Port Angeles couple fighting new smart meter

Port Angeles couple fighting new smart meter »Play Video
Virginia and Tom Leinart look at a box they have built to enclose the electric meter at their home on March 5, 2014 in Port Angeles, Wash. (AP Photo/The Peninsula Daily News, Keith Thorpe)
PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) - The city electrical utility has threated to cut off power to a home unless the owners remove a box that blocks installation of a smart meter that sends readings wirelessly to City Hall.

The signals threaten human health and violate their right to privacy, say Virginia and Tom Leinart.

To block the installation of a wireless digital meter, they've built a box on the side of their house around the existing meter so it can be read, but not replaced, the Peninsula Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1lC5q0l) Thursday.

The city has ordered the couple to remove the box.

"I feel threatened. I feel harassed. I also feel afraid of what the city is going to do with us," Virginia Leinart told City Council members at Tuesday's meeting.

The Leinarts received a Feb. 27 letter from Rick Hostetler, city customer service manager, saying their box must be removed "to ensure the safety of our staff as well as maintaining the electrical integrity of your home."

Hostetler told her by phone that service could be stopped in 10 to 15 days if she refused to cooperate, she said.

The power won't be cut until after an electric inspector meets with the Leinarts to explain the code and compliance, said Craig Fulton, city public works and utilities director.

The Leinarts are among 49 residents who have asked the city to refrain from installing new smart meters on their homes.

City officials say smart meters collect only utility usage data and pose no greater risk to human health than cellphones.

City code requires that utility staff have "free and safe" access to meters in the event they need to be accessed quickly during an emergency, Fulton said, adding that cutting off service is the last option.