Mayor wants Telus to wait on cell tower

By Don Plant

Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 12:01 AM

Telus will decide in the next two weeks where it will locate a controversial cellphone tower in South Kelowna.

The company made the announcement at a meeting in Kelowna on Tuesday.

Demand for wireless service is increasing as the city’s population grows, said company spokesman Shawn Hall.

“We need to meet that demand,” he said. “If we were to wait a year, I’d expect to see degraded cellphone service in Kelowna. People wouldn’t have the same service they have now because demand is increasing every day.”

The 42-metre tower is slated to go up in the Todd Road area, where a hole has been dug on Chris Turton’s property. About 140 residents have signed a petition against it, arguing the electrical emissions could affect their health.

Residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting pointed to two international studies that are probing the non-thermal effects of electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) on the human body. They want Telus to delay the project at least until the studies are released.

Mayor Sharon Shepherd, who also attended the meeting, agrees.
“My preference would be that they back off on doing anything until we get those results in,” she said. “I’m very interested in these two major studies.”

A representative of Health Canada told the meeting that scientists regularly review the benchmark they use to gauge cell-tower emissions.

Bob Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation, said Health Canada and Industry Canada have integrated previous studies on the non-thermal effects of EMF emissions into the current safety code, said Hall.

The maximum ground-level exposure of the proposed tower’s emissions would be 98 times lower than Industry Canada’s benchmark for human health, he said.

Still, residents are worried the safety code fails to account for whether cell-tower emissions can make neighbours more prone to cancer.

“I believe (Telus) wants to do what’s good for Telus,” said Perry Leibel, a Todd Road resident who attended the meeting.

“There’s a bunch of details out there that Safety Code 6 doesn’t deal with.”

The international studies residents are touting won’t be released for another year or two, Hall said. Health Canada then has to review them.

“We’re at least three or four years until . . . those studies are reviewed and implemented,” he said. “It’s just as likely those studies will result in emission standards being relaxed.”

Residents have proposed seven other tower sites in South Kelowna.

Engineering reports found four of them are unsuitable because they’re either too far away to provide adequate coverage or two towers would have to be built on one site to transmit signals over a ridge of land, Hall said.

The three other proposed sites would be suitable, but they’re closer to residential areas. “I was disappointed there wasn’t a better site that appears to meet their criteria. I would hope no homes (are affected),” said Shepherd.

One family is moving away from Todd Road. Paul White, who devoted more than a year opposing the tower, said he’s tired of wasting his time.

“I have no power at all,” he said. “We’ve been graced with a period when they haven’t built, and I’m grateful for that. It gives us time to move out.”

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