The Clarkstown Planning Board held another public hearing about a proposed Orange & Rockland substation at the intersection of South Mountain and Little Tor roads in New City, and just like the last one, Wednesday’s meeting saw a packed crowd in opposition to the station.
The board opted to keep the public hearing open from the to Wednesday because of just how many people came out to speak on the substation and all the questions brought up during the meeting.
After a nearly two-and-a-half-hour public hearing Wednesday night, the board once again opted to keep the public hearing on the substation open. It will continue next week, at the board’s June 13th meeting. It’s the third item on the agenda, tentatively scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m.
The meeting started with Robert Geneslaw, planning consultant for the board, bringing up some concerns raised at the last meeting from the public and board members. Representatives for the applicant were asked to respond to the issues brought up, such as the public health issues that come from exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially considering the substation will be in a residential area.
“The substation itself has a lot of real estate around it, the equipment has fields inside the substation, but it really attenuates off at the fence line,” said John Coffey, chief engineer for O&R. “The dominant field in the area is the existing transmissions lines, they are there, but the substation itself outside the fence, the magnetic fields go down to background levels.”
He questioned Morton Leifer, an engineer and consultant for the board, who said the station will not produce electromagnetic fields greater than what is already there.
“As far as I can see, it is absolutely not an issue,” he said.
Marvin Baum of Valley Cottage was one of the members of the public to get up and speak at the meeting. He said studies being used in the discussion are a bit outdated, and the most comprehensive study he’s found is one from the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group in which almost 30,000 kids with cancer were tested. The test showed that living in proximity to similar facilities, such as high voltage transmission lines, up to 1,800 feet, or about 600 meters, can affect the child. Those who live within 200 meters of the facilities saw a roughly 70 percent increased risk of childhood leukemia.
“You can’t look at a study of 30,000 children with cancer and not say that it’s comprehensive and that it should not be part of our decision-making process in this town,” Baum said.
He submitted the study to the board and asked them to read it over carefully, eventually adding its findings to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Another issue Geneslaw brought up was how the substation will affect property value of those homes close by. Anthony Montalbano, attorney for the applicant, said they submitted a report of 106 sales looked at near the Congers substation and 118 sales looked at near the New Hempstead substation, with the report looking into a number of variables, such as size, location, area of parcel and the kind of house.
“The conclusion of their report, which by the way the town’s consultant agreed with, was that they didn’t find statistical difference of any significance with respect to the impact of properties adjacent to a substation,” he said. “There was a slight impact with respect to properties immediately abutting the substation, but as you got away from the substation itself, there was a minimal impact.”
Another issue discussed was how the fire department would get to the station should it catch on fire. One speaker from the public questioned how the firefighters could get to the substation, as it would be located in the middle of the large property and partially uphill.
“The station is designed with automatic protective relays and circuit breakers to isolate if they were an event,” Coffey said. “Most of the time, if a transformer fails no one knows about it other than us, as far as that it’s shut off, similar to a circuit breaker in your home. If something falls, it shuts off and we go and test and find out what the condition is. Certainly we can’t say that failures that haven’t happened as far as that produce fires and other catastrophic events.”
Another possible issue is that there aren’t any fire hydrants on South Mountain Road near the substation.
“There was a discussion on the hydrant locations, and we’ve located the nearest hydrant in the area at Denver Drive and Culver Drive, and we can certainly have that surveyed to give a distance and allow the board to consider its relative distance to the substation,” Coffey said.
Coffey added they've discussed the plan with the Clarkstown fire inspector, Vincent Narciso, and the former chief of the New City Fire Department, Arthur Kunz.
"We have been in contact with Vincent Narciso, who's the Town of Clarkstown chief fire inspector, and he's reviewed the plans and he's been satisfied with them to date. We previously met the New City Fire Chief Arthur Kunz and he was satisfied with the project plans as well."
He added the group hasn't met with current New City Fire Chief Kenny Flynn, but they are planning on meeting with him.
“I can’t imagine that our fire people, the town chief fire inspector or the captain of the company that’s going to service it, would say because he would be putting his own men in danger,” said Planning Board Chairperson Shirley Thormann.