Water Meter Letter

The letter below was sent by me, Robert Palma, recently to the Mayor and the Fairfield City Council. I have  chosen to publish the letter  so that Fairfielders will be aware of my  concerns about the potential danger of the City recently placing wireless water meters in or about the homes of those living in Fairfield. The information in brackets has been added to make the letter more understandable to those not familiar with this issue.
Robert Palma
President and Chief Engineer
Midwest Research Corp.

Midwest Research Corp.

P.O. Box 2256  Fairfield, IA 52556

Ph:  641-472-5005   Fax: 208-474-5445

Web:  mrtel.com,  rfreduce.com

June 4, 2012

Mayor Ed Malloy and the Fairfield City Council
City Hall
Fairfield, Iowa

Ladies and Gentlemen:

This letter is in regard to the citizen concerns for health and safety in the presence of the wireless water meters that Fairfield has been installing.

My full resume is available online (please see reference 2 below for that link). In short, I have a degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Virginia. I have more than 40 years hands-on research, design, and measurement experience in the military aerospace arena, with a strong emphasis on measurement and characterization of electromagnetic fields (EMF), including the design of measurement instrumentation for use by the military. I was an R&D engineer in the spacecraft design group at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for 22 years. I continue this EMF measurement and EMF-reduction work today with products that reduce cell phone radiation to the head and reduce so-called dirty electricity.

Any time an issue like this surfaces [the issue of Fairfield installing wireless water meters in or about the homes of Fairfield residents], my phone rings off-the-hook and my email mailboxes fill up.

I intend this letter to be a simple and honest statement of facts, observations, and concerns, without exaggeration or embellishment, and would be glad to answer questions if you have them. Also, to avoid confusion, please note that Radio Frequencies (RF), is simply another name for electromagnetic fields (EMF).

1.      Are EMF Levels A Problem At All?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the US Army, Navy and Air Force, among many others, all have maximum exposure standards for RF (EMF) because they believe exposure can be damaging to human health. Clearly, if we give these organizations credibility, then we must come to the same conclusion that EMF can cause human health problems.

2.      The Wireless Water Meter Transmits Every 14 Seconds

In case there is any lingering question about the operation of the wireless water meter in question [the meter Fairfield has installed and I understand is  continuing to install], the company’s brochure states that the E-Coder®R900i ™ utilizes the R900® radio frequency meter interface unit, which transmits data every 14 seconds. It is not a one-time daily or monthly transmission (see reference 3).

3.       Experts Need To Assess The Potential Risks
To address the question of whether the wireless water meter in question poses a health risk: in my view you cannot look solely at whether the device in question is within FCC guidelines for individual devices. You need at least two kinds of experts, one who understands electromagnetic fields (an Electronic Engineer or Physicist) and another who understands biology/physiology (a biologist, physiologist, medical practitioner, etc.). You need both of these experts – working together.

Introducing thousands of EMF emitting water meters is a massive imposition of EMF in the community as seen by a scientist – at least to this scientist. It is an influence that “gets into the human body” and it does not appear that the city has commissioned independent experts to assess the health and safety implications. The city, for example, may even have a lack of understanding on the “the skill set” required to assess the problem by its continual focus on the “average power” and “heating effect” of EMF-in-the-human-body, rather than the “pulsed effect.”

It has been voiced again and again by those who are down-playing the potential dangers of this new wireless deployment that there are wireless Internet router/firewalls, cell phones, and the like around town, so why not add the water meters. But the water meter project is massive and involves thousands of such meters, and this is an action by the city, not individual action.

In addition to the “pulsed effect” mentioned above, there is the matter of the aggregate of the EMF of thousands of wireless water meters. Do you know the long term effects of this aggregate? If you are unaware of this, it does not mean that the city should ignore this potential problem. If a company offers a new chemical to add to drinking water to improve quality, but the chemical has not been seriously studied, would you allow that to be added to the drinking water in Fairfield?  Probably not. The city has a responsibility not to take action potentially harmful to its citizens and in my opinion should follow the precautionary principle referred to below in the Summary.

4.      Citizen Objections Are Being Downplayed

It is my opinion that many comments have been made by city officials or others supporting the wireless water meters and other so-called smart meters that downplay the potential seriousness of EMF proliferation.

For example, I have heard expressions that “The wireless water meter transmitter is only on for 44 seconds per day. How could something with such a small on-time cause a problem?” However, small contaminant levels are known to be dangerous in numerous scientific settings. An EMF transmitter on-time of 44 seconds for a water meter is a fraction of the day (86,400 seconds per day gives a fraction of 44/86400 of the day) that equals 0.051 % of the day. At the same time the EPA limit for vinyl chloride in drinking water is 2 ppb  (parts per billion) 0.0000002% (See reference 1), which is 250,000 times  smaller than the 0.051% level.
The point here is very simply that a number being “small” or a measurement of “something” being a “small percentage,” does not mean that it is insignificant or that it could not, or should not, be a source of concern. If the water department is engaged, day-by-day with controlling exceptionally small amounts of foreign substances in the drinking water, that, if not eliminated, would get into the human body, it is inconsistent and not scientific for the water department to disregard and dismiss EMF, which gets into the body as well, based upon the premise that it is “too small of a percentage to be a problem.”

In the end, the idea, the statement:  “0.051% is such a small number, that it probably could not cause a human health problem” is a statement of no meaning, and no significance in science.

5.      Individuals Expressing Ill Health Should Not Be Dismissed Lightly

Anecdotal reports of health problems typically precede scientific measurements quantifying the precise degree of risk. If the individuals who have expressed their experiences of ill health in the presence of this wireless water meter are being disregarded by the city, I believe that is a serious mistake. These people are, in my view simply electro-sensitive. They are not wierdos or troublemakers, and should not be so regarded. They are simply the canaries: persons who should be highly valued for their sensitivity like the canaries taken down into the coal mines who are early warning signs for danger to human health.

6. Summary

The ultimate question is, whether the massive deployment of EMF in Fairfield constitutes a human health problem as it is planned to be installed.

In my opinion, the answer is:  You don’t know.
–         The deployment of the wireless water meters is a massive undertaking. It is the provisioning of constantly pulsing (every 14 seconds, 24 hours per day) EMF transmitters into almost every home and business. Even as people opt-out, the background EMF from the neighboring wireless meters will overflow into all dwellings.

–         It appears that the roll out of these meters so far has been done without the knowledge or permission of the Fairfield citizens.

–         Is it possible that this EMF deployment could negatively affect the “green” quality of Fairfield and result in Fairfield looking like a “hot spot to avoid” rather than a “haven of health.”?

–         Here [from Wikipedia] is the [scientific] Precautionary Principle mentioned previously.
“The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

This principle allows policy makers to make discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm from taking a particular course or making a certain decision when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.”

(See Reference 4 for the link to this principle at wikipedia.org)

I hope this has been helpful. I would be glad to answer questions of the council or any independent group conducting an evaluation.

Robert E. Palma
President, Chief Engineer


  1.  EPA Vinyl Chloride maximum contaminant levels can be found at: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/vinyl-chloride.cfm
  2. Robert Palma’s resume can be found here:  http://robertpalma.com
  3. The water meter’s brochure information can be found here:  http://neptunetg.com/userfiles/file/products/E-Coder%29R900i/12-NTG-168%20PS%20ECODER%29R900i%2005_12.pdf
  4. Precautionary Principle,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle


Citizens Response To Mayor Ed Malloy On The Subject Of The Above Letter

A response to the above letter was made in the form of a letter-to-the-editor by Mayor Ed Malloy. The citizens for safe meters ( http://www.citizens-for-safe-meters.com ) wrote a response to Ed Malloy’s response.

To read the citizen’s response: Click Here

16 Responses to Water Meter Letter

  1. Tim Britton says:

    Thank you for doing this, and so well.

    Is there a single location that you can recommend that catalogues and perhaps makes reasonable recommendations re: common EMF risks, such as cell phones, blue tooth devices, computers, motors, etc….

    Thanks again,


  2. Robert Smistik says:

    That 44 seconds seems to be the City Council’s rallying cry. Hope your letter puts that to rest.

  3. John Allon says:


    Thank you very much for crafting such a clear, well articulated review of the issues that the Fairfield City Council seems to have ignored.

  4. I have been hearing chatter from both sides of this issue over the last 3 weeks, but I found this letter to be a sober voice of common sense. I will be sure to post it and send it to my community mailing lists.

  5. Sharon Sinton says:

    Thank you for this well researched scientic article. I am also of a scientific background and reading all of the articles on this issue leaves me flabbergasted at the current roling out of RF meters and proposed opt out plan. City council, and all city works are paid for by the people and should make all efforts to protect those people in e Rey way possible. I”ll be passing this information along to my husband and brothers in law (already canarys for chemical sensitivities) hope that all of these points come up tonight.

    Has anyone looked at the origin of the unfunded state law that mandates replacing meters every 5-7 years? When I pulled up Neptune’s web site, the simpler meters that they carry (and that seem similar to the one currently installed at my home) have a lifetime 100 year expectancy. I am wondering why we are going to the huge expense to replace and upgrade systems that should remain in good working order for nearly 100 years.

    Wishing good health to all,
    Sharon Sinton

  6. David Cohen says:

    A simple question, why is the unit always on if we’re only billed once a month?

    • rpalma says:

      Hi David,
      It is a type of dead-simple protocol, where the water meter is transmitting often enough, that a water department truck rolling down the street can pick up that reading (with a special receiver) without having to actually establish communications “to” the water meter, since the water meter is always “singing”. In the parlance of the water meter industry it is referred-to as “bubbling up”.
      Even if we forget about the health concerns, it is a terribly inefficient use of RF spectrum because it it transmitting more than 6,00 times a day (180,000 times per month) and only needs to transmit ONCE PER MONTH.
      Thank-you for commenting !
      All the best to you,

  7. Bob Rabinoff says:

    Beautifully done. I would ask those who downplay the risk by asserting that the unit is only on for a short time, if they would care to look down the barrel of a pulsed laser for any length of time.

    It would seem that a request-response system would not be hard to engineer, if the company hadn’t trained some parrots to jump up and down and screech “junk science” over and over. Alternative the beam could be collimated to point out to the street and away from dwellings, which would, presumably, mean it could do its job on less power.

    Finally, it appears the Fairfield water utility and city council is using the population in an epidemiological experiment, without offering any benefit to the participants, and without obtaining informed consent. The ethics committee at any institution would throw it out in a heartbeat.

    Thanks again,
    Bob Rabinoff, PhD (Atmospheric Physics)

    • rpalma says:

      Thank-you Bob. Another manufacturer, Sensus, has a model 510R wireless water meter. I believe this is the one Vedic City has. It sits silently until the water utility truck rolls by and wakes it up for a reading, ONCE A MONTH.

  8. Thank you Robert, so very much for your thorough description of the issue. We have a backwards paradigm operating on a massive scale in the US. We favor technology first and make people prove it is harmful instead of first proving it is safe before implementing it. I was glad to understand the difference between cell phone EMF and smart meters, since that argument is pervasive, even in my living room. !! thanks.

  9. Steve Tiffany says:

    Excellent letter. If I recall correctly, my water meter in Minneapolis used a simple modem to report its data over the phone lines. Such a system avoids RF radiation and minimizes ongoing labor costs. Most of us have gigabytes of data flowing in and out of our homes already, over some kind of wire, so it seems rather inefficient and expensive to collect the tiny blip of water-use data by sending a paid employee out to slowly drive past everybody’s house.

  10. Pingback: Robert Palma letter to Mayor and Fairfield City Council | Coalition for Safe Meters in Fairfield

  11. Hurd Hess says:

    Well done and thank you Mr. Palma. I have come to the conclusion [from this issue and others] that most of the City Council needs an attitude adjustment, and in particular Mr. Halley.

  12. Brian Horsfield says:

    The cost savings of the E-Coder seem dubious at best. The meters cost $240 compared to under $100 for the Touchpad which emits no RF. So that’s $140 extra to be installed on approximately 4,000 Fairfield homes …so about $560,000 extra expense. Since the Water Department now say no jobs will saved, what is the savings? We have heard that meter readers walking house to house sometimes have injuries or encounter dangerous dogs. Yet UPS delivery people have found a simple solution … DOG BISCUITS! One biscuit per dog makes them happy to greet the UPS deliveries! And injuries? The City hasn’t provided any evidence of this at all …no workers compensation claims or any other costs. So what is this all about? It remains a $560,000 mystery.

  13. Mary Foster says:

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for speaking up and out about this invasion. We had such a meter installed last year. Reason given to me was, “The meter reader doesn’t have to leave his truck to assess your bill.”. I didn’t realize health issues concerning the EMF it emits at that time.

    I am hoping that they allow us to opt out of this and change it back to the old system or we may move it ourselves – to the curb.

    With appreciation,

  14. Alex Campbell says:

    My wife and I own property in Fairfield, but live in Maryland so we were hearing about the controversy from afar. Thank you for introducing a clear scientific review of the situation. After reading your letter, it is very clear to me that the AMRs should NOT be installed.

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