A yearlong battle over cellphone towers on school district property in East Hempfield Township has been revitalized thanks to a lawsuit filed against Hempfield School District.
Hempfield Citizens for Safe Schools Inc., an 85-member nonprofit founded after the Hempfield school board voted in January to give Verizon final approval to build its tower behind an elementary school, is suing the school district over leasing land “for a private party’s benefit.”
The complaint, filed on May 7 by attorneys Aaron Marines and Brandon Harter of Russell, Krafft & Gruber LLP, alleges the school district is violating Pennsylvania’s Donated or Dedicated Property Act, which restricts the conversion of public land to private use.
Therefore, the complaint states, the group requests that the district relocate its existing cell tower currently behind Landisville Elementary School on Mumma Drive and halt construction on the recently approved tower behind Rohrerstown Elementary School on Noll Drive.
Doing so, Carley Smith, one of the founding members of Hempfield Citizens for Safe Schools, said in an email, would provide students and staff “a safe and healthy educational experience for years to come.”
Years in the making
Smith was one of the many East Hempfield Township residents who adamantly opposed the board’s January decision to allow Verizon to apply for the necessary township permits and move forward with construction.
The board, however, had already approved a lease agreement with Verizon on May 12, 2015, after discussing the matter for months during school board meetings.
“As has been shared many times in public meetings, we have a lease agreement with Verizon, approved in 2015, for construction of a cell tower at the Rohrerstown site,” said district spokeswoman Shannon Zimmerman. “Construction was scheduled by Verizon and began within the last week. Verizon wanted to impact year-end school processes and activities to the minimum possible extent.”
Zimmerman, along with the district’s legal team — Andrew Bonekemper and Mark Fitzgerald of Fox Rothschild LLP — said they wouldn’t comment any further as it’s in active litigation.
Responding to the complaint on June 4, the school district brought up six objections and requested the group’s complaint be dismissed due to a lack of evidence and context, as well as it’s failure to include Verizon, “a necessary party,” in the lawsuit.
‘You have been put on notice’
Verizon is paying the district $48,000 each year to rent its two cell tower sites, plus costs for radiofrequency testing, according to the lease agreements.
Radiofrequency radiation and its potential health effects, as well as the consumption of green space, have been the opposing group’s main concerns. They are raising money through a GoFundMe page to help with legal costs.
They have sent nearly a dozen letters from health and safety professionals to school board members, one of which was from Ellen Marks, director of the California Brain Tumor Association.
Her letter included a story of a California school board member who expressed regret over his decision to renew a cell tower contract after discovering a few of the children had cancer.
“You have been put on notice,” the letter states, “and when (not if) children become ill you may be held personally liable. … I beg of you to reconsider and do whatever you can to not have this cell tower erected on school grounds.”
On January 9, 2018 The Hempfield School District invited a panel to discuss the health risks of cell towers on schools. Environmental Health Trust was invited to attend and EHT’s Executive Director Theodora Scarato gave a presentation alongside Professor Kenneth Foster and Dr. Paul Specht, a professor emeritus of the Occupational Safety & Environmental Health Program at Millersville University,
In addition, EHT advisor Dr. Anthony Miller presented his opinion about cell tower radiation to the Hempfield School District with this video message. He also made himself available to speak with them by phone.
Below EHT is providing materials from the presentations along with press coverage of the Hempfield School District dialogue.
Do cell towers belong on school property? Experts weigh in at Hempfield school board meeting, Lancaster Online, January 11, 2018
Dr. Anthony Miller is a physician and epidemiologist. -currently Professor Emeritus at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto have advised WHO IARC for several decades . He served as Director of the Epidemiology Unit of the National Cancer Institute of Canada. He served as Senior Epidemiologist, International Agency for Research on Cancer, and as Head of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Centre. He served as a consultant to the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization and he is a member of both the Royal Colleges of physicians & Canada. He is Senior Medical Advisor to Environmental Health Trust.
Dr. Lennart Hardell also has published his opinion that radiofrequency radiation is a human carcinogen. Please read his scientific opinion in his published study here.
Carlberg, Micheal and Lennart Hardell. “Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation.” BioMed Research International, vol. 2017, 2017.
MORE RESEARCH TO KNOW
Click on the links to see these recent Environmental Health Trust scientific presentations
1/2017 Israel Institute for Advanced Study at Hebrew University, Expert Forum on Wireless and Health, organized in coordination with the and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences