Montreal

Olivier Burnham, Quebec blacksmith, makes device to prevent smart meter swap

A Quebec blacksmith has taken Hydro-Québec’s switch to smart meters into his own hands, devising a metal cage that prevents the electric utility from replacing the conventional meters.

Hydro-Québec says the boxes constitute illegal tampering

Olivier Burnham, a blacksmith in Sutton, has created a metal cover to prevent Hydro-Québec technicians from installing new smart meters. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

Quebec blacksmith Olivier Burnham has taken Hydro-Québec’s switch to smart meters into his own hands — he's making and selling metal boxes that can be installed over the conventional meters to stop them from being replaced.

The province’s electric utility hopes to install 3.8 million smart meters by 2018, but the meters’ use of radio frequency signals to remotely transmit readings to Hydro-Québec is causing health concerns for some Quebecers.

Burnham said his metal boxes, which feature a small window to allow meter reading, are easy to install but hard to remove.

"Basically you drill six holes, you put pop rivets in and that’s it. And then you put a notice up asking Hydro not to touch it, and if they do alter the padlock you can actually sue them for damage of property," Burnham said.

Hydro-Québec’s response? Don’t touch our meters.

The utility warns that tampering with its meters is illegal and can be dangerous.

At least 60 people in the Eastern Townships have already bought Burnham’s boxes, which he said do not technically tamper with Hydro-Québec’s meters.

"The seal of Hydro-Québec is still intact and so we haven’t tampered with the meter at all. It’s just covering the meter so they cannot change it," he said.

The utility says that a smart meter emits a tiny fraction of the radio frequency emissions produced by a common household microwave.

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