Pittsfield Residents, Officials Frustrated With Cell Tower Action Plan
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents, City Council members, and health officials are frustrated with the unfolding situation concerning a Verizon cell tower at 877 South St.
The tower was erected in August 2020 and has since driven large amounts of public comment in the open microphone segment of City Council meetings.
Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi has been the primary spokesperson for the cell tower opposition and has had her 12-year-old daughter Amelia call into the meetings to speak about the symptoms she is experiencing such as nausea and sleep disturbances.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Health Director Gina Armstrong presented an official four-step alternative plan to address these concerns without the help of the state Department of Public Health, which offered the services of a Bureau of Environmental Health representative and then backed out.
Wednesday night at the Board of Health meeting, Armstrong expressed that the Health Department was "disappointed" with DPH's lack of participation in the investigation after offering to help.
The action plan that was unanimously approved by the Board of Health on Monday includes:
- A panel presentation on EMF safety from a "range of views" for the next Board of Health meeting in June;
- compiling a summary of health concerns reported to the Health Department to include with a letter to the legislative delegation, the governor's office and DPH in support of Senate Bill 2418 to form a special commission to research the impact of EMR and RFR on consumer protection, public health, and technology in the commonwealth;
- obtaining an engineering consultant to measure the radio frequency power transmitted from the cell tower and evaluate compliance with Federal Communications Commission radiation limits;
- researching resources for conducting an epidemiological study of the health concerns reported from residents in this neighborhood.
"Board members and I reviewed the email communications from residents and EMF experts, the Nov[ember] 2020 New Hampshire legislature's Final 5G Investigation Commission Report and other resource material; consulted with the City Solicitor as well as Dr. Alan Woolf of Boston Children's Hospital as recommended by MDPH," Armstrong wrote in a communication to the council.
Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell feels that, in his experience as a councilor, he has "never had to go through this much to try and get a response back from any department." Connell originally submitted a petition to investigate the cell tower concerns with Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey on Jan. 20.
"So is this a failing of the Health Department? Is this a failing of the administration? I don't know, but we're all here to serve the residents and, in my opinion, that hasn't been done," he said. "This is a situation to be taken seriously, many months ago, and actually should have been taken seriously. Why now? Because the media has played a part in this? Maybe, but I think it's disrespectful to the people we're supposed to represent."
Kavey queried Armstrong on the timeline for the action plan. She said the priority is to retain the engineering consultant to measure the radio frequency power transmitted from the cell tower.
The Health Department feels that these measurements need to be taken immediately so that any non-compliance in RF emissions can be fixed.
Next week, Armstrong's team will then be working on the letter to the legislative delegation and sending the summary of health concerns and will be working toward the panel presentation.
A Pittsfield resident who has been following this story in the media called in to voice her opposition to this plan as a whole.
"It seems in general, 'we have to research it, we have to come up with a plan, it has to be a rigorous study before they can do anything, now, maybe let's hire an engineer to check the radiation of the tower and see if it's in code' and I asked myself: 'so if it's too high, Pittsfield's going to ask them to down the power, if it's too low, let's crank it up, if it's just right, let's forget the whole thing? I don't understand the purpose of going down the road," Ann Carey of Oliver Drive said.
"And until you can figure out how to do it, simply unplug it, turn their power off, the only moral thing to do until you can assure that it's safe, that's my plea that you have a heart and you do the right thing."
Tags: cell tower,