Lovettsville residents concerned about radiation from cell antennas on the town water tower will have to wait a bit longer to learn whether the town will study the issue.
The Town Council last week tabled a vote on a proposal contract with Millennium Engineering to perform a $3,500 radio frequency emissions study around the tower, which is located within the New Town Meadows neighborhood and features the cellular antennas of AT&T and Sprint. The vote was delayed to give council members more time to consider the study before Verizon installs six of its own antennas atop the tower in the coming months—an installation the council approved in January.
Although it’s a bit unclear what the town would do with the findings of such a study, the town staff could send the results to the Federal Communications Commission for review if the radio frequency levels are higher than permitted.
Town Manager Rob Ritter said the town could pay for the study via a $5,000 line item in the Fiscal Year 2020 Utility Fund set aside for outside engineering and consulting, which the town has yet to spend.
Utilities Director Stephen Gates said it would make sense for the town to use the revenue it generates from the AT&T and Sprint leases to pay for the study. He mentioned that after the Verizon antennas are installed, there will be no additional room on the tower.
The discussion of a radio frequency emissions study comes in response to recent resident concern that the existing cell antennas might be negatively affecting their health.
Other residents claim the radio frequency emissions aren’t strong enough to cause health problems. One of those residents is Jaymie Dumproff, who lives in New Town Meadows.
Dumproff told the Town Council last week that the cost to perform a study outweighs the benefit of having Verizon’s cellular antennas installed. She argued that radio frequency emissions are a form of non-ionizing radiation, which, like FM radio waves, is unable to penetrate human cells.
She noted that the FCC states that studies have shown that environmental levels of radio frequency energy routinely encountered by the general public are below the levels necessary to cause significant body temperature increases, which can lead to adverse health effects like cancer.
“If you were actually getting exposed to really a lot of RF frequencies, it almost would be like a microwave,” she said. “You would feel it, and you don’t.”
The Town Council is expected to further discuss the radio frequency study at a future meeting date.