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Proposed cell tower addresses north end Nanaimo coverage concerns

Telus is proposing to build a cellular phone tower at Piper’s Pub parking lot to address cellphone coverage problems on Hammond Bay Road.

According to Telus spokeswoman Liz Sauve, the plan is still in the consultation stage, but customers have been asking for better coverage and Telus had been looking in the area for a number of years to find the best site.

“Our first option is always, we look at if there are any tall buildings in the area that we could put a small pole on top of to enhance coverage, but in this area, we did a search and there was just no other locations aside from the one we’re looking at right now that would get the coverage in the gap where it needs to be,” Sauve said.

A number of people who live and work along Hammond Bay Road agree cellular phone service is less than satisfactory, with some saying better cellular service would be good for cab services and pizza delivery for remote Interac machines. Sauve said more than 60 per cent of calls to 911 come from cellphones.

“This area has very poor cell service,” said Jocelyn Child, who lives a block away from the proposed site. “The lack of service affects my work and daily life on a regular basis; it is extremely frustrating. We love this neighbourhood, it is great, but we have considered moving due to the lack of service.”

“There is no cell phone reception in this area,” said Mike Seargeant, owner of Piper’s Pub. “From what I gather, any cellphones that might work in the Hammond Bay area are actually picking up a tower from Sechelt or over the other side of the [Georgia] Strait and I believe that’s why it’s required in this area.”

Radiation from cellphone towers is a concern that is often brought up when site proposals are made. The area of the proposed tower is close to schools.

Sauve said wireless providers abide by Health Canada regulations, called Safety Code 6, which determine safe levels of radiation. She said Telus’ sites are well below the safe level.

“If you want to judge it against something else, a cell site emits the same level of radiation as a refrigerator you have in your home, a lamp pole on the street, less than a microwave and certainly a lot less than AM/FM radio transmitters and so they’re safe,” she said.

Dr. Fred Dowe, a retired orthodontist who resides near Hammond Bay Road, isn’t against cellphone use but has reservations about the regulations and the location of the tower. He made a presentation at Monday’s City of Nanaimo committee of the whole meeting about potential health issues.

“Telus, Rogers and Bell they will just quote you Safety Code 6 and it’s really flawed,” Dowe said. “They tested only for how much the microwaves heat you up and they didn’t test at all ... that microwaves also effect our biology. I’ve taken a lot of biology, histology (microscopic study of tissue), physiology and this is just my gut feeling, without reading the studies, is that microwaves do influence your cells on a cellular level and that leads to – you name it – every disease mentioned in the literature ... the main ones of concern are various cancers,” he said.

Sauve said residents can e-mail Telus at commentsbc@standardland.com. The consultation period ends today (Dec. 12).

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