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Where I Stand: No cell towers near schools, homes, hospitals


There is a reason residents of Plumas County are upset about new Verizon cell towers planned for dense residential neighborhoods in Portola and East Quincy. These towers— because of their proximity to where people live and work and kids go to school— are a totally different animal than the towers on mountains we have had in the county for decades. The radiofrequency (RF) exposure to individuals in these areas would be many orders of magnitude higher than existing RF exposures, due to proximity. These planned towers are a perfect example of the kind that would be prohibited if supervisors had listened to the public (rather than just the telecom industry) several years ago when the county telecommunications ordinance was being crafted.


When towers go in (according to studies) property values decrease, new fire risks are introduced into communities, and we’ve recently heard in national news coverage about the dangerous interference that 5G radiation can cause to flight altimeters, a real threat to medical helicopter flights taking off and landing at EPHC.


When the county was holding meetings on the new telecommunications ordinance, AT&T, Verizon, Digital Path and PSREC were welcomed to join the discussion with open arms, but when concerned residents began attending the meetings (those who actually pay the taxes to allow these meetings to happen!), we were interrupted, silenced, marginalized and the voices of dozens of local residents ignored at the board of supervisors.


Is it any coincidence that Supervisor Engel (District 5- up for re-election in June)—who voted to ignore public comment on the telecom ordinance—also voted to ban public access to meetings via zoom during a pandemic? For some elected officials, sadly, public comment seems to be a distraction and annoyance.


During the permit process, Verizon guaranteed local government representatives that the maximum public exposure from the proposed towers was only ~2% of the FCC safety guidelines. Both the Lee Rd. and EPHC cell tower permits were approved based on these assurances. Now it turns out that these 25-year-old safety guidelines are not protective of human health— what scientists and physicians have been saying for years.


In August of last year the DC Circuit Court ruled in response to a lawsuit by the Environmental Health Trust that, based on the many independent studies showing serious harm to health at non-thermal levels, the existing wireless safety guidelines are “capricious, arbitrary, and not evidence based, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act” You can read more about this case and review the entire court ruling at ehtrust.org .


These new towers are being planned not for emergency call reception which is generally not a problem in most built up areas, but to add capacity for those streaming videos on their phones, a demand which could easily be met by universal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet service to our community (which COVID grant funds now available to the county can help fund).


Residents of Plumas County should also be aware that the board of the Eastern Plumas Health Care hospital in Portola voted in Dec. 2019 to oppose the nearby cell tower, due to scientific evidence of harm and proximity to hospital facilities. We trust medical professionals at the hospital to care for us when we are sick or injured. Why are we ignoring them when it comes to safety risks in our community?


We call upon Portola City Council and Plumas County Board of Supervisors to revoke cell tower permits issued to Verizon, due to the clear inadequacy of federal radiation exposure guidelines. If elected officials fail to act, the health and safety consequences to our communities could be severe and long lasting.


Personally, I have not used a cell phone for more than 13 years. After I found out about the health consequences (including many brain tumors caused by wireless technology), I decided the benefits were not worth the heavy costs. We use only wired connections at home, and people can call our reliable landline (which still works when the power is out!) and leave a message if we are not available.  It’s not the end of the world if people can’t reach you every second of the day. We all lived this way for years! I love the freedom that choosing not to own a cell phone allows.


In the rush to improve connectivity and boost the economy of our communities, let’s not trust the Verizon “foxes” watching the “hen house” of our communities. Our kids trust us to keep them safe. Let’s not betray that trust.


Josh Hart



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