A smart meter recall in Sarnia could mean hydro ratepayers are on the hook for more than $1 million.

About 3,500 meters have to be replaced in homes in the next two months because of concerns they could start a fire.

The meter recall was issued last Thursday and putting in replacements is starting right away.

Bluewater Power Distribution Corp. CEO Janice McMichael-Dennis says who will be stuck with the bill is not clear.

“It's in the hands of the lawyers now, I'll say that. So we'll see how that follows out. Certainly it’s not something we planned to spend our first few months of the year on, but again we have a directive and we will comply with the directive," she says.

In most recalls, it’s the manufacturer who pays. But this is where this case gets murky because it's not the manufacturer issuing the recall.

The Electrical Safety Authority made the decision after reports of similar units catching fire in Saskatchewan.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says there have been no safety concerns in his city.

“If they had consulted they might have got a different answer than the knee-jerk reaction they've taken,” he says.

“This could cost the utility over $1 million and at this point in time, there's no indication that the province is going to step up and pick up that cost.”

The utility has until the end of March to replace the units.

“Essentially that's about a year's worth of work compressed into two months, so that's why we're pulling staff in from other areas,” says Bluewater Power's Mark Vanderheide.

About 5,400 meters across Ontario have to be replaced.