Ripon Rears Its Head Again in Oregon Elementary School Hearing

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In September 2017, the city of Bend, OR approved a conditional use permit for an 84-foot Verizon tower to provide 4G service to the immediate community, reported The Bend Bulletin. Now that construction has begun near housing developments and Elk Meadow Elementary School, members of the community are concerned over health risks.

A Facebook posting about the Elk Meadow tower referenced the Ripon, CA case reported by Inside Towers, where groundwater was cited as the cause of cancer in local school children and residents. 

The Bulletin gave the following account of the Ripon story with no mention of the true carcinogenic source:

The [Facebook] post referenced an elementary school in Ripon, California, where multiple people developed cancer after a cell tower was installed nearby. According to the Modesto Bee, four students and three teachers were diagnosed with different forms of cancer in a three-year timespan. Although Sprint and Ripon Unified School District said the tower met safety standards, the cell tower was turned off in March.” 

According to Gretchen Groves, spokesperson for the Oregon branch of the American Cancer Society, although high levels of radiofrequency waves can heat body tissue, the level of radio waves used by cell phones and towers is much lower. “Obviously, we understand that people have expressed concern, especially if it’s going near a school,” she said. “But at this time, there’s very little evidence that would support the idea that it is a concern.” 

Per resident Deb Hancock, who lives near the tower location, she’s heard conflicting reports regarding health hazards. “I don’t know who to believe,” she said. “I think we should be alarmed about it, but I don’t know what we should do.”

Other concerns over the tower, voiced by Ally Sexton, the director of Toddles Preschool, include lowering property values, and the threat of the tower collapsing and potentially falling on children. “I don’t feel that this is a safe place for it,” Sexton said. “There are better places where it won’t affect people.”

Bend-La Pine Schools spokeswoman Julianne Repman said the district is neither for or against the tower. “We don’t take a position on construction on [undeveloped] property that’s not ours,” she said.

July 30, 2019

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