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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Neighbors Lash Out at Substation Hearing

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE Several residents living near a proposed Connecticut Light & Power Company substation in Westport’s Greens Farms area tonight asked the Connecticut Siting Council to postpone any action on the application until they can get more information about the effects on health, safety and property values and possible alternative sites.WestportNow.com Image
S. Derek Phelps, executive director of the Connecticut Siting Council, addresses the audience before tonight’s hearing got under way. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“We should spend another 30 days to analyze the site,” said James Burke, who lives at 91 Turkey Hill Road South. He said he and other residents had only learned about the proposed facility last week.

“Did anyone put up a flyer at the railroad station?” he asked.

Burke said that in addition to health concerns over electromagnetic fields generated by the substation, there would be an impact on expensive homes in the area during a down market. He said sarcastically that a prospective buyer might be prompted to say to a spouse, “Oh, look, Honey, we have a view of the substation.”

When the hearing ended shortly after 8 p.m., S. Derek Phelps, executive director of the CSC, said that the council would wait 30 days for written comments from those who were unable to attend.

“What the staff will be doing is gleaning for the record those things that are clear fact,” said Phelps. “I would say that within six to eight weeks from now there will be a decision.”

First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff said he was glad to hear from the residents.

“I’m grateful for them (CSC members) coming here tonight to hear the concerns of residents who had only heard about it recently,” Joseloff said. He noted that town departments and boards had been reviewing the proposal for almost a year. (See WestportNow June 8, 2009)

While Art Schoeller, president of the Greens Farms Association, who was unable to attend the hearings, described his neighborhood group as being “very supportive,” the residents who spoke tonight expressed just the opposite.

“We’re surprised that CL&P couldn’t come up with a location with a less residential and environmental impact,” said Dan Mullineaux, who lives at 85 Turkey Hill South.

“Residents of the Greens Farms area should be adequately educated,” he added. “People we’ve made aware of the project are shocked and appalled. There will be more opposition as people are educated.”

According to Christopher Swan, CL&P’s director of municipal relations and a Westport resident, the substation at 6 New Creek Road will be fairly compact, measuring 130 by 160 feet, shielded by open space of a 2.5-acre property just south of the Greens Farms train station. WestportNow.com Image
A sign at the site of a proposed CL&P substation at 6 New Creek Road alerts passersby to today’s Connecticut Siting Council hearings in Westport. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The building will also have an open, beam frame box structure with two towers reaching 50 feet.

Noting that the proposed substation’s electromagnetic field would spread 300 feet, CSC member Edward Wilensky had asked at the 3 p.m. meeting, “What about the effect of it on the Greens Farms school?”

“It’s too far away,” said Raymond Gagnon, NU’s director of transmission projects.

During the evening hearing Mullineaux’s wife Jennifer Boyd-Mullineaux spoke, saying the substation might pose an environmental threat to the nearby tidal marsh in the event of chemical spills from the transformers.

“What we know now is disconcerting,” Boyd-Mullineaux said. “We have yet to understand how this is going to be in terms of health effects.

“Clearly I am not an expert, but I am concerned and as a mother,” she added.

Burke, for one, suggested alternative sites along the Sherwood Island Connector. He also expressed frustration that he did not hear of the proposal until recently, even though he is a member of the Greens Farms Association.

“I don’t think the board of directors of the Greens Farms Association has a right to speak for all its members,” Burke said in response to hearing Schoeller supports the project.

“Sure they posted it on their Web site, but I didn’t see it until Monday night,” he said.

Francis Henkles of 35 Maple Lane argued that other, less intrusive sites between I-95 and the railroad tracks should be considered.

Janet Hartwell, headmistress of the Greens Farms Academy, which abuts the site, noted that for the past year she has been in talks with CL&P, and that she had informed the parents of 650 students.

She also said that due diligence research by the head of the school’s science department and other experts outside of CL&P for many months showed there would be no risk to students from electromagnetic fields.

Hartwell added that she did not want to be demonized because of the school’s findings by neighbors who oppose the substation.

“We’re certainly not thrilled with the project,” Hartwell said following the meeting. “We would love to see it in another location, even though we have done research and know there is no undue risk.”

If the project is approved by the CSC in the next two months, Phelps said it would then go into the design stage, at which point the public would have a chance to offer their input.

“What will not be in dispute then is not whether it can be built, but how it will look,” he said.


Posted 03/31/10 at 10:29 PM  Permalink


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What happened to that ‘clean energy’ and ‘green jobs’ that Obama promised? Oh, that reminds me, did you see how he opened up off short oil drilling today?

I guess when he said change, he meant, change his mind.

But I digress…if a more suitable remote location for the substation could be found to reduce all concerns, than why not?

Also, will electrical cables be hung with the necessary support structure erected to carry the cables to another location? If so, where is that location? Or does the substation have to be co-located near another to reduce that distance?

Posted by John Raho on April 01, 2010 at 04:33 AM | #

In an area of Golden,Colorado, high power lines stretched.over Golden’s hills..  As the power company, not a Colorado company, sought
to increase the already-high voltage in the overhead lines, residents below those lines were alarmed.  An unusually high number of cases of brain cancer
surfaced among men.  And dogs in daytime outdoor kennels developed fast growing cancers.
My family lost one young husband and 2 Golden Retrievers in a very short period of time.

Posted by Diane Cady on April 01, 2010 at 02:06 PM | #

New Canaan in the mid 1990’s faced a very similar situation, with a substation proposed opposite an elementary school and across the street from a moderate income housing complex.

At the time CL&P;had plans to send power to Wilton & Stamford, as a resident of the complex, we sought help from the very capable school parents, including Environmental Defense Fund President: Fred Krupp.

We began an informal survey of cancers in town, and soon the CT Public Health Dept became involved. What changed the thought process of the town leaders was a well placed story on the front page of the New York Times.

Soon after the project was scaled back, the placement was further from the school and homes and now currently exists without much notice.

During the same time, there were hearings in Southport as CL&P;was also stringing high powered wires along the Metro North route, there wasn’t much public interest and now you can see the higher poles, then came the buried lines going down the Post Road.

The siting council seems to do little on behalf of residents, better ammo is with the court of public opinion. At least ask for a moratorium until a cancer survey can be conducted.

Electromagnetic fields can be measured, but they are not static, they move with prevailing winds, and can be measured, there is so much we don’t know or can’t measure and the results of their industry wide institute is as expected: no problems found.

Mary Ann West

Posted by Mary A. West on April 02, 2010 at 04:52 AM | #

The issue of cancer from power lines has been debated for years and there is no persuasive evidence of a connection
See http://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/?p=1425

Posted by Jim Graves on April 02, 2010 at 04:48 PM | #

Let’s prevent another tragedy and ensure that the electrical substation is moved to a non-residential area in town.

13-Year-Old Electrocuted In Substation

Posted by James Burke on April 05, 2010 at 02:01 PM | #

Sign the online petition to protest the building of an electrical substation at 6 New Creek Road!


Posted by James Burke on April 07, 2010 at 04:07 PM | #