Charlottetown residents angry over cellphone tower in neighbourhood

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 17, 2015

Residents in the Charlottetown’s Brighton neighbourhood are not happy that Eastlink has erected a cellphone tower on the top of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans range light on Queen Elizabeth Drive. About 1,000 signatures have been collected on a petition and they’re planning on taking the matter to the Island Regulatories and Appeals Commission next month. From left, are Mark Pickard, Heidi Hyndman, Menna MacIsaac, Maeve Dickie and Luke Dickie, standing in the front. Pickard pointed out that no one would ever put a cellphone tower on top of a school and it doesn’t make any sense to put one in such a densely populated residential neighbourhood.

©Dave Stewart/The Guardian

Residents in Charlottetown’s Brighton community are united in their opposition to a cellphone antenna that has been erected in their neighbourhood.

Eastlink put one on top of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans range light off Queen Elizabeth Drive on Wednesday.

One of the ways residents are expressing their opposition is by signing a petition and, as of Monday, 1,000 signatures had been collected. They aren’t happy with the tower and even more perturbed at the fact there was no consultation before it went up.

Blake Doyle, an area resident who is leading the fight on behalf of the residents, says these antennas should not be going up in residential areas without more scientific information as to the effect they have on human health.

“I have very serious concern for the long-term health impacts associated with low-intensity cellular radiation and I am shocked this could be allowed in a residential neighbourhood with so many children nearby,’’ Doyle said.

He said residents are also concerned about the impact on property values.

Eastlink says the City of Charlottetown has an adopted consultation process that they followed and completed. The service provider also undertook additional communications in the form of an informational pamphlet sent in May.

"Eastlink works very hard to find wireless site locations that minimize impact to the community while meeting with ever-increasing cellular coverage needs,'' said Jill Laing, spokeswoman for Eastlink. "We are very aware of the public sensitivity around the constuction of new cellular towers, which is why we didn't construct a new tower in this community. Instead, we used existing infrastructure to place a small piece of wireless equipment.''

Doyle said residents are hoping to hit Eastlink where it hurts, explaining that a number of residents have said they will cancel their service.

The Guardian met with some parents in the area on Wednesday. They pointed out that dozens of children live in the immediate area and that there's an elementary school close by. It just isn't worth the potential health risks, the parents said.

One resident said it would never be acceptable to put a cellphone antenna on top of a school so why should it be OK in such a densely populated residential neighbourhood.

Laing says the small antenna is of "exceptionally low power''.

"In fact, it is less than 80 watts, which is about the same as the power of a standard household light bulb,'' Laing said.

In April city council was told that Industry Canada allows cellphone towers to go on top of existing high structures without public consultation or notice. Council approved the permit, indicating that there is nothing it can do about it.

Resident Menna MacIsaac also spoke about possible health impacts to children in the area.

“In the absence of clear science we have asked Eastlink, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Industry Canada to not proceed with this planned development,’’ MacIsaac said.

Don Glendenning, another area resident, said it’s an issue that affects everyone.

“If we don’t take a stand on this tower, at this time, towers could be popping up in other neighbourhoods,’’ Glendenning said.

“This is an ill-conceived location for transmission of cellular signals as the range light has fallen into disrepair in recent years and seems to be in questionable structural condition,’’ added resident Paul Jenkins.

Kali Simmonds, yet another area resident speaking out, says they have researched a number of medical and scientific articles and found evidence that suggest the towers pose a health risk.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey has taken the community’s case to Ottawa and has made direct appeals to the minister of state and Fisheries Minister and Island MP Gail Shea.

Doyle says the next big step will be with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. On July 9, residents are scheduled to file a formal appeal.

The group is also trying to organize an information forum which will take place in the coming weeks.

Laing said Eastlink carefully adhered to the city's tower siting and consultation process to select and gain approvals for the location.

"We also met with Mr. Doyle in person to answer questions and walk him through the process we followed,'' Laing said.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart