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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Contested new cell tower proposed for near Blue Mountain Community Church

Photo by Cooper Andersen

The new cell tower proposed to go up near the Blue Mountain Community Church raised concerns from residents regarding the cell tower’s effects on health, safety and environmental aesthetics.

According to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the tower is proposed by AT&T and J5 Infrastructure Partners to expand cell coverage and capacity in eastern Walla Walla. The proposed cell tower will be 65 feet tall and camouflaged, likely as a tree or a part of a building. The Union-Bulletin also reports that the cellular tower would be placed on a non-residential property in a residential neighborhood.

Concerns regarding wireless communication, and the potential health effects caused by the radiation from cell phones and cell towers, have become increasingly prevalent

Cellular towers are responsible for enabling communication between wireless devices (such as cell phones) through the utilization of RF (Radio-Frequency) waves

RF waves fall under the spectrum of electromagnetic waves, although they are low frequency, meaning they are far lower in energy compared to other waves such as X-Rays and visible light.

Generally, microwaves transmitted directly from handheld cell phones are associated with higher energy exposure than those from cell phone towers due to the fact that the wave’s energy within a given volume decreases with distance, and cell towers are further away from the general public than cellphones.

Although studies have been conducted to determine what risks – if any – RF radiation poses to consumers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have been unable to find evidence that these waves cause cancer – although they say further experiments are needed.

“Some health and safety interest groups have interpreted certain reports to suggest that wireless device use may be linked to cancer and other illnesses, posing potentially greater risks for children than adults. While these assertions have gained increased public attention, currently no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses,” the FCC said.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists RF waves as possibly carcinogenic. Although some studies it has performed have found slightly increased risks for some users, it has not established statistically significant causality between cell phone use and cancer. 

It is worth noting that these studies investigated RF waves in cell phones and not cell towers. Cell towers give off lower energy waves to the general public than cell phones due to their distance away from the ground.

During the city council meeting held on Sept. 27, 2023, residents brought up their concerns regarding this new proposal in their public comments. 

Barbara Knudson, a Walla Walla resident, described the proposed cell tower as “a Christmas tree on a stick,” and expressed concerns with the aesthetics of the tower and described the effort to build the tower as being bankrolled by wireless companies.

“The church members will think it is beautiful, because in their eyes it is money, as they drive away to their homes not in our neighborhood,” Knudson said during the meeting. 

During the Feb. 8 city council meeting, a number of residents expressed concerns as to the potential health and aesthetic concerns of the cell tower. They urged the city council to adopt a moratorium, a temporary prohibition, on future cell tower construction. 

Jim Snyder is the lead pastor at the Blue Mountain Community Church. Snyder pushed back against people who oppose the project in a statement to The Wire.

Those who oppose this project have tried to paint BMCC as “loving money and not loving their neighbors” and as a “selfish organization that doesn’t care about this community.” This church has been an outstanding support to this community,” Snyder said.

Snyder said that the church has been subject to protests as well as defamation as a result of the dispute over the cell tower. 

The Church Board did not anticipate the firestorm of opposition by a few wealthy and determined neighbors who have made it their goal to stop this project and “destroy the church if need be,” Snyder said. “Thus far, the church has endured over a year of protests on Sunday mornings, along with constant verbal and written slander and defamation … These protests, threats, and outrage are aimed at a church that has faithfully served this community for over a century.

Snyder alleged that Walla Walla Mayor Tom Scribner encouraged protestors to pressure church leadership and bred a hostile relationship between the church and its neighbors.

The Wire offered Scribner a chance to respond to Snyder’s claims; Scribner did not respond to the allegations prior to publication.

Snyder also said that the church has already signed a contract with AT&T and is unable to cancel the lease if it were to want to.

The reality is the church signed a legally binding contract, leasing a piece of ground to AT&T, and we have no authority to cancel a lease simply because some people don’t like it. There is no “buyout” clause in the contract,” Snyder said. 

Scribner explained the situation in a statement to The Wire.

Various neighbors raised multiple concerns about the cell tower: health, aesthetics, property values … The city council’s response was to allow the process to continue and let a hearing examiner conduct a hearing and decide whether or not the tower should be built, per applicable laws and ordinances. Which the hearing examiner has done,” Scribner said. “The hearing examiner found that the tower does not meet city code for various reasons, including the inability of AT&T to successfully camouflage the tower. AT&T did not agree with the decision and has filled [sic] a lawsuit against the city in federal court to vacate the decision of the hearing examiner and allow it to build the tower.”

During the Feb. 14 City Council meeting, Scribner mentioned that the ongoing litigation with AT&T regarding the proposed cellular tower is set to go to trial in November, per a scheduling order.

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  • B

    Barbara KnudsonMar 19, 2024 at 10:14 am

    Testing that is decades old that doesn’t include the current data that shows clear concerns would have been a great consideration in this article. The Blue Mtn church shows no concern for the children in the daycare that this macrocell tower will be less than 200’ away. Our FCC has been sued and lost and were ordered to do further testing, but none has happened. In defense of not having a cell tower you cannot discuss health or the environment. You also can not sue a cell company if you are harmed. Big red flags and reasons they should not be in a residential neighborhood.

  • D

    David MorrisonMar 2, 2024 at 8:18 am

    Whoever wrote this article is clearly working on behalf of the telecommunications industry. It is no longer debatable that cell phone/tower radiation is harmful to every biological entity. The commercial insurance industry no longer insures against “harm from exposure to electromagnetic fields.” They have specific disclaimers to indemnify themselves against the lawsuits already pending. Recent studies in Italy and the U.S. have confirmed cancer from expousre. Those who write articles like this should consider the harm they may be doing by this kind of false safety information.

    • H

      HumanApr 1, 2024 at 11:22 pm

      Please tell me how electromagnetic radiation that is lower energy than visible light damages DNA and causes cancer.

      You can’t, because the idea is preposterous to anyone with basic physics knowledge. Do you want to ban flashlights?

      In fact automatic and unchanging hostility towards any and all authority or powerful interests and automatic rejection of the truth of everything they say doesn’t make you smarter.

      Your the kind of person who would totally believe that fluoride is mind control juice or the vaccines make us gay or something because a 15 minute youtube video convinced you that thinking this made you smarter than all the “sheep”.