Canadian Couple Sues Cell Tower

Antigonish County couple files lawsuit

Posted on December 6, 2011 by Brian Lazzuri

Edna Pettipas reviews some of the documentation she has accumulated for her lawsuit against Bell Aliant Regional Communications Inc. Edna and Marshall Pettipas’s attorney, Jamie MacGillivray, filed the lawsuit at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Nov. 30. It alleges that a cell phone tower Bell Aliant placed on the Pettipas property is making them sick. (Debbie Johnson photo)

For Marshall and Edna Pettipas what was supposed to be a dream home has turned into a nightmare. The Antigonish couple has launched a lawsuit against Bell Aliant Regional Communications Inc. claiming a telecommunications tower built on their property has made them sick.

The Pettipas bought their 16-acre property in 1993 with the hopes of one day building a home with views of St. Georges Bay. In 2001, they were approached by Bell Aliant about the possibility of placing a cell phone tower on the property. Edna Pettipas said the couple faced intense pressure by the company.

“They told us that we either agree to let them put the tower up there behind the house or if we didn’t they would go to a neighbor and the tower could have been located beside or in front the house,” she said. “I felt blackmailed.”

The Pettipas entered into a 20-year lease. In exchange for allowing the tower to be built on their land they receive $5,000 per year.

The couple did have concerns about the tower but they were reassured that there were no safety issues other than falling ice which necessitated a 300-foot fallout zone. The tower was built in 2002 and the couple began construction on their home in 2007.

The home, 600 feet from the tower, was completed in time for the family to move in Christmas Eve day.

“We started getting sick instantaneously,” Pettipas said. “The more exposure we got the more we got sicker.”

At first the couple thought the house was “gassing off” or they were experiencing allergies. By September 2008, she and her teenage daughter moved out of the house after discovering her cancer tracer levels were “through the roof.”

“When I moved out of the house these cancer tracer levels started going down. Eventually they came down to normal levels.”

They tried moving back into the house in March 2009 but didn’t last the day. She stopped going in the house. Later she noticed that just visiting the property made her sick.

“I decided to call Bell Aliant and [the contact person] admitted that there could be potentially dangerous radiation being given off by the tower,” Pettipas said. “She said, ‘don’t worry whatever it is we will fix it.’”

In April 2009 the company agreed to send out a technician to measure the radiation levels. A few months later a technician came but measured no radiation. Prior to that Pettipas had hired a company from Ontario to measure the radiation. The results differed.

“I brought a meter I had purchased and the technician’s eyes almost popped out of his head,” she said.

The two measured and discovered radiation. The technician blamed his reading on a faulty meter which he had dropped the week prior.

She said after the technician’s visit and about a year ago Bell Aliant put up danger signs warning about radiation.

In September 2009, she asked Aliant to remove the tower or to pay for all the house related expenses. A month later her request was denied. The Pettipas then hired lawyer Jamie MacGillivray who filed the lawsuit at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Nov. 30.

“They lied to us from the get go,” she said. “They told us we would not be subjected to any emissions. If we had known this we would have never signed that contract. We signed that contract on lies.”

Since the Pettipas house in unlivable their property value has plummeted and their insurance company will not insure the house. She said nine acres of their property has been made tax exempt by the county.

Pettipas said she is aware of no federal guidelines for how far residences are to be built from cell phone towers. Federal guidelines state the maximum amount of radiation exposure over a six minute period.

Bell Aliant spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said the company always meets and usually “exceeds the strict regulations set out by Industry Canada regarding the location and operation of cell sites, including community consultation, safety regulations and other requirements.”

Michelis said the company has several thousand cell site locations across Canada and that each one complies with all applicable government regulations.

“The guidelines are too high,” Pettipas said. “There are people getting sick below the guidelines.”
Pettipas said losing the property is a real concern as they now own two homes. They removed their belongings from their new home last summer.

“I got sick again. If I go to the house my cancer tracers go sky high and if I stay away they return to normal.”

She has been diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) which is characterized by skin redness, tingling and burning as well as fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation and digestive disturbances. World Health Organization studies indicate that EHS affects a few individuals per million people.

Pettipas has also been diagnosed with breast cancer. On Dec. 12 she will have a mastectomy. There is also a concern about other cancers.

“I have a long road ahead of me yet,” she said.

In the lawsuit the couple seeks compensation for physical, emotional and financial hardships. None of the claims have been proven in court.
She said if Bell Aliant removed the tower and compensated the family they would move into their home.

“We were dreaming that today. That’s our dream home, it’s a beautiful home and the scenery is unreal. That is why we bought the property.”
No matter what happens things will never be the same.

“I won’t be getting my breasts back. I may never completely recover from this but I’ll take what I can get if I am completely compensated. It would be nice for me to move into my dream home.”

If you wish to post comments on the newspaper site, please go to:

Tags: , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.