Campus Tower Project Opens Exposure Debate

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Vital statistics: $18,000 in revenue to the university

A Verizon Wireless tower is set to be constructed atop a building on Southern Oregon University’s (SOU) campus and this week a public meeting is being held to alleviate concerns from neighbors – safety, transparency, lack of public input and electromagnetic radiation – reported the Ashland Daily Tidings.

According to an SOU spokesperson Joe Mosley, the tower will have six-panel antennas with supporting base transmission equipment at ground level. Plus, it will be screened by a wall that also hides a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit, so it will not make any sound.

Neighboring residents’ opinions are split on the project; some are for it and some against. Resident Carlie Irvin said, “There’s no scientific proof it harms my health. ’Til I get that, I’m indifferent. Plus, it improves my service, and I want that for my work and in case of emergency. I believe good service is good for our community.” 

Conversely, resident Steve Walters, who lives near the proposed tower location said, “It’s terrible…The radiation is not good for humans to be so close.”

However, based on calculations from Verizon, MPE (Maximum Permissible Exposure) at ground level is 1.6 percent of the MPE limit for the general population. Since power is under 2,000 watts, it’s exempt from environmental evaluation. According to registered professional engineer, B.J. Thomas, “This number will comply with current FCC and county guidelines for human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields.” Additionally, regarding cancer concerns, The American Cancer Society says “there is very little evidence” in support of the idea that cell towers increase the risk of cancer or other health problems.

Several residents also said they had not been notified about the installation, claiming that SOU was not transparent about the project, sending out late notices and failing to notify neighbors in a wide-enough area. However, Verizon and the installer Smartlink did notify all neighbors via letter.

“It is not a secret,” Mosley said. “All public notices have been given at every step along the way. It would be broad to say neighbors are upset. We don’t want to discount anyone’s concerns.”

Mosley noted that the project will strengthen reception on campus, in nearby parts of town, and provide $18,000 in revenue to the university. Over the past six months, the tower proposal has successfully gone through all required procedures on campus and with the city Planning Department.

October 27, 2017   

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