The Le Sueur City Council chose to remove an electricity meter from the home of a woman who claims it is causing her and her daughter pain.
Nancy Halbmaier stepped up to the microphone during the public comment portion of the Jan. 9 meeting and said the city’s new electricity meters were causing her pain. The City Council listened to her pleas and gave staff direction to remove the meter from the outside of her home and send it to be tested.
Halbmaier said the pain originated from a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, where electromagnetic radiation causes an array of symptoms. Across the country and in Canada, claims of EM-hypersensitivity have sprouted up, with symptoms ranging from nausea to headaches to tinnitus. The existence of the condition has been debated, but it is hard to prove if symptoms are caused by electromagnetic waves or other sources.
In addition to the pain, Halbmaier said she had not been notified that the device was going to be installed. The city had sent out a letter of notification to indicate a “drive-by” device would be installed, but it was not specified that it would be a smart device.
After a meeting with city officials, Halbmaier was told she could pay to have her meter replaced with a older model and for the time of a city employee to read the meter. She was not pleased with this response, saying that she shouldn’t need to pay for something installed without her consent.
Mayor Greg Hagg said he was glad that Halbmaier came to talk about her issue because he wants to make sure it is addressed.
“When it comes down to an adult suffering, but also a child,” Hagg said, “I don’t think any of us are qualified to make a decision.”
Hagg said he wanted to do right by residents and protect the city from potential litigation. He also noted that this action was unusual, but the medical concerns prompted action.
The issues started when city workers installed a smart meter to measure her home’s electricity usage Nov. 21. The meter uses electromagnetic signals to allow workers in a passing vehicle to measure the meter’s readings.
Halbmaier said she came home from work late on the evening of Nov.21, and did not enter the TV room, the room closest to the meter. However, she said did notice that the meter had been installed. The next day, she said she was sitting in her TV room after returning home from work and noticed a ringing in her ears. That ringing and headache has persisted since that day.
“It’s the most godawful screeching,” she said after the meeting.
The pain, which affects both her and her daughter, has relegated her to the basement of her home, the furthest indoor location from the signal’s origin.
After her presentation, Peter Favolise, father to Council member John Favolise and a retired engineer, told the council that the meter should not be putting out enough of an EM signal to cause problems.
Favolise said the meters put out a signal about about 26 milliwatts from 1 foot in front of the meter, at 10 feet away, the wattage drops to about .007 mW, an average laptop Wi-Fi signal sits at around 32 mW.
The device will be removed Jan. 10 or 11, and then sent for testing to attempt find the source of the issues.