Residents vent their concerns about powerlines at environmental hearing

By Philip Raphael

South Delta Leader

Jun 16 2006

Local residents packed the Coast Tsawwassen Inn Tuesday night and vented their concerns on plans to route upgraded power lines through Tsawwassen.

Roughly 200 listened and many jeered an information summary on an environmental assessment of the project being put before B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office for approval.

The project—proposed by the B.C. Transmission Corporation (BCTC)—to replace aging lines that deliver power via undersea cable from Tsawwassen Beach to Vancouver Island customers could result in continued use an existing right-of-way through Tsawwassen that was established in the 1950s.

Among the route options BCTC has submitted to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) for approval includes running the new, more powerful lines atop new, higher power poles, or burying the cables along the right-of-way which today has about 176 homes backing on to the area.

Residents are concerned the electro magnetic field (EMF) the lines give off is harmful to their health and want the cables routed away from residential Tsawwassen.

Much of that concern was expressed at Tuesday’s meeting.

“You have the right to the lines going overhead, but you don’t have to right to enter my home with the EMF,” said one woman in an impassioned statement.

She added she fears for the health affects the lines currently have on her young son.

Critics allege links of childhood leukemia with prolonged exposure to high levels of EMF exposure.

The crowd was informed an environmental assessment, commissioned by BCTC, cited a number of benefits to the project, such as reduced visual impact since higher, but slimmer, metal power poles are planned to replace the existing wooden ones.

Other expected benefits included $10 million in provincial and federal sales taxes on electricity in the first year of operation.

Some in the crowd reacted angrily to the list.

One man shouted, “Will there be more money for the hospitals?”

And many in the audience booed and expressed their disbelief when the review’s summary concluded with the statement that overall findings have no long-term changes or affects on the environment.

And that the expected levels of EMF is well below the accepted standard of 833 milligauss.

“You live in our homes then. Want to trade houses? one man yelled from the crowd.

Residents have long been concerned that many critics of EMF exposure have put the accepted level at around three milligaus.

Some in the audience said they have done their own testing and found levels much higher in their homes—around 50 to 60 milligaus—and upwards of 100 miligaus directly under the power lines in their backyards.

And that led some to ask where those conducting the environmental assessment managed to derive average readings that were much lower.

Jack Bulloch, a resident on 53 A Street who has the lines running behind his home, asked if the transmission corporation had any specific security measures in place to guard against vandalism or sabotage to the power poles if new ones are erected along the right of way.

Bulloch said that with such local opposition to the project, what would stop someone from destroying the poles with dynamite or an explosive concoction of fertilizer.

Bruce Barrett, BCTC’s director of major projects responded by saying the power poles are not subject to design criteria that includes destruction by explosives.

Others in the audience questioned why the environmental assessment process was being undertaken now, in advance of a decision by the B.C. Utilities Commission on what route the lines will follow.

Cecil Dunn, a prominent member of TRAHVOL (Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines) asked what the transmission corporation would do if the utilities commission came back with a decision that indicated it had done a poor job and should choose another route.

BCTC’s Barrett said if significant changes were called for, it would have to withdraw its route application.

This is the last scheduled opportunity the public has to voice their concerns in person on the project.

The public has until July 27 to return their comments to B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office.

A decision by the utilities commission is expected in the coming weeks.

© Copyright 2006 South Delta Leader



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