130 Foot Cell Tower Approved for Geneva, Neighbors Blindsided

Tower to be built in residential neighborhood, near two elementary schools

Tower to be built in residential neighborhood, near two elementary schools

I recently, learned about the plan for Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District (LWWSD) to place a 130 foot tall (13 story) cell tower on LWWSD land at 1010 Lakeview Street.

There are several reasons to be concerned about this:

The placement of the tower makes no sense: This 13-story tower will be in a residential neighborhood near two elementary schools and many homes full of senior citizens and children. There are many alternate sites, further from homes and children; many homes being less than 1,000 feet from the tower. Whatcom Hills Waldorf School, K-8, is about 1,600 feet from the tower. Geneva Elementary School is about 2,900 feet away.

LWWSD Tried to Hide the Construction of the Tower: They were supposed to notify citizens living near the construction, but most customers in my neighborhood, about 1,200 feet from the proposed tower, were never notified. Among homeowners within 1,000 feet of the tower, only a few were notified. This was all done to try to slow a public response to this tower’s installation on LWWSD land. The notification was sent out late, and by the time of the LWWSD meeting on May 11th, most people affected by the tower had intentionally not been notified of the installation.The county also tried to cover up the process, only accepting comments until May 18th.

Essentially, LWWSD and the county tried to rush this tower through as quickly as possible, notifying the fewest people they thought they could legally get away with, while trying to make it hard for the public to have any say or mount any defense.

In fact, LWWSD had signed the paperwork with wireless providers before they even notified the public. They did put a small sign up on the property, which they tucked away from view.

No Vote/ No Rights: We should keep in mind that there is no vote of any kind for installing this 13 story tower. Citizens are just supposed to put up with it.

Lower Home Values: Homes near cell phone towers will have their value reduced by 20%. Will either LWWSD or the wireless companies reimburse homeowners for lost value? No!

The Environmental Impact: This tower will draw a minimum of about 30 KW (kilowatts) daily; this number will only increase in the future. This amount of power could have supplied 18 to 20 homes. None of this power will come from green sources.  

Performance Is Poor Especially when Compared to Fiber-Optics: I have written extensively about our need for fiber-to-the-home infrastructure. Fiber is over a hundred times more efficient than wireless communications for data. In fact, when we compare satellite, wireless, and older tech like Comcast coax cable to fiber, we’re comparing apples and oranges as covered in this great article.  As I’ve written before, when we tested T-Mobile and Verizon hotspots for the libraries in real world conditions using the RRUL Network Load tester, the performance was abysmal and laughable. These terrible services also cost too much. We pay the highest prices in the developed world for broadband per Mbit and that will not change until we have fiber to the home. Wireless is also much less reliable.

Health Risks: The more studies we do on human cells, the more we find that non-ionizing radiation, like that found in cell phones and related devices, causes damage to human cells. Children and the elderly are most affected by cell towers. The current “standard” for testing cell phone technology is a joke. It is based on a model called SAM. A mannequin resembling a 6’ 2” athletic male named SAM is filled with a fluid and tested for 10 minutes. Not only is this fluid more like anti-freeze than biological fluids, but the average American uses their cell phone for about 5 hours a day. So as Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut noticed, “We’re really flying blind,” when it comes to assessing the safety of these devices.

The fake safety argument: Some will say that broader cell phone coverage will make people safer, but the coverage needed to make a call, including a 911 call, is easily provided by lower frequency waves that can be provided by towers that are no where near residential communities. Combine the health risks of cell towers with this knowledge and it’s obvious that putting these towers near residences and schools makes citizens less safe, not more.

So in short, this tower is being put up at the expense of the citizens of the Geneva community with no real due process and no real benefits to the community.

What can you do?
 Contact the county government and LWWSD and demand that this tower not be allowed near two schools and many residences when so many alternative sites are available.

County Contacts:


Whatcom County Planner:

Craig Ostrom: 360-778-5927

costrom@whatcomcounty.us    

Whatcom County Council:
 

council@co.whatcom.wa.us 
LWWSD:

General Manager Justin Clary


justin.clary@lwwsd.org

General Contact

general.inbox@lwwsd.org 
   
 

About Jon Humphrey

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Jon Humphrey is currently a music educator in Bellingham and very active in the community. He also has decades of professional IT experience including everything from support to development. He [...]

Comments by Readers

Randy Petty

May 16, 2022

I don’t live in that area but do know that the cell coverage 2.8 miles NE of there is poor (on verizon anyway) .  This becomes a factor when storms take out PSE power and you become dependent on mobile signals since your modem/router no longer function. I’d love to have fiber but not sure when/if “last mile” internet is going to be cost effective for the providers.   It would be interesting to know how decisions are made about running fiber on existing telephone poles vs having to trench.
Aren’t there already cell towers not far from this location ( lookout mountain?).  

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Thomas R. Scott

May 17, 2022

Hard to take the article at face value.  I read it through, though it was harder and harder to do so given it repeatedly used hyperbole, accusations and a lack of foundation, except that some studies failed to result in answers one way or the other.

1) It starts with claims that the placement makes no sense, with nothing to back that up and no specific alternatives.  Instead of backing the claim with substantive information, it moves on to a scare tactic regarding schools, children and seniors (a list of our most vulnerable).  The latter seems at once dishonest and ironic.  Schools, containing children, and children:  The children may or may not be impacted by the EMF (more on that later) but seniors are at the other end of the aging/living process and patently not impacted in the same longitudinal manner as children.  Thus, making the argument for both age groups look more like a scare tactic to elicit an emotional response rather than make a salient point.

2) Then it claims malicious intent to “hide” the application process, after paragraphs of hype, notes in one sentence that the notice was in compliance with the law.  The hard to find sign (again no support provided) was the only possible problem, given the current process.

Take exception to the process and the law, not the entities following the law.  This is a recurring problem in general, not just with this article.  Time and again, the public is blindsided by permit applications when the problem is the process itself, again, not those compliant with the law.  Work to open up the process to daylight  better.  Using the flawed process to paint opponents in a bad light while having done nothing to fix the process is at once disingenuous, weak and ineffectual.

3) The article tries to lean on past unrelated articles and topics regarding fiber.  Fiber and cellular technologies have different, yet overlapping, applications.  Yes, there is indeed overlap, but largely, they have different applications.  One is for immobile implementations, the other for mobile and emergent applications (the latter when fiber/copper is “down”).  To bring in fiber/copper as an alternative to mobile is a conflation of issues (a mismatch).  The two technologies are not in competition.  Indeed, the two technologies often support each other, used in combination based on the dictates of existing “plant”, geography and other considerations.

To state the fairly obvious, that wire/fiber plant is faster than often tenuous wireless communications is completely irrelevant.  As noted, the technologies have mostly different applications and nothing in the article states that the tower is being installed to supplant or obviate wire/fiber plant or connections.

4) Most of the citations are inconclusive, making the citations also look as if they are used to make the article look well-researched and give it undeserved weight.  The effect for reader is STATEMENT, STATEMENT (because, if you follow the link, well, we don’t really know).  It comes off as unconvincing as puffing up one’s chest in the run-up to a fight.  A lot of air and posing in place of or because there is no substance, no real weight.

The public would be better served if the article dropped the hyperbolic accusations, hyperbole in general and conflation of issues/technology.  Then stick to the flawed process, how to change the process and whatever very specific AND actionable issues may be presented.

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Jon Humphrey

May 17, 2022

Thanks guys. Yes, Sudden Valley could use some better coverage in areas but the placement of this tower for that purpose makes little sense if the goal is to cover Sudden Valley which starts about 4 miles from this location. Why put a tower that is supposed to serve Sudden Valley this far away from it?
Thomas, your response is the best exmample of what you’re blindly accusing me of, inflamatory propoganda. There are many excellent resources here including a paper documenting a proper scientific study of Voltage Gated Calcium channels and the effects of EMFs on them. Did you not bother to read it? Do you know more than a world renowned bio-chemist on this topic? 
EMFs do effect children and the elderly more for a variety of reasons including lower bone density and muscle mass. Are you arguing that kids and seniors are actually bigger than they seem to be to the naked eye? 
Yes, we did show that LWWSD did not follow the permitting process correctly and that the lease was signed before the public was informed. In fact, we did talk with neighbors direclty several times. Most, including in the 1,000 foot radius, were never informed. 
So Thomas your response is propoganda. A lot of fluffy language to hide the fact that you didn’t even bother to read or consider the resources here like the VGCC study, property value loss, and well everything here. 
Yes, fiber always matters sincey you need it for all modern telecom projects. The lack of affordable public fiber makes the cost of all proejcts higher. There is no argument to that, but I’m sure you’ll make something up. Also, this tower will be passed off as providing internet services. Wireless and wired services are NOT equivalent. Wireless needs fiber, not the other way around. It is the companies that try to skew the line on this and claim that low-performance wirless services can compete with fiber on performance. As we both agree, it’s apples and oranges.
Nice job with the fluffy though. You must be a great fiction writer.

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Thomas R. Scott

May 17, 2022

Jon, I did read the VGCC study which was pretty non-committal (did not seem to find anything definitive).

However, I do stand for correction regarding notice.  A) I missed the part about the notice being late, thought that is not supported with dates notices were sent with the date required using the post-mark(s).

B) I was incorrect in thinking the notice distance would be something like 300 or 500 feet and not the 1,000 you noted.  However, upon closer inspection, it appears that the address 1010 Lakeview ST is just barely outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) and, thus, requires a 1,000 foot notice area (sort of a radius from the address) instead of the 300 notice distance as required within the UGA just a short distance away and which encompasses most of Geneva.

I might also add a lack of appreciation for how LWWSD operates, at least not with how they charge fees for services they have no way of providing for at least some if not many addresses within their district.

However, even given my bias against LWWSD, I maintain my problems with the article regarding substance and, given that it is opinion and has a position, actionable material.

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Jon Humphrey

May 20, 2022

Here is an e-mail I sent to LWWSD and our elected officials citing the article “We Have No Reason to Believe 5G is Safe” from Scientific American.”
With our public institutions hell bent on using our fees and tax dollars to protect the rights of non-living made up people like DISH and other corporations, it seems prudent to share the article “We Have No Reason to Believe 5G is Safe” from the well respected, peer reviewed, magazine Scientific American.
You see, I know how this works. DISH, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, etc. have a direct line to our governments while the citizens get no real representation. However, the law is largely all about reasonable doubt, and there is more than enough reasonable doubt about the safety of wireless technology. 
The industry, like DISH, uses industry funded studies just like big tobacco did to try to claim that its products are safe. However, there now exists a large body of evidence showing otherwise. 
Hence, you have a duty and legal obligation to act on behalf of your citizens to protect them. This is called the “precautionary principle” in legal terms. It also gives LWWSD and the County a clear path to deny the permitting of building this tower. In fact, it means you were negligent in how you handled the building of previous towers in the county recently too. 
So add this to the many other legit reasons you’ve been given that this tower at 1010 Lakeview St. is a bad idea. 
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/we-have-no-reason-to-believe-5g-is-safe/

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