Pittsfield Board of Health Continues Push to Power Off Verizon Cell Tower

By Brittany Polito, Mar 21, 2022 | Original article here.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Board of Health Chair Bobbie Orsi says the panel is continuing its “thoughtful forward process” in trying to remove the Verizon cell tower at 877 South Street.

The board last week interviewed one of two potential attorneys to assist with a cease and desist order that was approved in early February. Since the tower’s erection in August 2020, Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi and her daughter, Amelia Gilardi, have claimed that they are suffering from negative health effects from electromagnetic fields generated by the antennae on the 115-foot pole.

Other residents have joined the protests, holding up signs at February’s meeting to advocate for the cease-and-desist order. Orsi on Wednesday said City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta gave recommendations on what needed to be presented to the City Council in terms of rates and retainers, relevant experience, and what the attorney would provide for the city.

There was also a recommendation that the attorneys understand the preemption and administrative law, be knowledgeable with the federal government and Federal Communications Commission guidelines, and be sympathetic and really just want to help people in the neighborhood.

When the cease-and-desist order was approved, board members acknowledged that this action is a long shot and would be expensive to the city if it has to go to court, but they said they felt it is their duty to do everything they can to protect the health of residents.

The potential attorneys that Orsi identified were not named and the interview was conducted in executive session.

Orsi said to the board:

“The other thing that I did want to bring up with regard to the cease-and-desist order, is that I’ve done a little more research and did compile some studies specifically that address, electromagnetic health sensitivity. There was this whole body of information from the science that says that it is a real thing, I thought that was helpful, there is a lot of additional information out there, scientific evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies to support the direction that we’re moving in to keep that neighborhood safe.”

Orsi also reported correspondence that was received early in the week from Special Projects Manager Deanna Ruffer — former director of community development — and from Pagnotta that recommended the board consider asking Verizon to employ a data system to monitor emissions from the cell tower.

Orsi said in response:

“I think the challenge is that we believe that the FCC guidelines are inherently not protective of people who are sensitive . . . I’m not sure necessarily that looking at an emission number is going to help at all.”

That method is similar to a previously conducted study that found the tower was within FCC guidelines, board member Brad Gordon pointed out, but that measurement is more thermal than biological.

Orsi added:

“I just wanted to make you aware that I did receive that communication and that that is an option out there. Having said that, I do think that it’s a good next step to continue our thoughtful forward process in doing what we need to do to be successful with the cease-and-desist order.”