By KAYLA J. MARSH
HAZLET — Opposition to Jersey Central Power & Light’s Monmouth County Reliability Project continues to grow as hundreds gathered at Raritan High School to hear a presentation regarding the potential health effects the project could have on children and adults.
The presentation, “Health Effects of EMF Fields from High Voltage Power Lines,” was given by David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, SUNY and co-editor of the Bioinitiative Report, a comprehensive review of the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
“We all share many different concerns about the proposed project,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), who served as the host to the July 20 town hall meeting.
“Some of the concerns relate to property value, some of them relate to safety, some of them relate to the environment, but perhaps the most frightening and the most nagging of our concerns are related to our health.
“We don’t know whether exposure to electromagnetic fields will make us sick or damage our bodies in other ways.
“It is frightening because we fear for our children, for our seniors, for ourselves and it is nagging because we can’t easily get answers about a subject that is rooted in complex scientific data that few of us are trained to analyze and interpret.”
The Monmouth County Reliability Project calls for a new 10-mile, 230-kV transmission line along New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast rail line.
The transmission line would begin at a substation in Aberdeen and would follow the New Jersey Transit corridor right-of-way through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown before ending at the substation in Red Bank.
During his presentation, Carpenter said EMFs and the effects they can have is an important issue to understand.
“We know high-energy things — X-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays — can break chemical bonds, can damage DNA, cause birth defects, cause cancer, [but] what about these lower energies?” he asked.
“There’s an elevation in cancer, there’s increasing evidence that people that are exposed to high levels are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s Disease … people become sensitive to electromagnetic fields — suffer from headaches and a variety of other nonspecific systems when in the presence of high electromagnetic fields — [and] there’s very strong evidence it reduces sperm count.”
Carpenter said the average background exposure to EMFs in a home, from everyday items such as microwaves, hair dryers, cell phones and even WiFi, is 1 milligauss (mG) or less, but can be much higher near anything that carries a higher current.
“There are EMFs around us everyday … the difference is we can turn those off,” said Rachael Kanapka, representing Resident Against Giant Electric (RAGE). “It is a voluntary action that we take and a risk that we assume if we want to expose ourselves to those levels of EMFs.
“Power lines cannot be turned off. If these get installed above our homes, above our schools, above our parks, it’ll be a constant EMF exposure we have no control over [and] it is critical to remember that.”
According to Carpenter, individuals, whether children or adults, living within about a half mile of a power line have an elevated risk for leukemia and certain other cancers.
He also mentioned children living within 1,000 meters of a high-voltage power cable are up to four times more likely to be stricken with leukemia.
“That’s not insignificant, especially if it is your child or your grandchild,” he said. “Is the evidence rock solid? No, I wouldn’t say that.
“Are all the questions answered? No, we don’t really know exactly what [mechanisms are] responsible, but if we know there is an effect, we should take every step we can to reduce our exposure and reduce the risk.
“People should be informed, they should be told to do what they can to protect themselves from exposure to these electromagnetic fields.”
Carpenter mentioned a buried power line has almost no magnetic field.
“Should this high-voltage power line be built? I can’t answer that question because it may well be that there are demands for electricity,” he said. “Should it be above ground through an urban area? Absolutely not, and you are right to do everything you can to fight this.”
Also in attendance at the July 20 town hall meeting were Freeholder John P. Curley, Middletown Township Committeeman Kevin Settembrino and Hazlet Mayor Scott Aagre.
“This is the third meeting we’ve had in Hazlet, [and] each time we’ve had to increase the size of the venue,” Aagre said. “This shows more people are learning about the project and looking to find out more answers and are supporting opposition to the proposed transmission line installation through our towns.
“The project has significant negative impacts to our quality of life and to the market values of our homes.
“… The aesthetics of the towns would be altered significantly. Hazlet Township and the Hazlet Board of Education have passed resolutions in opposition … [and] I have had the opportunity to work with each of the affected towns’ officials [and] state and county officials and am glad we are all in agreement … opposing this project.”
Handlin mentioned she did invite representatives of JCP&L to the meeting, but said they declined.
“The fact that you are here shows that you care, shows that you are a leader in this community and you’re taking the time to educate yourself and that’s critical,” Kanapka said.
“Our goal is to make everybody, all our neighbors, all our friends aware of this project, communicate its risks and negative implications and to organize so that we can work together to be most effective in fighting it.
“As this fight continues, and it will be a long fight I expect, continue to do the little things every day to make ourselves heard.
“There are multiple impacts [with] this project … the most critical and most frightening is the fact that it could endanger our health. Nothing is more valuable than our health.”