Refuge No More: Green Bank, WV’s Radio Quiet Zone Has “Become Polluted” with WiFi

By B.N. Frank

Microwave Sickness and Electromagnetic Sensitivity (ES) are federally recognized illnesses.  In fact, medical experts have determined that American Embassy workers and their family members who were stationed overseas were likely injured by exposure to microwave energy (see 1, 2, 3).  The state department has referred them to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Senators passed a bill to help them as well.  Of course, exposure to common sources of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) like cell phones, cell towers, utility “Smart” Meters, and WiFi can also cause Microwave Sickness and Electromagnetic Sensitivity (see 1, 2, 3, 4).  Some people who are severely affected by exposure have taken refuge in Green Bank, West Virginia because it’s a designated “radio quiet zone”.  According to a journalist and frequent visitor, the town is unfortunately “being breached” which isn’t good for astronomers either.

From Wired:

The Truth About the Quietest Town in America

The National Radio Quiet Zone limits wireless communications. But a journey to its center in Green Bank, West Virginia, reveals a town at odds with itself.

This story is adapted from The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence, by Stephen Kurczy.

Seventeen antennas protruded from Chuck Niday’s Dodge Ram 2500. It reminded me of the wraith-hunting vehicle from Ghostbusters, and its aim was similar. Ghosts are all around us—at least in the form of invisible waves of electromagnetic radiation emanating from power lines and Wi-Fi routers, flying through walls and zooming across the sky—and Niday’s job was to track them down. His truck’s main antenna picked up signals from 25 megahertz to 4 gigahertz, while smaller antennas operated as a direction-finding array. “Through some method, which I believe involves witchcraft,” he said, “it comes up with a direction for the signal we’re looking for.”

Niday was heading out on patrol of Green Bank, West Virginia, to keep tabs on radio noise that might interfere with the half-dozen giant, dish-shaped telescopes looming behind us at the nation’s oldest federal radio astronomy observatory. Operating electrical equipment within 10 miles of here was illegal if it disrupted the telescopes, punishable by a state fine of $50 per day. Further safeguarding the observatory was a surrounding 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone—an area larger than the combined landmass of Connecticut and Massachusetts—which limited cell service and all kinds of wireless communications systems. Theoretically, you couldn’t turn on a smartphone in town without alerting Niday.

We hopped in the truck. Wiring snaked from the roof down to a stack of electronics and computer monitors in the cab. “Footloose” played on an AM/FM radio. Niday adjusted the dials on a computer to look for signals in the 2.4 gigahertz frequency: Wi-Fi. He shifted into drive.

As we exited the observatory’s parking lot, the truck’s computer monitor started bleeping angrily. Before we reached the main road, we picked up 13 wireless signals. Within a half mile, we found 66 signals. Niday’s gadgetry was going berserk. But instead of jumping out of the truck to ticket Wi-Fi offenders, he simply took note of the sources of radio noise and kept driving, unfazed.

Within five miles, we tallied more than 200 signals, some coming from the homes of staff living on the observatory’s own property—a blatant violation of the facility’s regulations. As I observed from the backseat, I wondered, How is this called the quietest town in America?

I had first come to Green Bank a few months earlier, in March of 2017, on something of a pilgrimage with my girlfriend (now wife), Jenna.

Driving into town, we passed the area’s quiet authority: the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, a 485-foot-tall tangle of white beams holding a giant dish the size of two football fields. This washbasin for Godzilla sat at the bottom of a 4-mile-long valley surrounded by mountains nearly 5,000 feet tall, which created a natural barrier against the outside world’s noise and helped isolate this remote area. Three-fifths of the surrounding county was state or federal forest, thick with mountain laurel and, in warmer months, teeming with mushrooms, ramps, ginseng, goldenseal, and sassafras. Its 941 square miles had a total of three traffic lights, one weekly newspaper, one high school, and a couple roadside pay phones.

The population density of about nine people per square mile was the lowest in West Virginia and one of the lowest anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Going to Walmart was a hundred-mile round trip that required traversing some of the Mountain State’s tallest peaks. Outsiders were considered “flatlanders” or “come-heres.” Locals were “mountain people” who lived in evocative-sounding hamlets such as Stony Bottom, Clover Lick, Thorny Creek, Briery Knob, and Green Bank, with that last name holding an almost mythical allure as a place where the grass was greener and life fuller. Four hours from Washington, DC, Green Bank sounded like a modern-day Walden that could free Jenna and me from the exasperating demands of being always online and reachable. Visiting was to be a respite from our digital lives.

In fact, the quiet had attracted a number of outsiders over the decades. The early astronomers’ ranks had included Frank Drake, who in 1960 conducted humanity’s first formal search for extraterrestrial intelligence using a Green Bank telescope. Secretive military operations also found fertile ground in the Quiet Zone, enabling the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on radio communications from a nearby station in Sugar Grove. During the counterculture revolution, hippies and back-to-the-landers flooded the county in search of a quieter way of living, among them a long-haired doctor named Hunter “Patch” Adams who purchased 310 acres with the stated mission of opening a free medical hospital. Up the road, an infamous white supremacist named William Luther Pierce would also find refuge, purchasing a 346-acre mountainside to build a combination country retreat, business headquarters, and militia base from which to inspire a “white awakening.”

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Image: Pixabay

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