Worthing resident raises safety concerns over new water meters

Paul Varley
Paul Varley

SOUTHERN Water has dispelled concerns its new automatic water meters could cause cancer or even catch fire.

“Intelligent” Automatic Meter Readers (AMRs) are set to be rolled out across the whole of Sussex, Hampshire and Kent by the end of 2015 – with 35,000 meters coming to the Worthing and Lancing areas alone.

The meters – the most advanced in the water industry – use wireless technology to transmit readings from the meter itself, which are then picked up by special equipment carried by a Southern Water engineer. In some cases, the engineer can drive a van down a street to pick up all the readings from all the individual meters.

However, alarm bells were raised when resident Paul Varley researched the AMRs on the internet, finding evidence of the “smart meters” emitting potentially dangerous radiation.

Paul, 36, of Hudson Close, Worthing, said: “When I received my letter telling me I will be getting a meter within the next month, I looked them up on the net to see what they were about. I was horrified by what I found – I don’t want one of these near my home.”

Paul found a letter from a Swedish medical expert, Dr Olle Johannson, to the California Public Utilities Commission, which warned against the use of wireless smart meters due to the dangers of frequent exposure to radiofrequency radiation, which has been determined as a type of carcinogen by the World Health Organisation. Paul also found reports of the meters catching fire in Australia, New Zealand and America.

“To me, the meters seem to do more harm than good,” he said. “I’m all for conserving water but the evidence is that these meters are not safe.”

Paul added: “I’ve read the waves affect people with a depleted immune system the most. I am a type-1 diabetic, so I fall under that category, and other members of my family have conditions which leave them with a weaker immune system. So I fear for the health of myself and my family.”

Southern Water defended the installation of the meters, saying the model of the meters being installed had been chosen through a thorough selection process, which looked at all aspects of its performance, including safety and reliability. The company also stressed the new meters have no direct connection to the electrical wiring in customers’ homes, reducing the risk of fire.

A spokesperson said: “The majority of the new meters are being installed in the public footpath immediately outside a customer’s property, with a small proportion needing to be installed inside properties, normally in the kitchen or bathroom. The transmissions from the new water meters are very low powered and substantially below any recognised thresholds which could potentially cause harm, and are broadly equivalent to Wi-Fi devices used in wireless home computer networks.”