Point Beach hears local 5G worries

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — The borough council recently held an online discussion with several residents regarding the eventual telecommunication rollout of 5G networking throughout the state and nation.

Councilman Bob Santanello objected to topic’s inclusion on the agenda of the council’s virtual meeting on May 5. But Mayor Paul Kanitra said concerns expressed by residents in social media were worth airing, because of the proliferation of unproven health claims and conspiracy theories in social media.

The mayor also noted that the appearance of Verizon crews working on existing infrastructure had residents asking whether that work includes 5G installations.

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“The most important thing that everybody in this discussion should know is that the borough of Point Pleasant Beach has not agreed to any 5G rollout, any node rollout or anything along those lines, yet,” Mayor Kanitra said.

He said he had responded to Verizon and AT&T inquiries in January by saying that the number, location and aesthetics of 5G transmission nodes and independent research on the health claims would all have to be aired before any are approved for Point Beach.

“We are going to look at this objectively and we are going to make a decision — not now in the middle of a pandemic or in the middle of a crisis, but down the road.”

A half dozen residents addressed the topic.

Resident Dora Gourley said the community is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of 5G cell service antennas “being installed on existing and new utility poles in the public right of way, where antennas will be located 15 to 20 feet from our homes, schools and business and placed on every third pole throughout the town” and creating what she believes will be a health risk.

“People are trying to avoid being exposed to more radiation and serious health issues,” said Ms. Gourley. “The telecommunication industry’s unfounded profit motive should never outweigh local authorities and jurisdictions.”

“We’re not against technology. We really aren’t,” she said, “We just want to make sure it’s proven to be safe.”

Beach resident Debbie Kogan said, “I honestly don’t think there have been any studies done to test the safety to our children, to the environment and to our town in general.”

Addressing those concerns, Councilman Santanello said “the supposed 5G health connection” came from “uninformed people on the internet trying to link things that are not connected.”

“The World Health Organization, which is the gold standard, specifically refers to it on its website with regard to overall RO-frequency-related health matters,” he said. “They conclude that health-related concerns from 5G are not a threat.”

Councilman Santanello said that if there had to be a discussion, it should be raised during public comment sessions, rather than raised by the council as part of its meeting agenda.

Addressing Mayor Kanitra, he asked, “Now that you’ve opened the door to this, what’s next? Are we going to have the anti-vaxxers or a whole bunch of other people who will want to bring their ideas in here?” he said. “I think it’s an embarrassment to this governing body and this town that we even had this conversation.”

The mayor replied that he had no set opinion on 5G issues but added, “If the residents of Point Pleasant Beach, of whom, myself, you and every other councilperson up here, we represent all of them, whether we think they’re right, whether we think they’re wrong, whether they’re Republicans, Democrats, independents, Green Party or socialist,” he said. “Regardless of what they want to talk about, we are going to give them the opportunity to do so.”

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