“Ugly, beeping towers”: East Lansing residents oppose new cell towers

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Jaden Hawkins

East Lansing residents listen to speakers during the city council special meeting on March 14.

The company Crown Castle proposed the installation of 5G cell towers in East Lansing residential areas in late December of last year. Since then, residents have shown great opposition, fearing for their health and claiming the towers will be an eyesore. 

The city currently hosts 12 small cell towers. Crown Castle plans would increase that with 54 more, 28 of which will be co-located (using a co-existing structure to mount a multi-service antenna). 

Marc Breedlove lives at one of the proposed installment locations and is a member of CELL, an organization put together by residents to create a compromise to the installment plan. At a recent city council meeting, he distributed images of a 5G cell tower near Harrison and Wilford drives. He asked the audience and council to raise their hands if they would volunteer to put a cell tower in their yard. No one responded. 

“I don’t know how to describe this except to say that someone went to a junkyard, grabbed a bunch of debris and globbed it onto a pole … [wrapping] electrical tape on the bottom,” Breedlove said.

“I don’t know how to describe this except to say that someone went to a junkyard, grabbed a bunch of debris and globbed it onto a pole … [wrapping] electrical tape on the bottom.”

-Marc Breedlove

Jaden Hawkins

East Lansing Resident Marc Breedlove speaks during the public comment portion of the March 14 city council meeting.

Beyond aesthetics, some community members have shown great concern for their health, claiming 5G cell towers can cause cancer. 

“It just really frightens me … to have [cell towers] right where your grandchildren, your children and everybody you know comes to visit and where you live,” Resident Cheryl Dudley said referring to her health concerns.

The American Cancer Society claims they do not have a firm stance on the correlation between cell towers and cancer. Researchers say there is not enough evidence yet to come to this conclusion.

According to the American Cancer Society’s website, “Cellphones communicate with nearby cell towers mainly through RF [radiofrequency] waves …  they are forms of non-ionizing radiation. This means they do not directly damage the DNA inside cells, which is how stronger (ionizing) types of radiation … are thought to be able to cause cancer.”

Non-ionizing forms of radiation still raise concerns about adverse effects on health. But, the ACS says your cellphone emits higher levels of RF waves than cell towers. And those who are close, indoors and outdoors, should not be too concerned.

National Cancer Institute

“The electromagnetic spectrum represents all of the possible frequencies of electromagnetic energy. It ranges from extremely long wavelengths (extremely low frequency exposures such as those from power lines) to extremely short wavelengths (x-rays and gamma rays) and includes both non-ionizing and ionizing radiation,” according to the NCI website. The American Cancer Society says radiofrequency waves lie between FM radio and microwaves on the spectrum.

Fred Baker is a member of CELL and a resident of the Glencairn area. He said there’s a lack of transparency by Crown. He said he has expressed his concerns before but has received no response from the company. 

“We went to talk to representatives of Crown, and [they couldn’t answer my questions] … No one could tell us where they propose to put more of these ugly-beeping towers … and no one could tell us what to expect in the future.” Baker attended a Crown Castle open house hosted at the Hannah Community Center.

Councilmember George Brookover said the council is also not receiving all of the details of this proposal. In a heated back-and-forth with Crown representative Thomas Musgrove, Brookover asked why the council had yet to receive the most updated version of the map of proposed cell tower locations. 

If the proposal is approved, according to the City of Lansing, Crown Castle will start installations this year. Residents hope for collaboration from all parties to ensure all questions and concerns are considered before construction.

For information regarding the proposal, visit https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/2348/5G-Small-Cell.

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