, seizures and heart problems. They point to studies on cellphones as evidence of the danger of the technology in smart meters. A New York Times article noted that “Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have found less than an hour of cellphone use can speed up brain activity,” raising questions about the health effects of low levels of radiation emitted from cellphones.
Parker says she won’t back down on refusing the smart meter, even if it means buying bottled water to drink and using rain barrel water to flush the toilet.
“I’ll get by without it,” the octogenarian said, noting she was raised on a farm without running water. “They’ve been heavy handed. They’re not acting like public officials, they’re acting like totalitarians. I don’t like to be threatened. I’m not going to buckle.
“I don’t think people buckled when they built this country,” she added.
Parker isn’t alone in her resistance.
In Illinois, two women were arrested for interfering with smart meter installation, according to KATU.com in Portland, Ore. In Texas, a woman pulled a gun on a utility worker.
Baraboo city officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Contact Ryan Ekvall at email@example.com