Letter: Cellphone tower controversy

The pannel antennae and microwave dishes that make up this cell mast in the ball tower of the NG Kerk Sionsraad in Westering are not as harmless as they look

That is some cheek you have putting up property rates, mayor Athol Trollip. Our property values have taken an overnight dive because of cellphone towers forced upon us in our neighbourhoods without our consent.

Of greater urgency, however, is that your citizens are getting seriously ill and have been driven out of their homes by the excessive radiation spewing from these towers.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality says it is not equipped to help us. Our DA councillors have left us in the lurch. So how has it happened that council can allow cellphone companies to erect towers all over Port Elizabeth when you’ve no infrastructure in place to handle crises and complaints?

Building inspectors, town planners and environmental inspectors admit they know nothing about the technicalities of base stations and cell towers. The municipality says it has no money to purchase the special measuring equipment. The cellphone companies call the shots, but who do we call when we’re in trouble? Big business have their own commercial agendas at heart.

In the end, a resident bought an electromagnetic radiation meter to obtain an indication of the dirty energy polluting the area. The results were not surprising.

During cellphone offpeak periods, the readings were generally not low but at least acceptable in that they fell below the “harmful” level most times.

However, during cellphone peak hours they are very high and had spiked to 23 times (and on one occasion 39 times) beyond the “harmful” level.

Reference is made here to the controversial cell mast installed in the bell tower of the NG Kerk Sionsraad in Bramhope Road, Westering. Despite objections by neighbours in 2007, council approved the application by middleman Warren Petterson.

For almost 11 years this “right” was not exercised, until 2017.

Residents have called this a sneaky, cunning move as you won’t know this mast is there unless you look carefully. It is also illegal as a key requirement for the NG Kerk to obtain a special consent permit is for its developer to obtain the necessary authorisation from the environmental impact assessment authority. This has not been done.

One of the 2007 mast objectors, Errol Sing Key, was enraged when he accidentally discovered that a mast had been installed, fully equipped with several panel antennae and microwave dishes and 65m away from his and his wife’s bedroom.

Several residents have complained to the NG Kerk’s Pastor Phillip Voit who arrived from Johannesburg earlier this year.

All NG Kerks there had cell masts, he said. And that makes it right, we ask? He claims to know little of technical matters and it

was a decision taken by the church council. Cell C had told him this mast was just a relay station between the bell tower and the Telkom radio tower next to MetLife centre. Really?

According to Icasa, if this were purely a relay station it would not need panel antennae. Voit added that other companies were piggybacking on the applicant. Cell C has confirmed the tower is congested with the addition of MTN, Vodacom and Telkom.

David Roesstorf rents the house next door to the church and is very unhappy with this setup.

“My sleeping patterns have definitely been disturbed. My quality of sleep is not the same. In April and May, Telkom came to lay cables for fibre optics. They said ‘you’ll be so happy with this project. It’s 4G super-super speed’.”

4G, when it operates at a much higher frequency, can penetrate far deeper into walls and potentially carries greater health risks.

David Sing, of Morningside, said, “My ears throb and vibrate.”

Others in Morningside have fallen ill from prolonged exposure to this radiation. Nights are the

worst when cell usage consumption is highest, and continues well into the morning. Sunday mornings are the best.

Side-effects vary, the onset is sudden and can include thermal heating, involuntary body twitches, sudden loss and return of equilibrium, throbbing on the sides of the breasts, memory lapses, nausea, tinnitus, muscle spasms, stinging stomach, localised headaches, electrosmog cough, sudden drowsiness, feeling dazed or dizzy and extreme irritability.

According to council’s policy, “the trend worldwide in siting base stations is a precautionary one”. Europe, Canada, the US and elsewhere in the world have imposed legislation or issued warnings on the hazards of cell towers. The UK and EU Precautionary Principle should apply in our country before matters get totally out of hand.

It is alarming to see the growing number of churches, schools and old age homes with cell towers in our city.

Our churches must ask themselves: are they worshipping

God or money? Some (like St Francis Xavier Anglican Church) have refused to succumb to temptation. Ethically it has not been in the best interests of the wider community.

The municipality needs to get its act together fast. DA councillors must genuinely start representing the concerns of their wards. Our Ward 12 (which includes Morningside) DA councillor, Sharlene Davids, did not even have the decency to show up for our scheduled meeting with her.

Westering is out of her jurisdiction. The Ward 9 councillor must be contacted.

However in June, Errol Sing Key had via another 2007 mast objector, Clive Kwong See, given the NG Kerk documentation to their Ward 9 councillor, Heinrich Muller. To date, still no response has come from Muller.

We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with the mayor and may be contacted via this newspaper.

See the full letter and extra supporting documents:

NG Kerk Cell Mast. Letter to Weekend Post, Final version. 7 September 2017

EIA docs. NG Kerk tower

Council Policy and Guidelines for Erection of Telecom Infrastructure

-Sharon Li Green, Rev Peter Evers, Vernon Long How, Joyce Long How and Errol Sing Key

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