• Not the best solution
    December 07,2012

    Sometimes, news is just unbelievable. Through the lens of a newsroom, we see heartbreaking moments, pure joy and seething anger. It is a mish-mash of all parts of life.

    We also see some pretty strange things. I’ve had people come in convinced that the contrails left by jets are actually messages; others have said the same jets are really dropping airborne toxins on us all. There are people with clear mental illnesses who have explained to me that the television commentators or celebrities (on every channel) are spewing coded messages just to them. And there are those who swear on family members’ graves that they have seen Bigfoot traipsing across central Vermont.

    Enter the latest “huh” masquerading as fact.

    By hard-wiring a pump station transmitter on Hebert Road this week, the city of Montpelier set a precedent it may regret.

    In May, after a resident contacted the city to say the wireless antenna on the small station was making her young daughter sick, the City Council (pretty reluctantly) agreed to study the possible health implications of the transmitter.

    A task force was formed. In the end, that group could not make a connection between the wireless system and the girl’s symptoms. In fact, after a review of other commonly used household devices that also emit radio waves, some of the members of the task force voiced doubts that the health effects were even tangible.

    The two sides of this debate most frequently have come out as it pertains to smart meters being installed on homes by power companies like Green Mountain Power in lieu of the old traditional meters. Detractors contend that the radio frequency smart meters emit “is harmful to human health. People living with the meters are claiming mild to severe symptoms that are all over the board: Concentration and memory problems, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations, headaches, sleep disruptions, nausea, anxiety and behavioral problems in children.”

    But GMP, in its own documentation, counters: “Some questions have been raised recently regarding health concerns in relation to radio frequency output from smart meters. The scientific community, including health experts at the state, national, and international level, has found that there is no scientific basis for these concerns. Peer-reviewed studies conducted by a wide variety of experts show that the RF from smart meters is a tiny fraction of the RF emitted from televisions, baby monitors, and cell phones.”

    In the end, Montpelier’s task force could not come up with a recommendation for this one resident’s passionate concern.

    So in October, the city councilors, in a split vote, concluded the best course of action was to appease the resident by swapping out the wireless transmitter and replace it with a hard-wired version. Public Works Director Todd Law said this week the removal had been delayed because the hard-wired system was having problems communicating with the rest of the wastewater system. It’s working now. (The monitor is designed to alert the city if the pump station failed, causing raw sewage to overflow — a documented health risk.)

    At least two councilors were (justifiably) worried that removing the wireless transmitter without any proof of the antenna causing health problems could set a precedent for other residents to come forward with issues about radio transmissions. Councilor Thierry Guerlain even proposed that if the city was going to shut down the radio antenna on the pump station, then it should look into removing transmitters from school buses, police cruisers and anything else that emits radio waves. He’s right. There is no reason not to if this is the city’s new standard.

    That this precedent could be set by an elected body is confounding and a bit troubling, especially by officials who pride themselves on being “the first.” It may be compassionate, but it also is pandering. It elevates residents’ gripes to a new, potentially disruptive (and expensive) level. As of today, there is no reason not to swap out the other seven transmitters scattered around the city. What’s next? Sometimes “no” is the less compassionate but correct answer.

    In turn, I offer my own short-term solution for Montpelier city officials. It will be just as insulting, confounding and meaningless as the council’s baseless decision and the processes in place to assure the greater good of the community. It will serve exactly the same purpose.

    How to Make a Tinfoil Hat

    1. Grab a couple of pieces of aluminum foil. (About four or five feet works best.)

    2. Place them shiny side down.

    3. Fold one in half so it stays the same length but is half the width.

    4. Wrap this piece of aluminum foil around your head.

    5. Mash the foil down to conform to the shape of your head and fit as snugly as possible.

    6. Take the second piece of aluminum foil and place across the top of the head from ear to ear.

    7. Mash the second piece of foil down over the first piece, making a quick tinfoil hat.

    8. Fold the edges over each other, sealing out dangerous rays and deflecting mind control waves outward.

    Added bonus, folks, it could seem fashionable for the holidays, and it will scare away all sasquatch.

    Steven Pappas is editor of The Times Argus.

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