SCARBOROUGH — Speakers at a public forum Monday on Central Maine Power Co.’s smart meter system urged the utility to slow the project, consider hard-wired meters and allow customers to opt out of having the devices installed at their homes.

About 70 people attended the event, which was organized after the Town Council passed a resolution asking CMP to delay installation and hear residents’ concerns about health and privacy issues. Sanford and Cape Elizabeth have since adopted similar resolutions.

Many of the speakers voiced concerns about radio frequency radiation generated by the system, which includes meters, routers and other equipment.

Betty McLeod of Windham said she is chemically and electrically sensitive. She must be careful about computer use, and her ear burns when she uses a cell phone for more than a few minutes.

“I need my home to be a safe haven; it’s very difficult for people with sensitivities as it is. We need a place where we can regenerate and be safe,” she said.

CMP’s $192 million program aims to replace 620,000 meters with wireless, digital versions in two years. The utility’s subcontactor, VSI Meter Services of Aston, Pa., has switched out about 56,000 meters.

About 250 customers have either asked CMP to skip them or remove the devices from their homes. CMP is honoring those requests, but has said that allowing customers to opt out would dilute the benefits of the program.

The utility expects the new system will allow it to better monitor and manage its system and provide the needed infrastructure for new technologies that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Ultimately, it says, customers will be able to reduce their bills by using the data collected by the system.

John Carroll, a CMP spokesman, said the old meters need workers to read them, a task that requires 2 million miles of driving each year.

Critics of the program have asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission to stop the work and look into the potential health effects of the technology. Opponents — including some who came from as far as Arizona and New York — spoke for more than two hours about health concerns.

Dr. Sean McCloy, a Portland physician, said people are exposed to many things daily, and while many don’t notice the effects, others are more susceptible.

“What really comes to mind is that we should prove this stuff is safe first,” he said.

The CMP representatives who attended to address health concerns had not yet spoken at press time.

In PUC filings, CMP has said the technology is safe and the equipment is approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the studies it reviewed did not indicate any consistent or convincing evidence to support health concerns related to the radio frequencies from smart meters.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]