PSEG reached out to Greenport residents last night at a public discussion called to assuage residents’ fears over the perceived health and environmental risks involved in PSEG’s proposal to run a power cable from Fifth Street in Greenport to Shelter Island.
Christopher Hahn, PSEG’s director of external affairs, opened the discussion with a presentation to clear up misconceptions about the proposal.
Residents had previously expressed concern over the length of the project, the disruption it would cause as Fifth Street would be drilled to create a tunnel for the cable and the potential long-term health risks should a higher-voltage cable than the one currently planned ever get installed.
See previous story: Fifth Street residents upset about PSEG tunnel plan, vent concerns
Hahn addressed these concerns directly in a power-point presentation.
“We’re going to install an additional 13kv feeder to Shelter Island from the Southold substation. We’re not going to try to put in a 69kv line as some of you might have heard… that’s a transmission line, not a distribution line. Engineering wise, you can’t have one next to the other,” he explained.
Hahn said the cable would be located a minimum of five feet from the sidewalk, and buried at a minimum depth of two-and-a-half feet under the roadway.
“EMF for a buried 13kv cable falls well bellow the EMF of household appliances,” Hahn said. “It will be an insulated cable, buried beneath the road. If you shave with an electric shaver, thats 15,000 mG when you’re using it… the 13kv buried cable is 12 mG, running at top capacity in the middle of the summer, standing directly over it.”
As for disruption on Fifth Street when the street has to be excavated, Hahn said that part of the project would only take about three weeks with work being done between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (with an hour before and after for preparation and cleanup). It will be done in sections for minimum disruption, he said, with about 200 feet of work done each day.
“That way, no property will be affected for a prolonged period of time,” he said.
The majority of the project’s timeline is taken up by the drilling from Fifth Street Beach to Shelter Island, which would require about 90 working days.
This part of the project has worried some residents, who remember a similar project to run a cable through Pipes Cove in 2013. That project earned the ire of residents with loud drilling and long delays, which caused long-term disruption. The Pipes Cove drilling was eventually called off.
Hahn was quick to dismiss these concerns, emphasizing that PSEG is a separate company from National Grid.
“Our predecessor tried, in a rushed way, to do [a similar project,]” Hahn said, referencing a failed attempt to lay a cable through Pipes Cove. “We’re not building a 36-inch conduit that they tried to do a few years ago, it’s a very different proposal. There will be minimun noise and vibration — in fact, some say my voice, at about 90 decibels, is louder than the drill. At the nearest home, the drill will be about 70 decibels.”
Hahn said this reduction in noise is due to the type of equipment used.
“That was a pounding drill trying to build at 36-inch conduit. We’re making three smaller conduits, and since they’re smaller, it’s more of a screwdriver effect than a pounding,” Hahn said.
After the presentation, Hahn opened the floor up to questions from the crowd. Throughout the discussion, which lasted just over an hour, residents kept pushing back with the same question: Why Greenport?
“I think the real question is why Greenport?” Chris Biemiller asked. “We like to be good neighbors, but what’s in it for Greenport? Have you looked at other sites? What are they?”
Hahn didn’t have an answer for what other sites have been considered, but said there were about 11 other sites looked at by PSEG, and that Fifth Street was the most optimal.
“The angle of approach and distance is very efficient at this spot. We want to get this project done right,” Hahn said, referencing once more the failed 2013 project.
Biemiller mentioned the possibility of running the tunnel to Fourth Street, which doesn’t have a public beach and park and could potentially be less disruptive to Greenport residents, an option that he felt was overlooked by PSEG.
Hahn couldn’t say whether the Fourth Street location had been looked into, but emphasized once more that the Fifth Street site was determined to be the optimum location.
“For one reason or another, this was the best site,” Hahn said.
“‘One reason or another’ — this is what confounds us,” Biemiller said. “It just causes us a certain sense of disbelief that you didn’t consider [Fourth Street] before. You’re going right down the heart of a neighborhood with a town park and condominiums, and you didn’t think of going down the next street. It causes us to be astounded at the level of your planning.”
Hahn said that he would investigate the possibility of moving the project to the adjacent Fourth Street. Biemiller conceded that he was happy an alternate site would be considered, but repeated he was not satisfied with the way the whole process had been conducted so far.
“You need to be more transparent about this,” Biemiller told Hahn. “I appreciate the meeting… but it’s the first meeting on a job that seemed like it was already done, like it was a done deal.”
Christian McShea echoed his opinions from previous meetings, where he explained that, because of his two young children, he has unique concerns about health and quality of life.
“I think there are plenty of open spaces — why does it have to be done in a park, a central focal point of the community?” McShea asked. “I think you’re wasting time and should take it somewhere else.”
McShea said last night he thinks the benefit is not anywhere near great enough for Greenport for the amount of disruption and risk to the residents and the amount of money PSEG stands to save through the project.
“The compensation has to be really high. Fifty billion isn’t an unrealistic number,” McShea said.
Hahn said that he was not at liberty to discuss the benefits package being negotiated between PSEG the Village of Greenport, but emphasized that the negotiation is ongoing and nothing is set in stone yet.
At the end of the meeting, Trustee Doug Roberts added that residents are welcome and encouraged to come speak their minds at board meetings.
“Let us have it. You love it, you hate it, you want us to get $50 billion — that’s the beauty of this.” he said. “We sit there and you can come speak at the podium. We’re there twice a month.”
Roberts said nothing related to PSEG is on this Thursday’s regular meeting’s agenda, and that the soonest any action could happen would be at next months’ meetings.
“The village board meets on Thursday, then Oct 20. is a work session and Oct. 27 is our regular meeting… so nothing can happen until one of those meetings — unless the mayor calls a special meeting,” he said. “It’s not on the agenda for Thursday.”