(BIVN) – On May 2, the Windward Planning Commission voted to approve a Verizon Wireless permit application to build a telecommunications tower that will serve lower Puna.
The Use Permit will allow the construction of a non-manned telecommunication facility, including a 155-foot tall monopine pole, on the mauka side of Highway 130 about 1.2 miles south of Black Sand Beach subdivision.
However, it was Pepeʻekeo resident Jaerick Medeiros-Garcia who voiced his concerns during public testimony.
“Where I live, the Verizon tower there is growing overnight,” Garcia said. “It’s a huge concern. The electromagnetic radiation from the 5g is super strong.”
5G, or Fifth Generation Wireless, is the latest networking architecture that aims to increase data communication speeds up to 3 times faster than 4G.
Garcia told the commission about the move to halt 5G in the Belgium capital of Brussels. “My concern is the people that is living next to these towers,” Garcia said of his Pepeʻekeo neighborhood. “The kids, they come within the area of this tower, how do they know if it’s gonna be safe? Because I called the Department of Health on Oahu to ask who monitors the electromagnetic radiation off of these towers, and their answer to me was, there’s nobody in the state of Hawaiʻi that does that. The reason for that is they don’t got the equipment for it.”
“The homes where I live, next to the towers, they have a humming sound through the homes. It’s a humming sound and they turn off their power in the home and it’s still humming,” Garcia said. “I think you guys might want to take into consideration these things. Who is gonna monitor that radiation off of those towers?”
Planning Commissioner John Replogle sympathized with Garcia’s concerns, and said that although he would be supporting the permit application for the Puna tower, he told the company representatives that the “next time you come before us, you best have answers to the questions Mr. Garcia brought up, or I’ll just vote against it.”
That’s when County planners stepped into the discussion.
“It’s a common matter that’s brought before the Planning Commission,” said planner Jeff Darrow. “Unfortunately, the Commission is limited to be able to deny those applications based on health emissions. The reason why is – if you look at your background report on page two, number five – it talks about the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They’re saying that there’s not enough evidence to prove that there are these health risks being generated. Until such times as that has been proven, the federal government limits the ability to deny those permits based on that fact.”
An attorney with the Hawaiʻi County corporation counsel added that the commission is more than “limited”; it is actually “prohibited” from denying permits based on those health concerns.