School board opposes cell phone tower placement
Canadian Rockies Public Schools does not like the idea of a permanent cellphone tower emitting radio frequency radiation a mere half block from Lawrence Grassi Middle School.
At its last board meeting, outgoing superintendent Brian Callaghan brought the issue to the board’s notice.
Telus located a temporary installation on Seventh Street, about 156 meters away from the school in fall, noted Callaghan, without notifying the school. The company is now seeking to make it a permanent location.
“We will register our opposition to a place that close to the school,” he said. “I think this has been done in a roundabout way.”
Callaghan said Telus may be following Industry Canada and Health Canada standards, but European research and standards are moving forward.
Last May, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
“There is increasing controversy in the scientific community regarding the hazards,” Callaghan said.
While Telus originally had a deadline of June 15 for public input into its proposal, which is the jurisdiction of Industry Canada, spokesperson Jim Johannsson said Tuesday (June 5) that date has been cancelled.
Johannsson said the municipality requested Telus hold a public information meeting before the public school division takes its summer break.
That was not possible given tight deadlines, so Telus will postpone the project and public meeting until this fall.
Industry Canada requires public consultation with towers that are proposed to be 15 metres or taller. The Telus tower on Seventh Street, however, is 14. 9 metres in height.
Johannsson said even though the consultation was not required, the company felt it should engage the community.
“We are doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do and we know people in the community are anxious and we do not want them to think we are sneaking this in there,” he said.
Canmore resident Andre Gigon said he became concerned about the tower location last fall when a temporary installation was put in.
Gigon said he is concerned about the radio frequency radiation having an effect on children that spend four years in the school.
“It adds up over time,” he said. “Some may have sensitivity right away, but more serious illnesses have a long latency.
“In our small town, there should be a better location.”
Johannsson said other locations were considered and will eventually see towers placed on them as well, but the Seventh Street location was chosen as part of an overall strategy for valley-wide coverage and because it is located at the company’s equipment office.
“We are looking at the growth of traffic in the Canmore area and we are looking ahead to having to put in a couple more sites as well over next the several years,” he said. “It is part of a longer term plan so we can space those sites out in a logical way that gives us the most coverage with the least number of cellphone antennas.”
The service provider was having significant capacity problems in the area last summer, which resulted in a lot of complaints.
“The problem was acute enough we put the tower in there last October and that appeared to give us some relief,” Johannsson said, adding it is also the reason the company wants to increase its capacity in the valley with permanent towers.
The power output for the tower, said Johannsson, is 60 watts and the radio frequency power Telus calculates it will have at the LGMS location is 479 times lower than the power levels considered safe by Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which sets radiofrequency exposure guidelines.
The WHO finding that classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenetic to humans, he added, puts it into the same category as many things in people’s daily lives like makeup, coffee, vinyl acetate and anything made of nickel.
“There is a lot of stuff on that list that is day-to-day, but it is possible and means more research is warranted and they will keep doing it,” said Johannsson.
However, other Canadian jurisdictions have raised concerns over the location of cellphone towers and the exposure effects of radiofrequencies.
The City of Toronto’s medical officer of health in 2007 recommended an approach that keeps levels in areas where people normally spend time to be at least 100 times lower than Safety Code 6 limits, citing concerns the guidelines may not be health protective for continuous lifetime exposures.
Prior to that, in 2005, the Vancouver School Board prohibited transmitter tower installations within 300 metres of school grounds.
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