Community Opposes Phone Tower On School GroundsWhen a proposal to build a 125 foot telecommunications tower next to the Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo was put forward, it was heavily opposed by a local parents’ group. The Stillwater Schools Community Action Network(SSCAN) has initiated an online petition, asking the school board to reconsider by citing new research results that show emf radiation can cause a great deal of harm to young children.

An email that was sent on behalf of SSCAN stated, “We are concerned about the exposure of EMF (electromagnetic fields) and the health risks they pose to our children, our staff and school community. Safety should be a top priority, and we believe that cell towers have no place on or near school grounds where they can potentially harm our children and community.”

SSCAN member Sean O’Loughlin who was at the school board meeting said “My understanding is that construction on this project would be completed before school begins again in the fall, it is my personal opinion, based on my personal research, that any harm to students and staff from radio frequency radiation far outweighs any financial gain the district might receive.”

The Lake Elmo city council had approved the project on the 6th of May, before the proposal was presented to the school board.

The tower is represented by Faulk and Foster Real Estate on behalf of Verizon Wireless. They propose Verizon should lease about 1000 square feet of the school’s property on 820, Manning Ave in Lake Elmo, to accommodate the tower and accessory building.

A conditional use permit has been issued by the city for constructing the tower. The tower would fit into the comprehensive plan of the city, and would be placed within the public facility zoning district as defined by city code. This tower is the latest, under the city’s new wireless communications legislation adopted in 2009. During the meeting no members of the public were present to oppose this proposal.

As a part of process to issue the conditional use permit, Verizon Wireless was required to establish that the tower is necessary for the provision of cellular coverage. To analyse the construction requirements, the city worked with Garrett Lysiak, P.E., OWL Engineering and EMC Test Labs, Inc.

The locals and the council are concerned about the health risks posed by radiation from the tower, because it is on school property. But Lysiak seems confident the ground level radiation will not exceed safety limits, he said “Using the data submitted by Verizon Communications, I preformed a ‘worst-case’ radiation analysis to determine the amount of RF energy that would be present at the base of the tower. I was able to determine that the maximum level of RF radiation reaching the ground at the base of the tower is less than 10 percent of ANSI standard value, and is not classified as a radiation hazard.”

But O’Loughlin remains skeptic about Lysiak’s evaluation, in his speech during the school board meeting on the 12th of June, he challenged it by saying that there was a conflict of interest because the information Lysiak used was supplied by Verizon and not from an independent body.

The SSCAN petition cites studies that show chronic levels of RF radiation cause cancers and other health problems, and that young people were more susceptible. Other countries worldwide have much stricter standards for EMF safety levels, some have outright banned phone towers from close proximity to schools, hospitals, apartments etc.