September 13, 2009
As Fredon fights utility, Montville pays close attention
Sussex County town threatens to close schools over EMFs
By MEGHAN VAN DYK
Montville are feeling the shockwaves after officials in one Sussex
County town have threatened to close their only school over fears of
adverse health effects caused by electromagnetic radiation emitted by
nearby power lines.
administrators in Fredon say EMF readings taken on the playground of
the K-6 elementary school exceed safe levels, attributed to the
230-kilovolt power lines that stand 75 feet away. The school, which
serves 343 students, could close Oct. 1.
The Fredon school board
will meet Monday and vote on a tentative agreement reached between the
district and PSE&G Thursday, officials said. If the agreement is
approved, the school could remain open.
The same power lines,
owned by Public Service Electric and Gas Co., run adjacent to the
Robert R. Lazar Middle School in Montville. The nearest wall of the
school is about 450 feet from the edge of the power lines, and a ball
field behind the school is about 200 feet away.
"We have not had
any conversations yet about moving students out of the Lazar School,"
said Jon Alin, Montville's school board president. "But we are very
concerned about EMF levels and the health of our students and staff."
districts — along with seven Morris County municipalities and several
citizen and environmental groups — are embroiled in a legal fight
against PSE&G's planned upgrades to the Susquehanna-Roseland
transmission line. Line towers would double in height to 190 feet and
lines would be upgraded to hold 500,000 kilovolts.
involved in the litigation say they are alarmed by research that
suggests a link between elevated EMF exposure and diseases such as
cancer and leukemia in children.
The magnetic field from the
existing power line at the Montville ball field is 3.2 milligaus,
according to Karen Johnson, a PSE&G spokeswoman. That is just
slightly higher than the 3 mG maximum exposure recommended by the World
Health Organization -- putting school property at the threshold for
safety even before the line doubles in height and voltage.
was news to Alin, who said school officials were not present when
PSE&G took the reading in August and have not been notified of the
"That number is unsubstantiated," Alin said Friday. The school board has discussed conducting its own tests.
concerns us is the unknown," Alin said. "They (PSE&G) want to
double the height and power that is close to a school and, if we ever
decide to build onto the back of Lazar, that would put classroom space
that much closer to the wires.
"We wouldn't want that."
school officials learned this summer that the EMF levels near a
playground were 19 mG -- six times higher than safe levels. The school
board voted unanimously last week to close the school, after PSE&G
reversed an agreement to move the existing lines farther from the
school and to swap the playground and a parking lot to minimize EMF
Montville resident Allyson Fusella, a mother of three,
praised Fredon's decision to "choose the safety of their children" over
"I don't know what kind of health
impact the lines will have, but why do the children have to be the
guinea pigs?" Fussella said. "We should err on the side of caution,
especially when it can't be proven that the radiation doesn't cause
Montville Mayor Deborah Neilson said the township also
has requested EMF readings at various locations along the 7-mile
corridor where the power lines intersect Montville — through
residential neighborhoods and a 315-unit condominium complex — but has
not yet received that information.
"We're not only concerned
about the effects of EMF on children, but on everyone," Neilson said.
"Homes are right up against the power line right-of-way. If we were
assured that there was virtually no EMF exposure or danger, that would
go a long way to putting citizens at ease."
The Montville school
board will discuss PSE&G's planned power line project and EMF
levels at its 8 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the municipal building.
deadline for public comment on PSE&G's project is Tuesday. Hearings
will be held before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities beginning
in November, and a the regulatory agency is expected to rule on the
transmission line upgrades in early 2010.
Anyone wishing to send
comment to the BPU about the proposed PSE&G plan must do so by
Tuesday. Letters can be mailed to: Secretary Izzo, NJ BPU, 2 Gateway
Center, Newark, NJ 07012. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.