Homeowners fear future with lines

Chung Chow photo

Shari Boyce has posted signs on her house to protest the power lines, but may pack up and move if another route away from residential Tsawwassen is not found.

By Tia Abell
South Delta Leader
Jul 14 2006

Disbelief, bitter disappointment and, above all, shock—that’s how Tsawwassen residents describe their reactions to the news last Friday (July 7) that the power lines above their homes will be upgraded after all.

“I can’t believe they’re going to put up this industrial power line right through town,” says Jack Bulloch, who bought his house on 53A Street in 1994. “You get people weeping over the fence and if you have little children, you hear them playing in the backyard and think to yourself that you’re slowly poisoning them.”

Bulloch hasn’t had his six-year-old granddaughter visit since Christmas because of what he’s learned about the possible health threats from power lines’ electromagnetic fields (EMF). Now he plans to sell his home next February.

“I feel very sorry for young people with big mortgages—bigger than their houses are worth,” he says.

The upgrade news also stunned Maureen Broadfoot, spokesperson for Tsawwassen Residents Against High Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL).

“First of all the government made a firm promise in March of 2005 not to continue with the overhead upgrades. Secondly, the Canadian Cancer Society issued a (recent) warning that children shouldn’t be playing near power lines.

“But the B.C. Utilities Commission would string up lines over a school, two daycares and 150 back yards… I’m fearful for my family’s health and safety.”

TRAHVOL members spent $300,000 out of their own pockets and a lot of effort during the last 19 months pressing their case with the commission. But now some members say they don’t believe the hearing process was sincere—especially as no compromises were made.

“We worked so hard in good faith, I feel like we’re getting slapped,” says Mimi Page, who bought her Shannon Way home with her husband Glen in 1992. “It’s been disillusioning, dealing with the bureaucracy, and we were naïve enough to have thought we were being heard. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Our politicians do speak with forked tongues.”

Tralee Crescent resident and father of four Doug Adams says he feels betrayed.

“I’m quite upset that our government is not taking care of us and absolutely missed the point of what we had to say. They talk about communicating and then didn’t listen to us.”

Instead, he says the utilities commission wore TRAHVOL and other residents down with legal fees and a lengthy, effort-consuming process.

“And it was all in vain and it’s disgusting because it endangers people and devalues their property.”

Adams, who moved his family from a three-acre farm in Maple Ridge four years ago to be closer to his work, adds that his main concern is health and safety—something he doesn’t believe is shared by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

“I’ve got four kids playing in the yard and my oldest son loves the bike park. And it’s right under the power lines. They’re exposed at home and at school.

“When the Canadian Cancer Society comes out and says kids shouldn’t play under power lines, doesn’t that hold any water?”

Scientists may disagree about the potential harms from power lines and other EMF sources but Shannon Way resident Karsten Holmsen says the anecdotal evidence is piling up—including his example.

Holmsen was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and says out of the 58 residents living near the power lines who signed affidavits, 25 reported cancer in their immediate families. (TRAHVOL co-chair Cecil Dunn also told the South Delta Leader one of his sons has had cancer, as does their present dog.)

“There were also 11 miscarriages and 31 cases of leukemia and other cancers in pets...you wonder whether some of these were caused by the EMF of the power lines. There was no study done so we don’t have proof,” Holmsen adds.

The stress of the situation, however, is taking its toll on affected residents, Holmsen says, adding that he wakes up at night, thinking about the problem. He no longer feels comfortable having his two-year-old granddaughter visit.

“There’s a tremendous amount of guilt among people with children. They’re thinking we shouldn’t have moved here and what should we do now.”

Others have no trouble deciding.

“It just shatters me that all the neighbourhood children will be exposed to this (electromagnetic field),” says Shari Boyce, her voice breaking.

The longtime 53 A Street resident may be taking down the skulls and crossbones marking her house in protest in the near future.

“If they go through with this, I’ll move. I’ve been here 30 years and I’m a senior citizen and I’m alone; it will be a tremendous upheaval for me. But I don’t feel comfortable inviting anyone over to sit in my back yard. It used to be a friendly place. Not anymore.”

© Copyright 2006 South Delta Leader



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