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11 May 2016

California: Hanford Residents Challenge Cell Tower

Hanford residents Susan and Jack Wills stand
in the front yard of their house on Laura Lane.
(Gary Feinstein/The Sentinel)
The 75-foot tower would be similar to several already located in Hanford, many of which are near schools. The proposal calls for the tower to be erected in the southwestern part of the park to look like a fake tree.

Hanford residents challenge cell tower
by Seth Nidever Staff Reporter , The Sentinel,
10 May 2016

Decision to allow it in Hidden Valley Park is being appealed

The Hanford Planning Commission voted 4-1 on April 12 to allow Verizon to put a cell tower in Hidden Valley Park, but that’s not the end of the story.

Some residents on Laura Lane, immediately south of where the tower would go, are appealing to the Hanford City Council to overturn the commission’s decision.

Jack Willis, Suzanne Willis, Jean Leonard and Jim Leonard, all of whom live on Laura Lane, have submitted their formal request. The appeal is slated to be heard at the next council meeting on May 17.

The proposal calls for the tower to be erected in the southwestern part of the park to look like a fake tree. The base of the tower would be surrounded by a perimeter fence topped with barbed wire.

Jack Willis, a 69-year-old retired Lemoore High School English teacher and a former attorney, is concerned about the potentially negative long-term cancer risks of exposure to the low-intensity radiofrequency waves the towers generate.

Willis says he doesn’t have any conclusive evidence, but said he’s read some sources that suggest that potentially negative effects may not show up for 10-20 years.

“The [waves] are relatively low-intensity, but they’re constant,” he said. “I don’t want to be a guinea pig in that regard.”

According to the American Cancer Society, there is “very little evidence” to support the idea that cell towers cause cancer.

The Society’s website says that, at ground level near a cell tower, the exposure to radiofrequency waves “is thousands of times less than the limits for safe exposure set by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory authorities.”

The website goes on to say that “few human studies have focused on cellular phone towers and cancer risk.”

The website cites two studies that have been completed. It says one study found “no link between a mother’s exposure to the [cell] towers during pregnancy … and the risk of early childhood cancer.”

The other study found a “slightly higher risk” of cancer for children living in towns that exposed them to higher-than-average levels of radiofrequency radiation from cell towers during the previous five years.

However, the website said the study only looked at the distance the children lived from cell towers. It said the study didn’t measure how much radiation the children actually received.

“This limitation reduces confidence in the study,” the website says.

Nonetheless, Willis and other nearby residents have misgivings.

Maureen Fukuda, who also lives on Laura Lane, said she had a male relative who lived for many years with his wife in a Los Angeles home with high-voltage power lines running overhead near the backyard.

Fukuda said the man was killed by what she described as a “strange kind of cancer.” Fukuda said the relative’s wife later died from the same type of cancer.

“They lived in that house for 30 years,” she said. “Who’s to say that there isn’t a connection there? I just feel funny about that.”

Fukuda said there “should have been a little bit more study done by the [commission]” before they approved the proposed tower.

Senior Hanford Planner Melody Haigh said that one of the conditions of the project’s approval is that Verizon has to demonstrate that they are in compliance with FCC guidelines for radiofrequency waves.

She said Verizon has indicated that the project is in compliance.

The 75-foot tower would be similar to several already located in Hanford, many of which are near schools.

“There are quite a few at different schools,” said Darlene Mata, community development director for Hanford. “With more and more of these [smart] devices we use, we need more coverage and more capacity. We’re seeing more cell towers.”

“This is something that’s fairly common in all cities,” Mata added.

Willis identified radiation as a “primary concern,” though he and others have concerns regarding the approval process – which he described as lacking “transparency” – and the appropriateness of having a barbed-wire-topped fence in the park.

Willis said he’s open to the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the city if the appeal is denied.

According to the American Cancer Society website, “the amount of [radiofrequency radiation] exposure from living near a cell tower is many times lower than the exposure from using a cell phone.”

The site said that there have been about 30 studies looking into possible cancer effects from long-term cell phone use.

“Most studies to date have not found a link between cell-phone use and the development of tumors, although these studies have some important limitations,” the site said. “This is an area of active research.”

The site says that anybody with concerns “can ask a government agency or a private firm to measure the radiofrequency field strength near [a] tower… to ensure that it is within the acceptable range.”

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. Follow him on Twitter @snidever.


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