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Residents Who Sued Verizon over Cell Tower Making Them Sick Await Judge’s Ruling

Residents Who Sued Verizon over Cell Tower Making Them Sick Await Judge’s Ruling

An increasing number of Americans don’t want 5G, 4G, or even 3G cell towers and antennas near their homes or their children’s schools due to health and safety risks (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17). Current high-profile examples of this are in Wyandotte, MI where parents are protesting the installation of a 5G antenna on a school’s rooftop and in Pittsfield, MA where residents and the city’s board of health have been trying to get Verizon to turn off a 4G tower activated almost 3 years ago.

From Children’s Health Defense:

Locked in Battle With Verizon Over Cell Tower, Residents of Massachusetts Town Await Judge’s Decision

A group of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, residents who sued Verizon over a cell tower they allege made them sick will now wait for a judge to rule on whether to allow the lawsuit to go forward or grant Verizon’s motion to dismiss.

By Suzanne Burdick, Ph.D.

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A group of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, residents who sued Verizon over a cell tower they allege made them sick will now wait for a judge to rule on whether to allow the lawsuit to go forward or grant Verizon’s motion to dismiss.

Superior Court Judge Francis E. Flannery on Thursday heard from defendants Verizon Wireless, its affiliate company Pittsfield Cellular Telephone and Pittsfield city officials, who argued in favor of dismissing the suit.

Lawyers supported by Children’s Health Defense (CHD) argued to deny the defendants’ motion to dismiss and allow the case to proceed.

Plaintiffs, who live in the “Shacktown” section of Pittsfield, want Verizon to remove or relocate the tower.

Scott McCollough, CHD’s chief litigator for electromagnetic radiation (EMR) cases, argued on behalf of the plaintiffs. He told The Defender, “We’re really gratified that we finally had a hearing after 32 months — 975 days — of our plaintiffs being made sick by this tower.”

Courtney Gilardi, a Pittsfield resident and one of the plaintiffs, called McCollough “the voice for the victims of wireless radiation.”

Gilardi told The Defender:

“No child should have to sleep on the cold floor in a strange house simply to get away from cell tower symptoms because her home is no longer safe due to a known, documented, environmental carcinogen and toxin.

“No child with a documented medical condition and recognized disability should be denied the ability to live in her own home. Because of today and the efforts of all involved, we have hope.”

Judge Flannery — who led the Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office prior to his appointment as Superior Court judge by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018 — said he will allow the plaintiffs’ two amici curiae to submit a post-submission letter before he renders his decision.

Children slept with ‘vomit buckets’ by their beds

Thursday’s hearing is the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle that began in March 2020, when a 115-ft Verizon tower was lowered into a clearing of trees in Gilardi’s neighborhood, causing her and 16 other residents to begin reporting microwave radiation sickness symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, insomnia and confusion.

Some children had to sleep with “vomit buckets” by their beds. Many residents left their homes to escape the symptoms, sometimes staying with relatives or camping out in their cars.

Others were “stuck in their house in an environment that makes them sick,” said McCollough.

The residents appealed to members of their local board of health who completed a long and thorough investigation into the health impacts of Verizon’s tower and subsequently voted unanimously on Feb. 2, 2022, to issue a cease-and-desist order to Verizon — the first such order ever issued in the U.S. against a major wireless carrier — if the company refused to discuss removing or relocating the tower.

But in an attempt to block the order, Verizon’s affiliate, Pittsfield Cellular Telephone, on May 10, 2022, sued the board in federal court, arguing its order violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which states that “no state or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate that placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the purported environmental effects of radio frequency emissions” as long as the facility is operating within the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) emission regulations.

CHD stepped in on May 25, 2022, filing intervention papers in support of the Pittsfield residents and alleging the board’s order was lawful and not preempted by federal law.

Local authorities, including the Pittsfield mayor who feared a costly legal battle, rescinded the order, said McCollough.

Lawyers supported by CHD on July 28, 2022, filed to represent four Pittsfield families in a suit in Massachusetts Superior Court against Verizon, Pittsfield and city authorities — including the board — in an effort to allow the board to reinstate its cease and desist order against Verizon.

The defendants in December 2022 filed a motion to dismiss.

When cell towers make people sick, where do they turn for help?

Commenting on the case, McCollough said, “Our argument is not with the Pittsfield Board of Health. They tried really hard to do the right thing” but were “forced to back off.”

“Because of the mayor and the city solicitor,” he said, “they [the Board members] were not allowed to have counsel. They couldn’t hire a lawyer … they couldn’t defend their order in federal court. So they withdrew the order.”

This case seeks to “liberate” the board so it can do its job, McCollough said.

Gilardi agreed, saying board members “acknowledged their duty to do everything in their power to protect the safety of every single resident from harm” — but they were denied their ability to fulfill that duty.

“The sick and displaced neighbors and supporters of Shacktown pray that the judge rules to allow the board to do their state law duties to protect us, without coercion,” Gilardi said.

McCollough emphasized that this case is about people, noting that so many people wanted to listen in on the hearing that the court’s voice conference system maxed out and many who wanted to listen were turned away.

What can be done — and by whom — to help people when they are made sick by a cell tower?

“The FCC can’t help them. It doesn’t have a means to help them,” McCollough said. “The only thing the FCC can do is change its rules moving forward. That’s going to take years.”

He added:

“Who can help the people now? They [the wireless industry officials] never tell us because their unstated answer is, ‘Nobody. You’re collateral damage, necessary casualties, speed bumps in our path to profit. We owe you nothing and there is nothing anyone can do.’

“The Board of Heath disagreed and tried to help until it was illegally shut down. For 975 days, the Shacktown victims have been trying to get help from their Board of Health that exists under state law to solve their problems like this.

“We hope the court will clear the way so the board can do its job. That’s what this case is about.”

Suzanne Burdick, Ph.D., is a reporter and researcher for The Defender based in Fairfield, Iowa. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin (2021), and a master’s degree in communication and leadership from Gonzaga University (2015). Her scholarship has been published in Health Communication. She has taught at various academic institutions in the United States and is fluent in Spanish.

Environmental Health Trust has also been heavily involved in the Pittsfield cell tower dispute. For more information, click here.

Activist Post reports regularly about cell towers, antennas, and other unsafe wireless infrastructure. For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:

Image: Environmental Health Trust

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