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Pittsfield City Council Asks for Assistance With Cell Tower Concerns
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
01:43PM / Friday, December 02, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday passed three petitions asking multiple state and local entities to look into the possible effects of cell tower radiation.

Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren and Ward 4 Councilor James Conant requested that the state and federal delegation is notified of the council's position on the negative health effects of cell tower radiation and that the Massachusetts Municipal Association, particularly Mayors Association President Linda Tyer and Councillors Association President Lisa Blackmer of the North Adams City Council, are contacted for assistance in dealing with them.

Conant pointed out that this has been an issue for some time and said the city has no answers on its health implications.

"This is just an effort to communicate to state and federal officials that we're looking for information to help guide all of us on where we can go and what we can do for this," he explained.

"But I'll make this very clear: I do not support any litigation or lawsuit of any type. This is just an effort to communicate and get information from a state and federal level because our hands are tied by the FCC."

Warren added that they are asking for people at different levels to assist the city with investigating the type of concerns raised and whether they are an issue that needs to be dealt with.

Since a Verizon cell tower was erected at 877 South St. in August 2020, Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi and her daughter have spoken during open microphone about negative health effects they say are from electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by the antennae on the 115-foot pole.

In the past year, there have been a number of legal actions filed against Verizon and the city in relation to the tower.

About 10 people spoke about the negative effects of EMF radiation or the permitting process of the tower at Tuesday's meeting.

"Mayor Tyer, for other problems like homelessness and Wahconah Park, you have put all the stakeholders in a room and told them not to come out until they have come up with satisfactory solutions. Why not do that with the tower at 877 South St.?" Amelia Gilardi asked.

"Why not take representatives of Verizon and your neighbors, members of the Board of Health, the disability commission, defense attorneys, and Gina Armstrong [former city health director] representing ARPA funds who know this issue well, and put us all in a room together, tell us not to come out until we have found a solution that works for all."

Not everyone from the neighborhood around the tower was in support of the effort. Lori Court resident Lewis Schiller said there needs to be more objective research on the topic of EMF dangers.

After investigating the topic, he feels that the research on potential health hazards and negative effects is "inconclusive at best" and anecdotal. 

"Residents of Shacktown after losing their zoning case had been complaining of health problems and that's a problem. Ironically, nobody on Lori Court has experienced any of the strange and undefined health problems reported by others. This has been confirmed by Pittsfield Health Department," Schiller said.

"Testing into the EMF levels at the highest levels adjacent to any residence has been less than 2 percent of the government standard and about 2 percent of the [World Health Organization] standard.  This has been confirmed by testing by Shacktown's own residents. Opposition to the cell tower is not uniform in this committee. My neighbors all support the cell tower that was built at the end of our street and the service that it provides."

A cell tower opponent contacted iBerkshires arguing against Schiller's claim after the meeting.

Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick said he supports an investigation into potential radiation issues and is sympathetic to the property rights and concerns of the residents though he does not think the research is conclusive.

"I do not believe there is conclusive science to lead us to the point where we should be saying that we agree that there is a health impact," he said.

On the other hand, Kronick does find relocation to be a proper resolution.

The Councilor at Large Earl Persip III did not support sending the communication to MMA because he thinks they cannot do anything about it.

He pointed out that these petitions are not a "golden sword" for the residents looking to get the tower removed.

"These aren't moving that cell tower," Persip said. "These are communicating our desire to look at health concerns, not move this specific tower."

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