Concerns raised over cell towers

A cell tower near Highway 101 and Olive Street in Newport, with plans for 12 additional panels, has some area residents alarmed. They took their concerns about wireless technology to the Newport City Council at its meeting on Feb. 18. (Photo by Cheri Brubaker)

Eva Bortnik took her concerns regarding telecommunications and cell towers to the Newport City Council on Feb. 18. Bortnik started her presentation by showing a meter, which she passed around. The meter indicated a reading 2.4 gigahertz of radiation in the room," she said.

“I am very disabled by electromagnetic radiation going through the air, Bortnik told city council members. “It interferes with my head and my thinking. I’m just trying to be as well as I can be in this environment.”

Bortnik provided information from emf.org, which states that 244 scientists have signed an appeal submitted to top leaders at the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the UN Environmental Program.

“The appeal urgently calls for greater health protection in the midst of what has become an historic, global phenomenon — the rapid expansion and proliferation of wireless communications and electrical technologies,” the website reports. That organization, and Botnick, say the impact these have on human health have not yet been adequately studied.

Bortnik asked for a city council work session so she could educate them on this issue. “There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot to understand,” she said, adding that she’d like to involve the county.

A new cell tower erected “in such a short period of time without any public notification is really ugly,” she said. “These are the kinds of things that detract from the beauty of Newport. I think it would be good to limit the number of towers that go up.”

There are already six panels on the tower, and AT&T has applied for 12.

"That’s way, way too close to workers on the second floor of the Avery Building,” Bortnik told council members, adding she read higher numbers there than she’s seen anywhere. She asked the city to deny the addition of the 12 panels.

Bortnik also told the city council they must protect children, and she went so far as to say that it was criminal to allow children to use cellphones, calling it unconscionable.

“We’re living in an average of a quintillion times more radiation than we’re supposed to be exposed to in nature,” she said gravely.

Bortnik directed council’s attention to Oregon Senate Bill 283, which she said supports her concerns and demand for action. The bill reads “this 2019 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the pubic peace, heath and safety, an emergency is declared to exist…”

The Oregon Health Authority will consider peer-reviewed, independently funded scientific studies of the health effects of exposure to microwave radiation, particularly exposure that results from the use of wireless network technologies in schools, or similar environment, report to the legislative assembly, then make recommendation to schools in the state.

Barbara Turrill told the city council that she has been researching 5G technology for about a year, and she offered her support of Bortnik’s comments, as did other citizens.

“The community needs to have the ability to fully understand the health risks of that kind of technology before something like that gets implemented,” Turrill said.

Mona Lindstromburg also asked for a work session on this issue, saying Newport needs a meaningful telecommunication ordinance.

“The city, of course, has ordinances that govern construction, and if the proposed construction meets the principal uses of the ordinance, then it’s something we are obligated to approve,” responded City Manager Spencer Nebel. “This tower was an allowed use in that particular zoning district. We have had discussions in trying to prepare for 5G, starting to take a look at model ordinances. There are a lot of limitations that local government has.” 

Nebel noted the League of Oregon Cities is currently developing a model ordinance regulating small cell technology.

City Councilor Ryan Parker said he would like to have a work session, so that “as a local governing body, we’re informed.”

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