Southern Company Hides Electric Meter Dangers – Fires the whistle Blower and Hopes not to get Burned

Instead of investigating dangerous reported problems Southern Company COVERS IT UP!

“Smart meters should not be installed on any home, any

where, without a thorough safety investigation.

Manufactured agreed fail rate for the New digital smart meters 0.5%  Actual fail rate 9%!

Meters that Endanger: Shocking Details from a Whistleblower
by A O’Hair ( info [at] stopsmartmeters.org )
Friday Jan 20th, 2012 1:54 PM

Are smart meters just too complex? Are they veritable blackboxes(well, beige) of assorted electronic components, jury-rigged and thrown together in an off-shore factory, and then slapped onto houses without proper safety testing? Sure, we all have electronic devices in the home, but through this particular device passes all the electrical current for the house. That’s a set-up asking for trouble.

From the beginning, smart meters have had problems leading to fires and other electrical dangers. News stories have run all over the U.S. and around the world about installations leading to devastating damage. (Here’s a local SF Bay Area fire we’d like to see more fully investigated.)

A lawsuit made available to us recently detailed just how such faulty equipment could end up attached to the electrical wiring on millions of homes. In Alabama in 2009, a Sensus engineering employee named Don Baker was fired for repeatedly alerting his management to the presence of a multitude of dangerous defects in the smart meter they were manufacturing (model iConA). As he states in the complaint he filed, this whistleblower reported serious flaws in design and functioning that could lead to electrical danger, overheating, and/or fire. In fact, the failure rate of the meters was twenty times higher than it was supposed to be, and the engineer contends that at least two house fires were the result. Sensus meters are used by utilities across the U.S. and in Canada, such as PECO, Alliant Energy, Alabama Power, and NVE.

In May 2010, Mr. Baker filed a complaint [PDF]. The type of suit is called “qui tam”, where an individual alleges harm to his government. This complaint alleges that the manufacturer and the utility companies received federal monies but provided a defective product. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Alabama declined to pursue the case, because the utility said they had not received federal money for the metering project; but the allegations about the dangerous defects in the smart meters made in the complaint have not been refuted or even addressed.

In the complaint Baker relates in detail what makes the meters dangerous, and the allegations are damning—and alarming. A few highlights:

[Meters] may fail dangerously when subjected to a sudden surge of electricity …. Meters found to contain ‘flux’ or loose solder residue …. Calibration equipment not properly designed …. Electric resistor component defective …. Internal temperatures up to 200° Fahrenheit …. Hot socket alarm …. Drastic overheating to the point of catastrophic failure, melting, and burning….

Cutting corners in business and manufacturing is hardly something new; the difference here is just what is at stake: this product is installed in every house in a utility service area, and the electrical current for the house runs through it. Even a half-percent failure rate can result in serious amounts of property damage, or even death, given the total number of “customers”—though this word implies a voluntary acceptance of the product, when in fact installation of smart meters has been very largely involuntary. Truly optional consumer goods actually get more testing than smart meters.

The sort of defects and failures enumerated in this suit might well have been caught with an independent safety-certification process such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL). But these Sensus iConA smart meters, and every other type of smart meter, have never been subjected to such testing.

The suit states: “Mr. Baker has direct personal knowledge that Sensus and Southern Company [the utility] have installed approximately one million iConA meters in Alabama homes with knowledge that the meters are seriously defective and pose a substantial fire hazard and that at least two Alabama homes have burned as a result…. [They] were well aware that the iConA was defective and the entire project flawed.” [Emphasis ours.]

Baker submitted the information he had to the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI in Feb 2010. He contends that the defendants named in the suit, Sensus, Southern Company, and Alabama Power, “perpetuated a fraudulent conspiracy” to obtain $165 million from federal stimulus funding.

These meters were never tested—for either for safety or performance—instead they went straight to out for installation. Then Sensus altered the components and design—again without safety testing. Only one percent of the Sensus meters were tested—for accuracy only—but never on a house while connected to the grid.

“It quickly became apparent that the meters were fundamentally unsound.” Baker states in the filing. “[The contract] carried an acceptable failure rate of 0.5%,” but in the first year, the meters were “failing at a rate of 9.0% per year.” Baker made reports to Sensus management about quality and safety issues, but he was ignored and eventually fired.

What was technically wrong with the smart meters that Sensus was producing? The suit alleges four categories of defects and failures: 1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures; 2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues; 3) Faulty Components; and 4) “Hot Meters.” These technical issues are explained below.

The suit goes on to make three charges against the defendants: 1) False Claims; 2) Conspiracy; and 3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. These legal issues are explained in more detail below.

Corporate recklessness—and lack of regulation to curb it—has remained a core issue in the smart meter debacle. From the Silver Springs Network antenna which increases the power of the radio over FCC limits (see page 14 of this CPUC doc), to arcing problems due to unprofessional installation, to multiple FCC violations, to the lack of any independent safety testingit is clear that if there had been effective government regulation, it could have changed the face of this “deployment” dramatically.

If you don’t like the idea of more government regulation, then how about consumer choice? If individual customers could choose between utilities, even choose their own meter—again, the landscape would also look very, very different.

But instead we are saddled with corporate utility monopolies, aided by government collusion, which adds up to a poisonous combination—whatever your political beliefs might be. It is an arrangement designed to enrich corporations, with impunity.

Why isn’t the public up in arms about these risks of smart-meter fires and explosions? There have no comprehensive investigations by major media. Early in 2011, a major news station in the SF Bay Area was doing work on this. They interviewed us several times as part of an investigation into smart-meter fires. What happened? The story never aired, and calls to the investigative reporters were not returned.

Without coverage in the mainstream media, people will be left to find out about this issue through social networks or independent media–or worse, suffer their own fire or property damage from the meter.

This is yet another reason why the proposed opt-out here in CA is—even with analogs—incomplete and inadequate. Given the growing evidence of fire risk and safety, this is not a device we should be forced to pay to avoid. Smart meters should not be installed on any home, any where, without a thorough safety investigation.

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Technical details from the lawsuit about Sensus meter defects:

1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures: The manufacturer and the utility were both aware, the suit alleges, that the smart meters (iConA) were unsafe and could fail dangerous when subjected to a power surge. [This was certainly evident for another make of smart meter, the one installed in Palo Alto last October.] One critical test was skipped for the Sensus meters, the Electrcial Fast Transient Test (EFT). When this test was performed on a sample of the iConA Sensus meters, they all failed. This was after over 80,000 meters were already installed.

2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues. The complaint states that production of the iConA meters was sloppy. Sensus performed two investigations and found 130,000 meters contained loose solder residue called “flux.” They also found that equipment used by the manufacturer to calibrate was not properly designed, calling into question the accuracy of the meters. This was after 400,000 meters were installed—non of which were recalled for testing. Baker himself has investigated over-reporting meters, and found individual meters giving readings seven times the actual electrical usage.

3) Faulty Components. Baker alleges Sensus and the utilities had reason to suspect that some components that were going into the iConA meter were faulty, with very high failure rates. Well into the delivery process, it was found that an electrical resistor was defective on at least 85,000 meters. Over 170,000 meters were also found to contain another faulty component made by Epson.

4) “Hot Meters.” These Sensus meters, the complaint alleges, posed a risk of injury or death. Sensus knew that 19,000 installed meters were reporting a “hot socket alarm”—that is, the internal temperature was getting over 200°F. Sensus received reports of overheating to the point of melting and burning. The plaintiff Baker documented himself meters reduced to lumps of blackened plastic, while the company insisted a meter couldn’t melt at less than 500°F.

Ultimately it was bringing to the attention of his supervisors a burned meter that resulted in a house fire that ended Don Bakers career at Sensus. Instead of conducting an investigation, they fired him.

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Legal details alleged in the complaint:

1) False Claims. The defendant in the suit, the plaintiff alleges, presented false or fraudulent claims to the U.S. government that their smart grid project was eligible for ARRA funds when it was not. The equipment was defective and unfit.

2) Conspiracy. The defendants acted with the intent to defraud the U.S. by submitting false records to obtain the funds.

3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. The defendants misrepresented or suppressed the fact that the smart meter that formed the basis of their smart grid architecture was dangerously defective.

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Alabama house fires possibly resulting from defective smart meters:

Family Blames House Fire On Georgia Power Meter. http://www2.wjbf.com/news/2011/jul/06/appling-family-blames-house-fire-georgia-power-met-ar-2074493/ “Sparks started flying from the TV and power box.”

Atlanta house fire, due to power meter; double blow to Haitian family. http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/fire-deals-double-blow-to-haiti-family-in-atlanta/vCRzm/ “Faulty power meter sparked devastating house fire–twice.”

Alabama woman says smart meter is fire hazard. http://www.wset.com/Global/story.asp?S=13487932; The letter the city government wrote to Sensus [PDF].

Related Press: 2010 Article from Cleburne News (AL), which has since been scrubbed from their website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/CleburneNews-smart-meters-Feb2010.pdf

2010 Article from Montgomery Advertiser (AL) which has been since scrubbed from their website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Montgomery-AL-smart-meters-Feb2010.pdf “The meter was … replaced five days before their double-wide burned to the ground…”

2009 Article from Georgia new site, since removed: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Electrical-fires-Georgia-Feb2009.pdf “…Steady stream of complaints about the meters since the devices went into general use ….The firemen
told him they are keeping records and turning in their findings to the electric company.”

Article from Atlanta news site, since scrubbed from website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Atlanta-fire-smart-meter-Jan2010.pdf “A power surge … After firefighters put out the blaze, they said it reignited again hours later.”

Southern Company hopes you get burned not them.

Smart Meter Fires Blamed on Old Wiring and Improper Installation

Smart Meter Fires Blamed on Old Wiring Improper Installation and other.

 

My understanding is, if the fire is related to older home wiring incompatibility then the fire liability fall on the side of the homeowner/renter not the manufacturer or power company.

Some homeowners worry installing new ‘smart meters’ could spark fires

Florida TV news, Contact 5 investigates fire complaints from Smart Meters. The concern seems to be related to incompatibility between the new meters and older electrical home wiring. Florida resident, “Margie Albernaz woke up in July to the smell of smoke in her Greenacres home. “I went over to the FPL meter and it had caught on fire, it was all black smoke and charred,” said Albernaz.

The report continues, “After some more digging, we discovered similar fire concerns have been reported across the country with different power companies and different brands of smart meters.”

But the Florida utility assured residents that it was nothing to worry about,  smart meters don’t cause fires….however a spokesperson for the utility said they’d responded to 30 complaints related to meter fires and  that “you could have wiring issues if you have dimming lights or power issues on one end of your home and not the other.”

 

Palo Alto Power surge, raises questions about Smart Meters, “a good example of how sometimes the old way is the good way”.“Mindy Spatt, communications director for The Utility Reform Network (TURN), said the utility-consumer advocacy group received many complaints about surges damaging appliances when the SmartMeters were first installed. In the best-case scenario, the event in East Palo Alto is an additional cause for concern, she said.”
Comparing analog to the new meters, she added, “In the collective memory of TURN, we have not seen similar incidents with analog meters.”

Power Surge KTVU video burns out Smart Meters, and appliances.

From You Tube:
“This is the aftermath of one of those new smart meters not being properly installed. The guy who installed it did not know what he was doing and caused the main electric line to the box to become lose and over time it ended up touching the electric meter/box casing causing a fire and a huge firework festival on the side of our house. If I was not home we would have lost the house and our 3 dogs. We are NOT happy with our electric company and we were NOT given a choice if we wanted the smart meter or not.

You can see on the front of the box where the wire touched and started the whole fiasco. Mind you the electric company when I called in the next day as instructed to claimed it was our fault and we’d have to pay for repairs. We aren’t paying for a darn thing and we will be filing a claim with the electric company. Thanks to them I can hardly sleep now and I am paranoid beyond belief.”

 

Action Line: Remodeler finds SmartMeter interference with circuit breakers

By Dennis Rockstroh of mercurynews.com Posted: 09/12/2010

Q One item you did not cover in your Sept. 7 SmartMeter article was interference with arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI).

This is a type of circuit breaker that code requires in new and remodel construction. Its job is to detect arcing, which has been shown to be a cause of fires. Normal circuit breakers will not always break when arcing occurs. If arcing is detected by the AFCI, the breaker trips, stopping the potentially dangerous arc.

Long story short, I did some remodeling recently. City code required that I use an AFCI for one of the bedroom circuits that was being remodeled. Some weeks after I completed the remodel, the AFCI started tripping. This meant I had to inspect each junction box and outlet to determine where an arc might be occurring.

Coincidentally, the problem started not long after a SmartMeter was installed toward the end of the remodel. Finally, after severe frustration, I phoned PG&E for help on this matter. A crew came out and looked at the AFCI breaker for a few seconds. One went to the truck and came back with a conventional meter, a mechanically driven version, and swapped it for the SmartMeter that was installed some days before. It took some prodding, but eventually one of the PG&E crew told me that they have been observing that AFCIs are sensitive to the meter’s radio transmissions.

Dave Zittin, San Jose CA

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Electrician Steps Up When CenterPoint Won’t

Houston Texas News report on another situation where a new wireless utility meter has exploded. According to the article, “The power company not only refuses to fix the meter case that left Vallain’s [A Houston Grandmother] family without power, but now representatives say the problem never happened. “They said it was never an explosion, and my granddaughter and I saw it, and he [the Centerpoint technician] jumped back himself,” Vallain said. ”

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Appling Family Blames House Fire On Georgia Power Meter- News Video

According to this news article a Georgia family is displaced by a house fire,  the fire department says it was an electrical accident, and the family blames the new Smart Meters installed two weeks ago.

” The Burns family was watching TV when the fire started around 10:00 a.m. Monday morning. Family members say sparks started flying from the TV and power box.  Around the same time, down the street, another homeowner’s TV reportedly started sparking and smoking.  A daughter says their electrical problems started after Georgia Power installed new meters.  Angela Dent, Appling, GA: “That’s when we noticed the changes. It also happened at my brother’s house…his TV’s have been acting strange…popping and surging in and out…her lights have been dimming also.”

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PG&E recently installed ‘smart’ meters in my neighborhood. They do not tell you when they will come, but warn you to shut off things like computers that might be damaged when power is restored. When I arrived home, I only had power in my kitchen. The PGE repairman said that installation of smart meters was frying many meter receiver boxes. He was not qualified to fix it, and the power remained off for another 24 hours while PGE scheduled a qualified repairman to come out. Apparently this result is common in older subdivisions (mine was built around 1975) when the smart meters were installed. The older boxes, due to wear and age, burned out when PGE put in the new meters. The disturbing thing is that PGE will NOT replace the burned out boxes -they send out a guy with a box of spare parts, who cobbles together a sort of replica of the old box. I wonder how many home fires will result from PGE’s installation of the no-so-Smart meters. (CPUC Complaint, 11/2009, Concord CA)

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The following letter and photo were sent to the EMF Safety Network from a California fire department captain (Ross) who saved his home from a potential Smart Meter fire in 2009.  PG&E has admitted that Smart Meters have interfered with GFI’s and AFCI’s, but they have not admitted to any connection with a Smart Meter fire. Smart Meter Arcing Hazard

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After a Smart Meter was installed in this Florida woman’s home she said the meter “caught fire and fried my beautiful new kitchen” – over $31,000 in damages to many of her home appliances.  The Florida power company refuses to take the blame. See this video:  Help Me Howard, FPL Smartmeter

The following reader comments were posted on the above online story:

(Boater39) “In our apartment complex, we had a fire last week at our sprinkler pump. Afterwards, I went to investigate and it was the electric meter that burned up. Took out decent-sized FP&L feeder in the process. I have an electrical background, and from my professional experience, whatever caused the meter to burn up was a dead short carrying a very large amount of current. Based on the damage, the problem was AT THE METER–not at the customer equipment attached to the meter. (like I said, I have professional experience). At the time I found it strange, until I saw this report on TV…. I will be sending some pictures to Patrick today–they can use them on whatever followup they want. It appears that we have a major design flaw with these new meters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Jenny White) “After FPL installed the new meter at my dad’s house all his wires were burned as well and the house almost caught on fire. The problem is those new meter.”

(April) “I too had my smartmeter burn out and had a hell of a time getting FPL to fix everything. Their meter burned the wiring in my home behind the box that they said was up to me to get fixed on my own and that they could only repair the meter and wires from the pole to the box. I had 2 electricians come out and they said it was an FPL problem. Ended up there is an outside company that installs the meters for FPL and they ended up paying for my problem after FPL denied my claim for them to pay for the damages.”

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Fire Tears Through Cutlet Bay Home A family in Florida suspects a Smart Meter was the cause of their house fire. According to the article, ” Fire investigators have not released the cause of the blaze. A relative told Local 10 the family believes a recently installed Smart Meter may have started the fire.  Florida Power and Light says the company will investigate the allegation…”

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In Houston Texas, “Local 2 investigates Smart Meter fires” reports they looked into homeowners complaints of Smart Meter fires and found some people are left with no electricity and major damage to their homes, including burnt out appliances after a Smart Meter has been installed by the utility.  See Video.

“Charles Phillips saw smoke coming from the transformer in his backyard one morning last November. When he went out to inspect the damage, he said he saw a CenterPoint Energy contractor at his meter box with a fire extinguisher. He told me it had caught on fire, Phillips said.”

“Inside Phillip’s home, two TVs were fried, his air conditioner and garage door opener stopped working, and all of the wires and cables hooked up to his electronics were melted from the jolt his electronics took when a fire sparked after the installer removed his old meter. Phillips was left with a total of about $2,500 in damages.”

According to the article, Centerpoint, the utility for Houston Texas, has admitted the connection between fire risk and Smart Meters, stating there has been less than 100 problems. “CenterPoint’s LeBlanc said the problem is mostly in older homes where wiring is not up to code or something has caused a strain on the wires running into the meter box.”

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more here:

http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?page_id=1280

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