Neighbours try to block substation

KEMPTOWN, MARYLAND - A group of neighbors near Bartholows Road north of Kemptown are gearing up to prevent Allegheny Energy from building a large-scale electric substation next to their homes.

Members of the group, Citizens Against Kemptown Electric Substation, or CAKES, feel they were not given adequate warning that Allegheny planned to acquire farmland on Bartholows Road for a potential substation.

The substation would be constructed as part of the proposed Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline project, a 275-mile power line which Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power plan to build from the John Amos Substation in West Virginia to Kemptown.

Dick Ishler, a member of the group, said that even the name "Kemptown Substation" is misleading.

Residents of West Oak Fields and Bradford Estates, both of which have Mount Airy mailing addresses, do not consider themselves to be part of Kemptown, which is about a mile south of the site.

When they heard it was going to be called Kemptown Substation, Ishler said he never considered that it would be built on a former farm within view of his home.

Ishler said Allegheny representatives made no effort to inform residents that the land would be used for the substation.

No one in CAKES disputes the need for electricity, but it does not make sense to place a potentially hazardous substation near 1,300 homes when other, more remote options may have been available, Isher added.

Ginny MacColl, Ishler's wife and fellow group member, cited studies suggesting a relationship between the electromagnetic fields produced by electric transmission lines and stations and diseases such as childhood leukemia and Alzheimer's Disease. With a potential risk of grave illness associated with a substation, locating it near a neighborhood was the wrong choice, she said.

"It makes no sense to build it the middle of an enormous amount of homes," MacColl said.

The World Health Organization found in 2007 a link between chronic exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields and an increased risk of childhood leukemia.

However, laboratory testing on animal cells exposed to electromagnetic fields did not experience any negative health effects. The study concluded the link was not strong enough to prove electromagnetic fields caused childhood leukemia, but that there was enough evidence to consider the fields "possibly carcinogenic."

The study did not find enough evidence to link chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields to other diseases.

The group is also concerned the appearance of the substation could detract from property values, and that the constant hum of electricity, described as "the sound of falling rain" on PATH's Web site, would be an annoyance. The Web site said the noise would only occur in "foul weather."

Allegheny has posted a document on its Web site stating that it would need at least 150 acres of land to build the substation, and that this land would have to be near the intersection of power lines owned by Baltimore Gas and Electric and Pepco, which the substation will connect to.

The Browning Farm, which Allegheny purchased in January, sits on the intersection of these lines and the planned route for PATH, so the company negotiated its purchase for $6.8 million.

But the station has not been designed yet, said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for Allegheny.

Meyers said the substation will be located in a low spot on the farm, and Allegheny plans to screen it using landscaping and other features. While he said there would be lighting, he said that it would not be as obtrusive as the lights on a power plant, where they are needed to prevent planes from crashing into towers.

"The lighting would be extremely limited," he said.


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