Telus tower a risk to public health: residents

By Robert Freeman
The Progress
Jan 19 2007

Hundreds of Chilliwack residents have signed a petition protesting a 147-foot telecommunications tower on Yale Road saying they believe its transmissions will be harmful to their health.

Last week, city council approved a height variance for the tower requested by Telus, essentially giving a green light to the project, but a spokesman for the residents says proper notice of the meeting was not made.

There was no public opposition to the variance request at the Jan. 8 public information meeting.

Chilliwack Mayor Clint Hames says he would be “happy to re-hold” the meeting if notification errors were made, but the city must first contact its lawyers to see if such a move is legal.

“We’re caught in the middle because we don’t regulate things like cell phone towers, but we do regulate the height of things,” he says.

But there are “hundreds” of such towers in the Fraser Valley, he adds, apparently operating without ill effect.

“We assume the science that’s presented on behalf of the Industry Canada is sound and these things are safe,” he says.

Robert Riedlinger, who claims to be a victim of electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation, says there are “stacks of studies that show there is a problem around the world.”

He says when he moved into a house in Harrison Hot Springs in 1995 he started getting headaches, neck pains and a constant “buzzing sound” in his ears that got worse as he walked to a nearby communications tower. But when he was out of the area and away from the tower, all the symptoms disappeared.

The industry should be forced to prove the towers are safe, he says, not the residents who live near them.

John Toussaint, manager of a mini-storage near the Chilliwack tower, says if the health information collected by the group on EMF radiation is accurate, then he’s worried about the effect on his employees and tenants.

“I need to know if this is a safe thing they’re putting in,” he says.

Telus spokesman Shawn Hall agrees there are studies that show negative EMF impacts, but they have not been replicated as “good” science demands.

He also says emissions for the Chilliwack tower will be “several thousand times less” than those set out in an Industry Canada safety code, which determines safe emission levels.

Greg Balzer, a spokesman for the residents, says Industry Canada will not approve the Telus project without first getting council’s blessing.

He implored the councillors to stand up for the residents, especially their children who are the most vulnerable, and act before Telus goes ahead with the tower.

“We don’t have time to waste,” he told city staff yesterday. “Please help us in time.”

rfreeman @theprogress.com

© Copyright 2007 Chilliwack Progress

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