MARSHFIELD, Wis. (AP) - Meter readers for utility companies will soon be a thing of the past in one Wisconsin community.
Marshfield Utilities said it will begin replacing old electric and water meters with new wireless ones in June. The new meters will transmit data documenting energy and water use to the utility company's office, eliminating the need for meter readers, assistant utility manager Bob Trussoni said.
The utility is switching to wireless meters because its old ones are obsolete and replacement parts are hard to find, Trussoni said. Replacing all the meters will take two to three years and cost about $4.5 million.
But Trussoni told News-Herald Media that the move will ultimately save money and pay for itself in four to six years. He also said the wireless meters would eliminate the chance for errors made by reader meters, and the utility will know as soon as outages occur.
Now, the company might not be aware of a power outage or water leak until a customer calls, and some leaks aren't visible right away, Trussoni said. The wireless meters will send the utility data four times per day.
Marshfield Mayor Chris Meyer said some residents have raised concerns about radio frequency radiation and electromagnetic radiation emitted by the wireless meters. Others are worried hackers or the government could quickly shutdown the system, leaving homes and businesses without power or water.
But Meyer said many communities nationwide have already switched to wireless meters and government and independent studies have found them safe.
"People have Wifi in their homes, and you hold your cellphone up to your ear every day," Meyer said. "All of that emits a lot more (electromagnetic radiation) than the short amount of time each day a smart meter transmits data."
Trussoni said it might be possible for customers to opt out of the program and keep an old-fashioned meter. It would likely cost them $15 to $25 per month for readings, he said. The state Public Service Commission would have to approve any opt-out option.
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