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New Cell Phone Towers Raise Concerns

By Arianna McKinney

In recent months new cell phone towers have been popping up in strange places, like right along the road to Guiones across from Nosara Yoga Institute, in the center of Nicoya, in front of the dwellings of Pueblo Nuevo in El Torito of Samara, and one directly in the center of Samara in the same block as the school.

New towers are being built in preparation for the launch of new cell phone companies in Costa Rica creating competition for ICE (Costa Rican Electrical Institute). La Nacion reported that President Laura Chinchilla signed contracts in May allowing Claro (from Mexico) and Telefónica (from Spain) to provide mobile phone services in Costa Rica.

While many welcome competition to the market in hopes of better cell phone coverage and lower prices, others are concerned about the new towers. The Defender of the People has received numerous complaints about the effects that could be generated by the new towers, including a complaint regarding a cellular antenna being constructed next to a residence in central Nicoya. On October 5, 2011, the Defender informed the press that concerns related to the towers include questions regarding damage to health, the risk of attracting lightning, visual and sound contamination, the distance of towers from housing, loss in property value, stability of the towers, right to information, storage of hydrocarbons and permits. Since studies of the health effects of cell phone towers have not been conclusive, the Defender asserted that visual contamination is the greatest damage caused by the towers at this time.

Each canton of Costa Rica has autonomy to establish its own regulations regarding the construction of cell phone towers. According to Mayor Marco Jimenez Muñoz, the Canton of Nicoya's regulations will be modified soon to establish a minimum distance between towers of 750 meters.

A few people in Samara have expressed concerns of potential
health risks in having a cell phone tower right next to the school.

A new cellphone tower was raised in Guiones, across from the
Nosara Yoga Institute

"For the moment, we're waiting for the regulations on towers to be published in the gazette; afterwards what will happen with the pending permits will be decided," said Gustavo Orozco Sanchun, the Municipality's engineer.

When asked if the canton's regulations include a minimum distance from housing, Jimenez responded that the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that these towers have very low carcinogenic effect. Jimenez added that he personally is concerned about having towers close to dwellings.

In fact, to combat concerns about health risks from towers, according to reports in La Nacion, Sutel (Supervision of Telecommunications) plans on launching an informational campaign in conjunction with the Ministry of Health. Vice Minister of Health Maria Cordero reported that fears about cell phone towers are disproportionate to their potential for harm. She explained that from her experience, and based on WHO data, use of cellular phones themselves present a higher risk than the towers.

Samara Residents Discuss Concerns
Due to concerns about the potential effect on tourism and real estate values caused by contamination of the scenery, CASATUR, Samara´s chamber of tourism, scheduled to discuss the matter in a meeting on October 27th just after this edition of VON went to press. Some members of the community are discussing organizing a petition or looking into other avenues to address the tower's location.

Max Mahlich, owner of Hotel Mirador in Samara, said that visitors to his hotel have commented that the panoramic ocean view is spoiled by the tall tower. "Other hotel guests are likewise saying that the village is losing its rural village charm and will be less attractive for future visitors," he stated. He also related that a company from the United States was ready to invest in a tourist project at his hotel but were shocked when the tower was built, which wasn't there when they visited previously, and as a result decided to drop their plans.

The view from Samara's Hotel El Mirador
A tower was just erected in the middle of a housing area in El
Torito of Samara.

In addition, Mahlich expressed concern about how close the tower is to the school and possible danger to health. "They say it's not, but everyone knows it is," he said. "We don't want this [tower here]. They never asked us."

However, Francisco Castillo Carrillo signed a 10-year contract with Claro to rent the company the land in downtown Samara for the tower. Castillo said he was told that the tower will begin functioning in December and he thinks the tower location is not a problem. "In these small countries, everything is a scandal," he remarked. "I see it as fine."

For the moment, the mayor affirmed that the cell phone tower will remain where it is; however, legal issues regarding the land on which the tower stands are being examined by the municipality. Byron Rosales, engineer for the Municipality's Department of Catastro (property registration), explained that the original property belonging to the Castillo family incorporated basically all of Samara and Cangrejal. However, when a finca is divided, according to Law of Urban Planification 4240, 10% must be set aside for green areas, community areas and public streets. A lawyer has been hired by the municipality to investigate whether this property and other properties in Garza and Nosara were properly inscribed and whether the 10% established by law was properly designated.

The structure of the towers explained
Jose Pablo Mora, supervisor of civil works for Claro Telecommunications, explained that there are two types of towers being used by Claro: greenfields, which are completely built and operated by Claro, and torreros, which are built by private companies like Centennial Towers and then Claro rents space within the towers. Mora oversees the torreros in Guanacaste, of which he said about 10 are located in the Canton of Nicoya.

Mora explained some of the structural features of the towers to VON. The towers are either 45 or 60 meters tall and are painted red and white to increase visibility for aircraft. All towers have security lights above that function with photocell sensors to detect when it is dark and turn on automatically. The 45-meter towers have one set of lights and 60-meter towers have two sets.

Regarding lighting, Mora affirmed that it is actually better for the towers to attract lightning bolts than, for example, for lightning to hit a tree and have the tree fall on something. The towers are grounded with a copper ring 1 to 1 ½ meters below ground that discharges the energy from lightning.

As for waves emitted by the towers, Mora said the emissions come from the top of the towers and are directed toward other towers, forming a network 45 to 60 meters in the air, not at ground level where people are. Aside from that, he noted that people are constantly surrounded by hundreds of waves from devices like televisions and radios. "Up until now, nothing has happened to anyone. In my personal opinion, these fears are unfounded."


More Regional News

Nosara Expects to Have its Garbage Truck Working Again by Tuesday

Nosara's garbage truck has been out of service since Thursday, November 24th, when its engine suffered a technical failure that caused it to release large amounts of oil, causing the engine to burn out. 

Samara ASADA Encourages the community to attend their Annual Assembly

“Every household with a water meter should have a representative at this meeting”, affirmed Deborah Nezil, secretary of Samara’s ASADA (Water Board). The annual assembly will be held on Saturday, November 26th at 3 p.m. in Samara’s community hall. 

A “Safe Samara” in 30 days
Ministry of Public Security promises security plan for Samara

After cancelations, reschedules and delays, Director General of the Ministry of Public Security for Costa Rica Juan José Andrade Morales finally made it to Samara, and what he had to say was received with applause. 

Nicoyans Honor Tradition of Chopping Wood for the Virgin of Guadalupe

On Saturday, November 12th, Nicoyans woke up early to the sound of fireworks set off to celebrate the ceremonial chopping of firewood. With this festivity, honor is paid to the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of Nicoya, and it is carried out in strict adherence to the aboriginal tradition of the Chorotegas, who originated the custom.

Guiones Tourist Police Office With no Funds Again
• Delays in procedures of the Ministry of Security hinders possible agreement to assume costs

The Association of security of Nosara is without funds to pay for the rental of the Office of the tourist police and their representatives say that it will close at any time if donations don’t arrive soon. This was the central theme during the meeting held on Friday, November 11 at the premises of the FUCAN.

Bus Terminal in Nicoya gets a facelift

If you are a frequent client of the municipal market and the bus terminal of Nicoya, you may have noticed more green and more cleanliness in the installations. It is a project forming slowly in order to change the image of this place. 

Nicoya's Municipal Slaughterhouse Will Have a New Tenant
• Previous tenant has not paid rent in 5 years

Before 2011 ends, the Municipality of Nicoya is looking for a new tenant to administer the Municipal Slaughterhouse because the one who had been leasing it for the last five years has failed to make the monthly payment for five years. Due to this, the municipality decided to close it at the beginning of the month of September.

ICT Will Strengthen Cultural Identity Through Typical Food and Native Plants

In a short time tourists and Nicoyanos will be able to enjoy a taste of minced flor de piñuela, flor de itabo and eggs or minced pipián, among other traditional dishes as the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) launches its National Healthy and Sustainable Culinary Plan (Plan Nacional de Gastronomía Sostenible y Saludable).

VON Survey Results

The Voice of Nosara would like to thank our readers who participated in our 2011 reader survey in May and June, and we are pleased to report some of the results from the survey. The survey was designed to identify reader demographics, reading habits, concerns and suggestions in order to improve VON's service to the community and to advertisers.


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