Kirsten Walker moved into her South Mountain Road home about two years ago, although she’s starting to regret it.
While she says the house is beautiful, she has some concerns about an Orange & Rockland proposed substation at the intersection of South Mountain and Little Tor roads. The substation is across the street from her house, and she’s worried about the negatives of living so close to it.
“I would’ve never ever bought this house,” she said. “I can’t sell it in good conscience to anyone else.”
There are a few different issues Walker has with the substation, which she shared with O&R representatives and the Clarkstown Planning Board, along with a crowd of about 50 people, at Wednesday night’s public hearing on the substation, specifically the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project.
One of the main issues Walker has is with the possibility of electromagnetic fields from the station. She said she did some research about them from the National Cancer Institute and found a few unsettling things, she said.
“There are increased risks of things like brain cancer and leukemia specifically, and for fun, they also said that the most impacted demographic is African-American women, so the most easily impacted demographic is me,” she said. “I am the embodiment of that.”
Walker also has a two-year-old and said a few times they’ve been outside he’s come close to running up and touching the fence around the property, which would be electric with the substation. She said her son is also showing signs of autism, and her research about electromagnetic fields said that they can have negative effects on brain function and brain development.
“I’m not saying his autism is a direct result of living where we live, but I know that he grew up in this house and I moved in when he was three months old,” she said. “I know that up until the time he was about one-and-a-half, like most autistic children, he was completely normal in every way, made beautiful eye contact, made beautiful conversation. Now, when you say hello to him, he says, ‘Triangle.’”
Many other issues from the community were brought up at the meeting. After the public spoke, the Planning Board voted to keep the public hearing open so more comments can be added from the community. They set another public hearing for June 6th at 7:30 p.m. Chairwoman Shirley Thormann said she wants the public to have more time to do some research about the project, as well as given O&R time to form responses to the issues raised Wednesday night.
Another issue Walker, and others, brought up was property value should the substation go there. She said she questioned someone with the town about what the difference would be, but didn’t get an answer. She said with the money that is coming in, the town should reassess the properties on that land. She said it’s “ridiculous” that hasn’t been done. Walker also added that the town and O&R need to be more careful about researching the project.
“These are real people that you’re planning about and these are real issues,” she said. “These are real people’s life savings that you are playing bad corporate citizen with and I think that more has to be done because there are so many things that are out there to refute everything that these people have said. These people do have the land that they bought, but so do I.”
Mary Jane O'Connor of the Planning Board also did some research on the electromagnetic fields, and found a comprehensive review document from the World Health Organization that has open questions about possible negative affects, such as “neurodegenerative disorder, miscarriage and subtle differences in the timing of melatonin release and altered control of the heart and changes in the number of natural killer cells. I would like O&R to tell me whether they’ve done any in depth studies rather than just saying there isn’t anything that is a problem because the World Health Organization is saying there are problems. I would like to know where you got your information from.”
Martus Granirer, president of Rockland County’s Land Trust, the West Branch Conservation Association, said they also have issues with a few items in the DEIS.
“Our problem is that we have questions about factual matters in the impact statement,” he said. “Some of them rely on results of a study that has not yet been completed.”
He added the group hired a firm to conduct a study of their own about the radiation coming off the site. He said they would need three weeks to get the information from the study, and with the public hearing remaining open until at least June 6, the group should have enough time.
William Terribile, president of the Lake Lucille Property Owners Association, said they also paid for a study of their own. They paid more than $6,000 to have Allied Biological look at Lake Lucille.
“What they’re doing is they’re testing the water to make sure everything’s clean,” he said. “We want it to be as healthy as possible because, you have to realize, this is the mouth of the Hackensack River. This is the water that Jersey is drinking right now, and we have to protect that.”
A few people spoke about the dangers of a substation that close to the lake, and how it could contaminate the lake if things were to go wrong at the station. Terribile added that the substation is not in an environmentally safe place.
Another person from the crowd spoke about some examples of substations catching fire or even exploding. An additional issue raised Wednesday night was the possible noise pollution the substation would bring to the area.
You can read more about the project .