LTC defers CREST tower answer

Trustees ask for more information and alternate location options

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The Salt Spring Local Trust Committee has asked for more information before it decides whether to issue a statement of concurrence with a VHF radio tower proposed for the Salt Spring Legion grounds.

CREST, the nonprofit company that delivers radio communications to first responder agencies in the Capital Regional District, has proposed the site as part of a system-wide upgrade and to fill a coverage gap in the Ganges area. The LTC has meanwhile heard from many community members who are concerned about the possible health effects of increasing electromagnetic radiation.

“I’m not prepared today to make a decision on this, and I would like to know particularly what the alternatives are, because right in the heart of Ganges doesn’t sit too well with me and it clearly doesn’t sit too well with a lot of people,” trustee Peter Grove explained during last Tuesday’s business meeting. “And I just don’t know what those options are, so I would like more information.”

The LTC can give a statement of concurrence or nonconcurrence regarding the site. Approval for the tower itself comes from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. EMF radiation from the tower has been confirmed to meet Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, and an independent consultant has verified that power densities will be less than two microwatts per square centimetre.

The Local Trust Committee was met with a morning protest before its April 30 meeting began, and heard from people concerned about the project during the town hall session. A petition opposing the monopole tower garnered close to 200 signatures. Several people urged the committee to act on the precautionary principle, which is specified under guidelines developed by the Advisory Planning Commission.

Some speakers spoke about the unknown health effects of increasing EMF radiation and their own personal experiences with related illness, stating they had moved to Salt Spring to get away from exposure. Others pointed out that things like cigarettes and herbicides were once deemed to be safe under scientific standards and have now been proven to be toxic and carcinogenic.

The location is especially concerning to some because the area around the Legion is densely populated with seniors and other vulnerable people.

“This place is so magical, and we don’t need to start killing the residents. It doesn’t make sense,” said Brent Talbot.

The LTC further heard from CREST manager Gordon Horth that neither monopoles already located on public land nor those on buildings in Victoria have created issues.

“To be honest I’ve never had a noise complaint, I’ve never had a light complaint, I’ve never had a health complaint,” Horth said, although he acknowledged local residents have concerns about health issues.

Questions from the public about where else the tower might be located included Mouat Park and the recycling depot. Horth said neither site had specifically been considered. He explained that CREST identified a general area where the tower would be most effective. To communicate it has to be in sight of the other CREST towers located on Mount Bruce and at the Central fire hall.

In the end the trustees decided they wanted more information about the site selection process and whether it was truly the best option.

For more on this story, see the May 8, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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