Residents attended an open house on July 25 to voice concerns over a proposed cell phone tower location near Westmount School.
Representatives from Rogers Communications, Land Solutions, and the Town of Okotoks were present to field questions and gather feedback from residents, as is required under the Telecommunications Act and Town protocol.
Since the announcement of the proposed tower, residents have expressed concerns over possible detrimental health effects, due to the proximity the tower would have to Westmount School and two daycare centres.
Cynthia Nelson, whose daughter attends Westmount school, says she is very concerned that the presence of a cell phone tower will have an adverse effect on children in the area.
"I don't care what they say, 'it doesn't cause this, it doesn't cause that.' I'm sorry, but it does," Nelson said.
She says she has read studies that cell towers affect kids with diseases like M.S, and she believes it's scary that a cell tower would be built near a daycare.
"Why would they put something right in there between where the daycare is and where the school is? They don't need it. I'm sorry, they don't need it."
Informational reading material was available at the open house, including information from Health Canada on Safety Code 6, studies regarding the effects of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Energy, and the guidelines surrounding suburban antenna tower installation.
Any provider planning to install radio communications apparatuses are required to comply with the regulatory limits outlined in Safety Code 6.
Leah Sampson, co-founder of Smart Okotoks, a group which describe their intent as "educating Okotokians about electrosmog and wireless radiation in homes, workplaces, community, and recreational environments," took issue with the information provided, claiming it didn't account for the health effects 4G coverage may have.
"Safety Code 6 was implemented thirty years ago. It hasn't been changed. So where's 4G on that? This tower would be for 4G LTE, so where's the testing on 4G? What are the effects going to be there?" Sampson added "It's pollution. It intercepts every single cell. No matter what it is, whether it's a bee, an ant, or a human, it's affecting all of us and I don't want it."
Though an expert was unavailable for comment, Health Canada said in a written statement:
"Health Canada continues to actively monitor the scientific literature as it relates to RF radiation exposure. In addition, Health Canada scientists contribute to international projects such as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project, which aims to assess the scientific evidence about possible health effects of exposure to EMF and provide advice to national authorities on EMF radiation protection. This means that if new scientific evidence were to demonstrate that exposure to RF energy from wireless technologies (including 5G) below levels found in Safety Code 6 is a health concern, Health Canada would be well positioned to take appropriate action to help protect the health and safety of Canadians."
Another criticism of the proposed tower revolved around the presence of an antenna tower already in the area, with residents claiming the building of a new one is unnecessary. Rogers has cited an inability to co-locate as the reason behind the need to construct a new tower.
Two petitions have been started in opposition to the proposed tower; one from Smart Okotoks, and the other from Okotoks Resident Colleen Dove.
Dove says residents were extremely receptive to her petition, with several expressing interest in volunteering their own time to lend a hand.
She says a lot of residents seemed to take issue with the open house itself, particularly the means in which the public was made aware of it.
"I did hear from people that I have spoken to that they weren't notified, and that neighbours told them about it, so I'm not sure what happened with the communication there. I do know they had a sign up on the road, so if you happened to be driving East, you'd see the notice on their board."
Colin Gainer, Senior Planner with the Town of Okotoks, was the Town's representative at the event. He says he has heard a lot of concern from residents.
However, he says when it comes to approving telecommunications structures, Industry Canada is the authorizing agent.
"The town's role in that process is to determine whether we can support or not support the proposal; what we call either 'concurrence' or 'non-concurrence,'" Gainer said. "(Then) they can determine if they can move forward if the town does concur with the location. If the town did not concur with the location, then they would need to go through Industry Canada Approval."
He says the town can review various design elements, but health assessments related to radiofrequency energy and other such health impacts lie outside the town's jurisdiction.
Rogers will review the feedback provided, and provide a full report which will be assessed by the town, who will then make a determination as to whether or not they provide concurrence.
Anyone wishing to provide feedback is asked to contact the town's Planning and Development department: (403) 995-2760, email@example.com or Land Solutions LP at: (403) 290-0008, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rogers is accepting public feedback until August 8th.
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