Opinion: Oppose the CL&P substation

As you already know, Connecticut Light & Power's (CL&P) proposal to build a "strong" electrical substation at 6 New Creek Road is in the last phase of approval through the Connecticut Siting Committee, which requires CL&P to demonstrate both public need and environmental compatibility of their plan for approval. We believe that neither criterion has been satisfactorily met:

Environmental compatibility

1. Safety: The site is directly across from a private K-12 educational institution, Greens Farms Academy. This school educates 650 children in a facility that makes use of the roadways passing by the proposed substation, exposing the children to potentially harmful levels of electromagnetic pollution. As evidenced by the accidental electrocution of a curious 13-year-old at a CL&P substation in Southington last year, children and substations should never be near one another, under any condition. Despite best practices by CL&P, this child still managed to enter the CL&P substation in Southington.

2. Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) pollution is a source of grave concern for parents and homeowners in general. Though a relatively new field of study, extensive literature has been published linking exposure to these fields (generated by substations and power lines, alike) to various brain cancers and childhood leukemia. While there is debate surrounding the severity of the association, all parties acknowledge that the association is real.

3. Inter-tidal Marsh -- The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection considers the Greens Farms Brook Marsh a "significant natural habitat." The marsh has not had an on-site inspection by a field biologist to determine the existence of any extant populations of any endangered, threatened or special-concern species. The planned transformers can -- and do, on occasion -- leak their insulating fluid into the groundwater, despite best environmental practices. Until recently the fluid was known to contain PCBs. Now the fluid is stated to be free of PCBs, but its exact composition is unclear. Is this a risk that is reasonable to take for all of the plant and wildlife that call the marsh home?

4. Multi-frequency exposure: Within a short distance from the proposed site is a large cell phone tower. The research on the ill health effects from cell phone tower broad band radiation is clear and alarming. In many countries, such as France, measures are being taken to protect the populace from the cancer-causing EMF generated by these towers and their end-user devices. In conversation with a New York Times columnist and published author on the topic of EMF, Blake Levitt, it seems that the siting of a substation so near to a cell phone tower could trigger a magnification of the EMF risks from both devices from a multi-frequency exposure that is able to travel greater distances than previously estimated because of their synergy.

5. Future implication of sub-station: The CL&P application indicates that the need for this substation is heavily geared to meeting future electrical demand in the Westport area. The current substations are meeting demands, but a new site is required since CL&P must remove a transformer at the Sasco Creek substation. In permitting this substation, we may inherit the risk of future development, beyond what is currently being proposed when other area substations require replacement or relocation. What would stop CL&P from increasing the current through this substation, or changing elements of the station in a manner that may convey further health effects without our consent or even knowledge?

6. Undue burden of risk for Green's Farms residents who have a disproportionate amount of proven environmental health hazards in the form of air, noise and EMF pollution from Interstate 95, Metro-North and the cell tower adjacent to the Green's Farms post office, respectively. Adding a substation to the mix might indeed be the final straw, leading to increased cancer rates (cancer clusters). And, once the substation is place, nothing can be done.

Public need:

There are no metrics describing the efficiency of the current Westport/Weston substations in the application to defend the CL&P decision to build a new, bigger and better substation. How can we appreciate the cost/benefit analysis of this proposal, if all we know are the costs? What exactly are the benefits to this neighborhood, which is shouldering all the risks, versus other neighborhoods who will receive the energy, but not share any of the risks? Will our energy be cheaper? More environmentally friendly?


In the absence of affirmative answers to the public need queries, and reliably objective answers to the environmental compatibility issues raised above, the plan to install a substation next to the Green's Farms train station is at best, incomplete, and at worst, flawed and dangerous.

James Burke, Jennifer Boyd and James Weil are Westport residents.