New power lines on Cedar Street in East Hampton. Photo by Mara Certic
By Mara Certic
Citing the presence of potentially dangerous toxins in electric utility lines being erected by PSEG Long Island in East Hampton Town, a group of residents has filed suit against the company and the Long Island Power Authority in New York State Supreme Court.
The Long Island Bureau For Responsible Energy (LIBFRE) filed the suit on behalf of a group of residents who live near the poles. It claims the overhead transmission lines will negatively affect wells and drinking water for the 300-plus people they represent.
A press release issued on Thursday by the group stated that an environmental review of the project by LIPA had “failed to disclose the adverse cumulative impact of the project on health, property values and alternatives, and intentionally misrepresented them.”
The group is being represented by former special counsel to Suffolk County, Irving Like, and Professor Leon Friedman who once represented the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who had been wrongly convicted of murder.
The suit claims that a banned chemical in 26 countries, pentachlorophenol (PCP), has been placed on wooden utility poles and has been leaching dangerous toxins into the soil in the surrounding area and is also emitting toxic gases into the air.
According to Rebecca Singer, co-chair of LIBFRE, the level of PCP in East Hampton soil was recently tested and was found to have more than 312 times the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s acceptable level.
PCP has been used as a wood preservative since 1936. It has also been used as an insecticide, an herbicide, a sealant, and a molluskicide, among others. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants showed that exposure to PCP can interfere with endocrine processes in humans and has been found to stunt brain development, impair memory and even cause infertility in women, the suit states.
A hydrogeologist’s report says that the PCP will contaminate East Hampton’s groundwater, eventually traveling into Hook, Georgica and Town Ponds.
The second concern in the suit is that the high voltage power lines that are being added to the existing lines might result in electromagnetic fields dangerously close to houses on narrow streets.
The suit also charges that the new utility poles are damaging trees and vegetation along the 6.2-mile route along which they have been installed. According to Thursday’s press release, experts have already noted that there has been damage done to the landscape.
The final cause of action is the suit is the claim that the high levels of PCPs in the soil and water have drastically devalued the property for all of the houses in close proximity to the new poles.
The complaint demands that the utility pole project be cancelled and restitution in excess of $30 million to cover attorneys’ fees, removal costs and emotional distress of the residents involved.