6. Responsible Tower Siting, It's More Than Aesthetics, January 12, 2008
| BLEC was asked by concerned citizens and the Northwest Conservation District in 2008 to conduct another forum on the health and environmental effects of cell towers. The forum, called "Responsible Tower Siting, It's More Than Aesthetics," was held in Cornwall, CT. on January 12, 2008. Issues addressed included safer tower siting for municipalities despite preemptions by the Connecticut Siting Council, which has final jurisdiction in Connecticut. (No other state has centralized government tower siting.) Information also included zoning and liability issues, as well as the latest research on the health and environmental effects of other wireless technologies such as WiFi and small wireless computer networks increasingly used in schools, libraries and homes.
The forum was sponsored by the Northwest Conservation District. Co-sponsors included The Housatonic Environmental Action League in Cornwall Bridge; The Housatonic River Commission in Warren; The Housatonic Riverkeeper MA/CT in Lee, MA; The Housatonic River Initiative in Lee, MA, The Housatonic Valley Association in Cornwall Bridge; and The Berkshire Litchfield Environmental Council in Salisbury.
Speakers included: Martin Blank, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University; Whitney North Seymour, Jr., Esq., former federal prosecutor, author, and co-founder of The Natural Resources Defense Council; Starling W. Childs, President, Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council and adjunct faculty member at the Yale School of Forestry; B. Blake Levitt, author of "Electromagnetic Fields, A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves," and the editor of "Cell Towers, Wireless Convenience? Or Environmental Hazard?"; and Adam Brown, New England Region Trails Resource Manager, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, South Egremont, MA.
The moderator was Jean Cronauer, Executive Director of the Northwest Conservation District in Torrington, who said "We keep hearing that there are health and environmental concerns about cell towers. Well, let's find out what that is about and what, if anything, we can do about it. Towns feel at the mercy of both federal and state preemptions over local control but we need to talk about this in a more intelligent way."
Judy Herkimer of The Housatonic Environmental Action League, one of the organizers of the event said, "Since the advent of cell phones in the late 1980's, wireless technologies have grown to include everything from citywide WiFi to radiofrequency ID's now imbedded in consumer products, pets, and wildlife. We are awash in increasing levels of RF, but is this safe? Many professionals in Europe now recommend prudent avoidance when it comes to these exposures, particularly in children, but we are clueless about this entire dialogue in America."
Several Litchfield County towns have had proposals for cell towers throughout 2008, including New Milford, Washington, Kent, Falls Village and in Sharon near West Cornwall's historic covered bridge. Leases have been signed by private residents, town governments, and volunteer fire departments for towers with telecommunications companies, which are building their next generation of broadband wireless services to include downloadable Internet, photos, text messages, TV, and music to cell phones and computers. It isn't just about cell phones anymore. Such new services require more RF bandwidth and additional use of the electromagnetic spectrum. According to industry site managers, towers now need to go every 1-3 miles apart.
But many professionals today, including government regulators, say that the RF exposure standards at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are obsolete and do not adequately protect the public health, in spite of demand for service (see www.bioinitiative.org). Whitney North Seymour Jr., has twice sued the FCC to update their standards which officially take no research past 1985 into consideration. Hundreds of studies have since found disturbing results, some with implications for human health. Other species may be affected too.
There are liability issues for towns that do not site telecom facilities in the best way possible. Many Connecticut towns think that their zoning regulations are meaningless because the Siting Council has final control but a bill was passed last year in the Connecticut legislature that requires the Siting Council to take local regulations into consideration.