Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 4, 2002
Edmonton stops work on MacNeil School
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Edmonton Catholic school board has put on hold the construction of the Archbishop MacNeil School in Riverbend.
The decision came a week after the city's development appeal board revoked the school's building permit, siding with a group of parents that claim the school is too near high voltage power lines, which they believe cause cancer, childhood leukemia and other illnesses.
The school, near Terwillegar Drive and 23rd Avenue, is 108 metres from high voltage overhead power lines and the parents say the school should be at least 400 metres from the wires.
Edmonton Catholic believes the appeal board overstepped its jurisdiction and plans to appeal the decision.
"We are very disappointed and we do not agree with the appeal board's decision," said board chair Charlie Koester.
So far the board has only received verbal notice of the appeal board's decision. When a written one arrives Nov. 8, "we will decide on appropriate next steps," Koester said.
"At this time we are putting construction at the site on hold and are considering all of the options open to us to continue building the school."
Edmonton Catholic will look where all its 85 schools are in relation to power lines. It will also look at other schools and public buildings and measure the distance and magnetic field of those closer to power lines. There are schools in Edmonton, one being Dunluce Elementary, that are as close as 19 metres from high tension power lines.
Koester said Edmonton Catholic takes the safety of its staff seriously and does not select sites or build schools that pose any threat to the safety of children. That's why, he said, the City of Edmonton gave the board a development permit to build a school on the site.
"We have no reasons to believe this site poses undue risks to the health and safety of our students and staff," the board chair said. "This school poses no greater threat to children than does the five cups of coffee I drink every day. In fact some studies show that children exposed to electromagnetic fields have lower rates of cancer."
Koester said the appeal board decision may frustrate the community's desire to have Archbishop MacNeil School operating by Sept. 3, 2003. But he is confident that construction will soon continue on the same site.