Published: November 13, 2008 1:00 PM
Residents fighting to remove transmission towers from their neighbourhoods may have found a crack in the industry's policy quagmire.
"I am so optimistic that we have found the Achilles heel here," said Triangle Mountain resident Sharon Noble. "Everyone believes all the power lies with the federal government, but it's not true."
Colwood is forming a task force to review the current bylaws and determine if there is a need for further protections. Within that discussion, staff will look into a health bylaw dictating the level of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) people could be exposed to. Health Canada's Safety Code Six is the national standard, however, it allows radiation levels exceeding many other countries, Noble said. While cell and wireless technology is still relatively new, research is making links between exposure and certain cancers, sleep disorders and other ailments.
Currently the City requires anyone wishing to erect a tower on their property to formally apply through council. That policy only governs tower structures, however, not the number of cell, radio or TV transmitters on them.
New policies are needed to address the transmitters and the level of electromagnetic radiation they emit, Noble said. Together with members of Citizens Against Unsafe Emissions (CAUSE), Noble has campaigned to either remove the towers on Colwood's side of the hill or at least limit people's exposure to EMR.
The task force will also look into whether or not existing nuisance bylaws can be applied to landowners hosting tower sites. Residents on Triangle Mountain have reported interference in electronics, including radios picking up signals when turned off, garage doors opening at random and automatic car locks malfunctioning.
"Residents have a right to enjoy their homes. (The towers) are preventing people from doing that," she said.
The ultimate goal is to find a way to remove the towers from the community. Correspondence between Coun. David Saunders and Denise Blackwell, Capital Regional District board chair, expressed an openness to look for CRD owned land that towers could be sited on.
"The CRD is not opposed to establishing communications facilities within CRD lands managed by Regional Parks or Water Services," Blackwell wrote.
The letter also stated while the CRD is not interested in a "proliferation of sites on its lands" there are already several sites servicing telecommunications companies in the Sooke Hill Wilderness Park Reserves and one planned for Survey Mountain in the Leech watershed area.
"I think there is a business case that could be put forward to have an incentive to have these broadcasters move," Saunders said. "Maybe we make it just a bit cheaper for them to be relocated to this area through taxes or whatever means the municipality or CRD has. I think there is a win-win here for everybody."
Local municipalities may lack the final authority over where transmission towers are sited in the community, but residents are keen to prove there is a way to beat the corporations. Colwood needs to look to legal opinions from people who specialize in this kind of law, Noble said. Municipalities cannot pass bylaws that limit a businesses right to do business, but they do have the right to say which locations are preferred, Noble said. Tower applications are ultimately governed by Industry Canada.
"Municipal governments have one heck of a power if they learn how to use it and choose to use it."
Langford to mirror Colwood tower bylaws
Similar discussions regarding transmission towers began in Langford after three towers were erected on the City's side of Triangle Mountain with little to no community consultation.
Since moving to the area 11 months ago, three towers have appeared near Tammy Jeske's Langford home. The City has since implemented a consultation policy, but they need to look into the health aspect of it as well, Jeske said.
In a letter to Langford council, Martin Blank, co-author of the Bioinitiative Report on EMR, states that evidence now shows exposure within what Canada's regulations deem safe causes permanent DNA damage. Since the impacts of exposure are not immediate, it is hard to conclusively show a connection between EMF and cancer, he continued. That being said there is enough plausible evidence to link the two, he wrote.
"Since we cannot rely on current standards, it is best to act according to the precautionary principle," he wrote.
People need to take it upon themselves to look into the matter, Jeske said. They will be shocked by what they find, she added.
For Langford, however, it makes sense to wait and see what Colwood is going to approve since they have had more opportunity to research the matter, said Mayor Stew Young. A joint task force would be a good idea since problems associated with the towers don't stop at municipal boundaries, he added.
"Of course if Colwood passes a bylaw and it's better than ours we are just going to match it," he said.
For more information on transmission tower concerns go to www.causetm.ca.