Islanders concerned with the potential health risks of electromagnetic energy are calling on the community to help oppose a new Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications tower proposed for the Salt Spring Legion property.
A “Rally for Public Safety and Well-being” is scheduled to take place at the Harbour House Hotel this Tuesday, April 30 at 9 a.m., before the Local Trust Committee business meeting gets started at 9:30. Organizers are also asking people to voice their concerns during the noon-hour town hall session.
CREST is a private not-for-profit corporation that is responsible for providing radio communications to emergency response agencies in the Capital Region, including BC Ambulance Service, the RCMP and Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue. Its application will go to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for approval, but local governments can submit a recommendation of concurrence or non-concurrence. The LTC is scheduled to address CREST’s request for concurrence after Tuesday’s town hall ends.
CREST manager Gordon Horth said the organization is in the process of upgrading its entire system, but downtown Ganges has been identified as having the most significant radio coverage gap across the entire region.
“This is really about fixing a public safety issue,” Horth told the Driftwood.
Planning staff have recommended the LTC submit concurrence based on the benefit to emergency communications, the public consultation undertaken by the proponent, and an independent analysis demonstrating the power density meets Health Canada standards (Safety Code 6).
Opponents to the project state that it is too close to vulnerable populations, with seniors housing and medical services in high density around the site. They believe that electromagnetic radiation could be especially harmful to these groups and to the environment.
“While the intent to improve emergency services is positive, this proposed solution is counterproductive, adding additional long-term and unknown risks to the population and to natural species in the area,” states islander Nowick Gray in a letter to the LTC. “Regarding relevant safety concerns, it is inadequate to rely solely on official bodies such as Health Canada and the WHO, as their objectivity is compromised by industry lobbyists. Independent studies are needed, and when there is still doubt, precaution against unknown risks must take precedence.”
Gray and others warn that if approved, CREST’s monopole could be used to co-locate other EMF transmission such as 5G internet without companies needing to consult with the community.
The LTC’s Advisory Planning Commission has meanwhile recommended they ask for more information from the applicant after discussing the referral earlier this month. The proposal does not follow guidelines the APC developed around telecommunication tower siting, which were based on the precautionary principle. In particular, the guidelines recommend such towers be located at least 500 metres away from any facility associated with continuous human activity. Information the APC would like to have includes whether CREST considered any other sites besides the Legion property.
A staff report notes that an independent consultant has verified that power densities will be less than two microwatts per square centimetre, as per the APC recommendations.
Horth said the monopole design will emit minimal radiation while looking as attractive as possible, with green paint to help it blend into the trees.
“This is world standard as to the quality of the build, and it certainly complies with federal regulations,” Horth said.