Residents question safety, privacy of new Toledo water meters

Head of program tries to reassure customers the new meters will not cause harm or spy on them
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:31 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - An informational meeting turned into a heated exchange over the City of Toledo’s new water meters. They’re getting rolled out to more than 130,000 new customers. So far, more than 20,000 have scheduled the installation.

“I just recently had my waterline replaced a few weeks ago from the meter all the way to the main in the street and I was real satisfied with what they did,” said Toledo resident Robert Rivers.

The new meters are intended to remotely track water usage and record updates every six hours via intermittent radio frequency transmissions. These digital meters are federally funded with no additional out-of-pocket cost to city water customers.

During a meeting at the Frederick Douglass Association on Indiana Avenue, some residents expressed concerns.

“We’re being rushed into this. In other words, they have an EPA deadline and we’re all having to march to this tune and get it done,” said Debbie Burke.

Questions from the crowd included: Will the batteries catch fire? Could the radio frequencies cause health issues? Would the technology be used to spy on people?

“You know, these are safe. They’re being used in many, many other communities,” said Doug Stephens, head of the Automatic Metering Infrastructure Project. “They want to be reassured that we aren’t going to be, you know, listening to them or using this technology in an abusive way, and this technology does one thing for us. All it does is record what that meter says flowed through the meter in the amount of water.”

Either way, everyone in the City of Toledo will eventually have to switch over or have their water turned off.

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