Home > Consumer Action, Health, Technology, Trends > Marin County Says No To Smart Meters

Marin County Says No To Smart Meters

January 3, 2011

This is a great example of TAKING CHARGE OF OUR LIVES and a county working for its community and not for the corporate monopoly of energy providers: Read this important story here…


PG&E doesn’t need permission from communities to install the meters. In fact, 100,000 of the 216,000 smart meters slated for Marin are already in place. Statewide, PG&E has installed nearly 8 million of 10 million meters planned and expects to wrap up the project by early 2012. Similar rollouts are happening nationwide, with PG&E leading the way.

David Wientjes opposes smart meters just as ardently, but his tactics are different. A longtime commercial real-estate businessman who works out of San Francisco’s Financial District for GVA Kidder Matthews, he believes that compiling reputable scientific studies on the health impacts of electromagnetic radiation is the only way to stop smart meters. It’s also the only way, he believes, to preserve the health of his wife, Barbara, who he says suffers acutely from a condition known as electrical sensitivity. The mainstream medical establishment generally dismisses the condition, whose pathology is not fully understood, but its effect on the Wientjeses’ lives has been profound.

In 1994, the couple moved from Mill Valley to a cottage in San Anselmo. They loved the home and its proximity to downtown shops. Four years later, however, Barbara, who has a history of chemical sensitivity, was besieged by a series of ailments: dizziness, disorientation, tinnitus, muscle spasms, body pain. The symptoms worsened over time, compounded by an inflammation in her cheeks, constant headaches and declining eyesight, until soon they were too much to bear.

“Our life was just in a mess,” Wientjes says. “I thought it was psychosomatic. I’m in business; I’m not an environmentalist; I’m not a health professional. I just want my life to be normal.” For two years, the couple struggled to pinpoint the source of Barbara’s illness. Doctors ran plenty of tests, but found nothing. Then, in 2000, Barbara Wientjes met Joan Ripple, founder of the Novato advocacy group Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, who told her about electrical sensitivity.

“It’s always about the question of choice.” Smart meters are another example of “foisting technologies by technocratic decree with no democratic input whatsoever,” he says. “It’s outrageous.” To get their point across, Brangan and Heddle produce films: 18 complete documentaries so far, plus another 60 shorter clips for the web. In addition to documenting the anti-smart-meter movement, they actively participate in it. Brangan frequently attends public meetings to deliver slide shows on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. With a bright demeanor and a youthful energy that belies her 63 years, she supports anti-smart-meter activists in Marin and beyond, staying abreast of the latest information, distributing it to a wide network of contacts, fostering collaboration and circling back to record the results. This self-perpetuating cycle keeps her at the center of the action.

“You have to understand that the body is biochemical-electrical,” she says. “Cells operate through a very complex way of assessing the environment through positive and negative charges … but then you get all these man-made sources coming in, [with no thought] about their compatibility with biological systems at all. No one was thinking about that.”

Like Sandizell-Smith and the Wientjeses, Brangan, who says she’s mildly electrical-sensitive, came to West Marin seeking sanctuary from urban environments. Now, living by the beach in Bolinas, she’s careful to keep wireless and electronic pollution out, a fact I was reminded of when I went to meet her and Heddle. The new smart phone in my pocket, after all, had come with a worrisome disclaimer: “Do NOT use the device in a manner such that is in direct contact with the body. Such use will likely exceed the FCC radio frequency safety exposure limits.”

Those cautionary words are no small consolation for Brangan and her cohorts. Not only did the CPUC in late October recommend a formal investigation into the health effects of smart meters, but if cell-phone manufacturers can disclose radiation risks in fine print, they reason, it must be only a matter of time before the same information can be used to defeat the wireless meters that already adorn millions of homes throughout California.

%d bloggers like this: