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FACE TO FACE: Retired engineer leads fight against radio towers
Tsawwassen resident Jim Ronback pulls a document from his meticulously organized pile of folders he has been gathering on the Point Roberts radio tower array project.
From those folders of information, along with extensive Internet research, he has compiled a 20-page analysis on why Whatcom County and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should reject the radio towers.
The document includes 91 annotated references to books, websites, and research documents.
When asked how much time he’s invested in studying the issue, Ronback sucks in his breath sharply before breaking into a laugh.
“The engineering level of people understand the problem even if the politicians don’t,” he says.
Ronback says the research and level of detail he puts into his work is necessary to have a fulsome understanding of the issues. As a retired systems safety engineer for air traffic control throughout the country, he’s used to making decisions that impact lives.
He’s also used to catching small details that may be overlooked by others. Ronback noted that KRPI Radio’s FCC application provided a map of Point Roberts but showed Tsawwassen as being unpopulated.
“The thing that annoyed me the most was that they hoodwinked the FCC and Industry Canada into ignoring Tsawwassen so they could get their application approved,” he says.
Ronback has used Google Maps to create contour lines that shows the radius areas that will be most affected by KRPI Radio broadcasting at 50 kilowatts. According to his research the towers will create blanket interference on devices in Tsawwassen capable of receiving radio signals.
Ronback says the International Telecommunications Union, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, stipulates that no country should harm the radio-communications of another country. Those radio stations situated across a border with the intent of broadcasting to a foreign population are commonly referred to as “border blasters.”
Although the FCC already approved the application and the decision now rests with Whatcom County, Ronback and other members opposed to the radio towers found out KRPI’s license to renew expired Feb. 1.
Lawyers for the radio tower opponents have since filed a petition to deny the license renewal in Washington, D.C.
One long-term safety aspect of concern to Ronback is the impact of the radio array to human health. Although Ronback acknowledges Health Canada and the World Health Organization claim that exposure to electromagnetic radiation from radio transmissions are not harmful, the long-term impacts haven’t been studied.
“It’s similar to trying to prove that tobacco causes cancer,” he says. “You need years of data, you need hordes of evidence and studies in order to make a convincing statistical argument.”
Ronback says he has no intention of waiting for that to happen before opposing the radio towers.