Cell tower, Measure W discussed by health care district
The Palm Drive Health Care District heard from a slew of residents of Petaluma Avenue Homes, a complex located adjacent to Sonoma Specialty Hospital (SSH). Their grievance: electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) coming from a cell tower owned by Crown Castle and used by AT&T, on the hospital’s campus.
The residents lined up during public comment on non-agenda items at the district’s Oct. 7 meeting at SSH.
Those who spoke wanted the tower either removed or raised. Raising the tower was a suggestion to keep the second- and third-story homes out of the direct line of EMF radiation as they claimed it currently is.
The residents said the tower was responsible for a number of health issues in the complex, from child depression to a 16-pound tumor associated with ovarian cancer.
Residents of Petaluma Avenue Homes have addressed this issue before, including at a Sebastopol City Council meeting Dec. 4. During that meeting, council said it had no jurisdiction on the matter beyond the use permit, which it had no legal reason to deny. However, councilmembers were willing to try a “good neighbor” approach.
The council made a motion to send a letter to the health care district asking for specific mitigation measures. The changes requested include moving the cell tower 1,500 feet away from apartments and raising it 150 feet. The letter also requests that the cell tower be powered off while the process is taking place.
City council had also heard from AT&T and Crown Castle, which both stated the radiation levels were in the acceptable parameters.
The public noted that the cell tower had not been shut off and that there was no remediation taking place. A few also questioned whether the acceptable levels of EMF radiation were properly scaled.
A couple did note that the hospital, now exiting its second bankruptcy, likely needs the cash, and were sympathetic to the need for funds, one saying, “You have some hard choices here.”
According to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute, “No mechanism by which ELF-EMFs or radiofrequency radiation could cause cancer has been identified. Unlike high-energy (ionizing) radiation, EMFs in the non-ionizing part of the electromagnetic spectrum cannot damage DNA or cells directly.”
Cell phone towers, or base stations, are listed in the non-ionizing spectrum of EMFs.
The only other non-agenda comment was from former director Jim Horn, who updated the board on his pursuit of any potential liability the district may have in relation to the Durall drug test scandal that is being investigated in Florida. Durall had also done business with the district’s hospital, then Sonoma West Medical Center. Horn recommended the board receive independent legal council on the issue and said he had been in contact with investigators who appeared to him to be taking the matter seriously.
The board is also moving along with its request for proposal for a legal opinion on what it can do with money from Measure W, the ballot measure that was created to keep the doors open at Palm Drive Hospital, now Sonoma Specialty, by replacing the existing district tax with a $155 parcel tax.
Director Richard Power had expressed concerns that the district may not be operating within the scope set forth in the measure and that the district may be open to a lawsuit alleging misuse of taxpayer money.
The deadline was extended to allow one potential lawyer, who was out of town during the application process, to apply. Otherwise, the process is moving along as planned, with interviews being conducted this week.
By Nov. 4, the selection of an attorney to give the opinion will be made, and the opinion itself is scheduled to be written by Dec. 2.