PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The residents in Pittsfield’s Alma Street neighborhood who claim to be experiencing adverse health effects because of a nearby cell tower are suing the city and Verizon.
The goal of the lawsuit, filed in Berkshire Superior Court Thursday, is to allow the city’s board of health to retain independent counsel to investigate and take action on the issue.
“Proper resources, primarily inside counsel, someone who can tell the board what its legal rights, duties and obligations are that is not conflicted," said Scott McCollough, the attorney representing the residents. "And they can find a solution at the board level to this problem.”
What You Need To Know
- Pittsfield residents are suing the city over its lack of action to investigate health concerns stemming from a nearby cell tower
- The lawsuit argues mayor Linda Tyer improperly pressured the board of health to rescind a cease and desist order regarding the tower's operation
- Several residents say they've been experiencing headaches, naseau, and tinnitus since the tower was turned on two years ago
- The goal of the lawsuit is to allow the board of health to retain independent counsel to investigate the issue further
In the lawsuit, the residents claim Pittsfield mayor Linda Tyer and city solicitor Stephen Pagnotta improperly and illegally pressured the board of health to rescind a cease and desist order it issued in April to Verizon regarding the operation of the tower.
They argue removing the tower would run counter to Tyer's revitalization plans for the city, and as a result, she "directed her subordinates to frustrate any effort to recognize and meaningfully redress the paintiffs' and the other injured residents' injuries and harms."
The board voted to rescind the order in June after Verizon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May, asking the court to decide whether the order violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
“The board has been working really hard to try to find a solution to the problem it knows exists, but it has been frustrated by outside interference," said McCollough.
Since the tower began operation in summer 2020, residents on Alma Street said they’ve been experiencing headaches, dizziness and tinnitus, among other symptoms, while in their homes near the tower.
Residents had continuously asked the city and board of health to take action for 18 months before the decision was made to issue a cease and desist order.
“It’s frustrating, because it feels like every time the board of health has tried to take action on our behalf, something has stopped it," said Courtney Gillardi, one of the residents and plantiffs in the lawsuit. "It just feels like there’s a sense of urgency that’s lacking. This is such a big issue here in Pittsfield. We have so much support and so many people who want to see us home safe.”
In a previous statement, Verizon said all its equipment at the site operates under FCC limits and complies with all FCC health and safety standards.
City officials did not respond to a request for comment.