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Butler County resident fighting to keep Verizon from installing cell phone tower near property

Butler County resident fighting to keep Verizon from installing cell phone tower near property
Butler County resident fighting to keep Verizon from installing cell phone tower near property 04:34

SARVER, Pa. (KDKA) -- We're seeing more and more cell phone towers pop up, but what if one's planned for directly across the street from your house?

"Just because there's a field right there doesn't mean that's the perfect place for a cell phone tower!" resident Lynn Shearer said.

Shearer says Verizon wants to build a cell phone tower steps away from his front door in Butler County. He's a cancer survivor and worries about potential health effects.

"It's pretty nice to come out, get your coffee in the morning and say, 'Man, this is really nice,'" Shearer said of his property.

Shearer moved into his family farmhouse in Sarver 10 years ago.

"It was a dairy farm. People worked really hard to keep it."

He's now worried about what will soon be in his view. Verizon wants to build the tower on his neighbor's 70-plus-acre farm.

Instead of putting it anywhere on the property, it'll sit just 380 feet from Shearer's front door. Now, he's covering his kitchen island in paperwork and research trying to fight it.

He's hiring a lawyer and taking Buffalo Township to court, alleging township supervisors failed to protect him and make Verizon follow the rules.

"That's what I told them. I said, 'You're basically my HOA, telling people what they can and can't do, and you didn't even follow your own rules,'" Shearer said.

Dr. Robert Brown, with the Environmental Health Trust, says Shearer's doing everything right, and he'd fight it, too.

"The most important thing to do is have a good attorney who specializes in this kind of law," Dr. Brown said.

The Environmental Health Trust advises anyone who takes on a similar case to do the following.

  • Get organized
  • Get educated
  • Get a lawyer
  • Get the attention of the media
  • Get in contact with decision-makers
  • Raise awareness on social media
  • Speak out at public meetings

"Once ordinances have been written and permits have been granted, it's pretty tough; it's not impossible, it has happened, but it's much more difficult, so people really need to be proactive. Scientists are doing this research, and it is being published in reputable journals. There [are] thousands of articles."

Dr. Brown says research exists that shows some people are sensitive to radio frequency emissions and develop symptoms like ringing in the ears, confusion, and difficulty sleeping.

"We really don't know the health ramifications, in total, that people are going to be affected by, but I can tell you there's enough research out there to be cautious."

Shearer already beat prostate cancer, and says he doesn't want to chance it with another risk to his health.

"It's just a real concern, and who is going to monitor this when they put it up? My supervisors?" Shearer questioned.

KDKA-TV has reached out to Buffalo Township Solicitor Brian Farrington of Charlton Law.

Shearer says he pushed Verizon's request through because he feared unavoidable litigation that would prove costly for taxpayers.

"Unfortunately, once a matter is in litigation, the township has a policy of not providing any comments on media requests."

Verizon Wireless provided KDKA-TV with the following statement.

"Verizon is currently examining the possibility of moving the tower. The new tower's purpose is to add 4G and 5G capacity to the area."

Some of the strongest evidence about potential health effects from these radio frequency emissions comes from the federal government.

In 2018, a nearly two-decade study by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, found "clear evidence" that cell phone radiation caused cancer in lab animals.

What can everyone else do to limit potential exposure?

Dr. Brown gave clear tips that you can start tomorrow.

  • Don't sleep with your phone turned on near your head. It keeps getting pulsing even when it's turned off. Dr. Brown recommends buying an old-school alarm clock and putting your phone in another room.
  • Turn off your Wi-Fi router at night.
  • Never put a cell phone in your pocket or up to your ear. Use a speaker phone.
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