SIMCOE - Norfolk council has extended its commitment to a cell phone antenna in Simcoe that was at the centre of a health controversy several years ago.
The Rogers transmitter on the Simcoe water tower will remain there till at least March 31, 2033, provided that Health Canada doesn’t declare it a threat to public health.
Rogers Communications sought the lease extension in 2012. County staff was amenable, provided Rogers agree to a clause that would force the removal of equipment that did not meet Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 for the emission of electromagnetic radiation.
Norfolk public works has inserted a similar clause in its lease with Bell Mobility for the use of the water tower in Port Dover. The objective is to have the legal means to remove transmitters and receivers if Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau ever tightens its standards for electromagnetic fields, as contained in Safety Code 6.
“When push comes to shove, some don’t have much faith in these tests,” said Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke. “I’m glad this is in the agreement.”
Controversy erupted over the Rogers transmitter in Simcoe about seven years ago when some residents in the area of Elgin Avenue began complaining of mysterious symptoms. Victims attributed their ailments to the cell phone antenna on the water tower. Complaints included headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia and irritability among others.
One man claimed his symptoms forced him to vacate his home at the west end of Union Street. The issue was the subject of several acrimonious council meetings, including one where recently-elected Mayor Dennis Travale suspended proceedings to silence an abusive deputation.
Council dismissed the health concerns after testing indicated the Rogers transmitter was operating according to Safety Code 6. In any event, the enforcement of Safety Code 6 is the responsibility of Health Canada and Industry Canada.
Still, not everyone on council is enthusiastic about situating transmitters on county infrastructure. Port Rowan Coun. Betty Chanyi was the lone vote against the lease extension Tuesday night. Chanyi is worried about the “cumulative effect” this equipment might have on county residents.
“I have real concerns,” she said. “There are so many different cases of cancer. There are so many different instances of ailments. You have to ask `What are we doing?’ And we see tower after tower after tower. I don’t want to leave these towers as a legacy in Norfolk County.”
The Rogers contract extension ramps up the revenue in five-year increments. Annual lease payments will come to $17,000 until the spring of 2018. After that, they increase to $20,000 (2018-2013), $23,000 (2023-2028), and $26,000 (2028-2033).