Would you send your kids to South Delta secondary school knowing that power lines run overhead?
Val RoddickDelta South Liberal MLA
“The power lines aren’t directly overhead, and, yes, I would send them there. I honestly don’t feel that, from everything that I’ve learned, that I would feel so inclined as to remove my child from the school. But I would never have bought a house under the power lines. It’s that simple and, as unique as it [the B.C. Hydro right of way] is, it’s pretty clear.”
“I’m not sure. I’d certainly have to give that some thought. But what I want to find out is what the readings will be on the ground after the line is activated. At this point in time, there are certainly readings from the existing line, and I would like to see what scientifically you would find on the ground after the new line is in.”
Heather Colls Wahlberg
Spokesperson, Mothers Against Power Poles
“Absolutely not, and I never will, until these power lines or the pole is gone from the high school. The danger is the EMF, the electromagnetic fields that will be present when they turn on the power. The danger is the exposure to radiation, which is known to be associated with childhood leukemia, lung cancer, skin cancer, and many other health issues.”
Delta–Richmond East Conservative MP
“I think that the precautionary principle has to come into play here. I’d be reluctant to do that. There’s conflicting evidence out there, and I think that I would be reluctant to send my kids to South Delta with those power lines overhead.”¦You can hear the power in those lines humming, and you are always going to be wondering whether in fact the science got it right or got it wrong.”
Tsawwassen parent Heather Colls Wahlberg doesn’t relish the prospect of B.C. Transmission Corporation power lines being “six metres” from the library at Tsawwassen’s only high school.
She told the Georgia Straight that for this reason she will withdraw her son and daughter, aged 13 and 14, respectively, from grades 8 and 9 at South Delta secondary school. As spokesperson for the fledgling group Mothers Against Power Poles, she said she is not willing to send her kids to the school this fall, “given the risks that exist”.
“We also have a petition with 400 signatures of parents saying they are not intending on sending their children to the high school,” Colls Wahlberg said by phone. “There are 1,200 kids, and I know that 71 applications to transfer out of the school have been picked up [by parents].”
According to the application for an environmental-assessment certificate filed by the BCTC in 2006, the new power lines will replace a 138-kilovolt transmission interconnection circuit between the Arnott Substation in Delta and the Vancouver Island Terminal in North Cowichan. The project received approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission in July 2006 and the Ministry of Environment in February 2007.
In December 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada denied an application by the group Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal judgment in favour of the project. Protests ensued, leading to a court-ordered injunction in June of this year to allow work to continue. In a July 10 ruling, B.C. Supreme Court justice Ian Pitfield asked that named defendants Lloyd Lemoignan, Sharon Lemoignan, Christina Ryan, Danny Duch, Patricia Purchas, Gregory Fahlman, and Marion Fahlman “respect the order” or face charges of contempt of court.
Now, with the lines set to be energized in fall or early winter, MAPP has formed and Colls Wahlberg said she too is furious, though she has ruled out any plans for civil disobedience.
“These power poles will be conducting 230,000 volts of electrical power over the heads of all of our children and the residences of Tsawwassen,” she said. “They will be upping the voltage to 500,000 volts of power. One of the poles is in the process of being put up in the parking lot of the only high school in all of Tsawwassen. So, 1,200 students and all of the staff and all of the parents who have to go to this school on a daily basis”¦will be right underneath these massive power lines and the dangers associated with them.”
Juri Jatskevich, UBC associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, told the Straight that the risks associated with electromagnetic radiation and power lines are “still being studied”.
“In general, it is low-frequency emissions [associated with power lines], and I don’t think there are studies or evidence that link to some health consequences,” Jatskevich said. “But it is still being studied.”¦Somebody should do an expert evaluation on that. Over the phone I can’t do an expert evaluation. Those things have legal implications, and I cannot say anything in that regard.”
BCTC spokesperson Chris Rathbone told the Straight that the Crown corporation has looked at studies done over the past 30 years “available through the World Health Organization and other sorts of similar bodies”.
“All the measurements are taken directly under the power line and progressively further away from the power line,” he said. “So, in terms of exposure and effects, we look to the health experts to guide us.”¦We strive to exceed those guidelines.”
But Colls Wahlberg said her mind is made up, and she’ll enroll her kids in another Delta school.
“It is hugely inconvenient,” she said. “I don’t care so much about the costs, but I am concerned about the effects that will have on my children. They will be removed from the community schools and from all their friendships that they have made over 13 years.”
Where do you draw the line?
> Cost of Vancouver Island Transmission Replacement project: $220.5 million
> Height of new steel poles that will carry the power lines through Tsawwassen: 30 metres
> Date B.C. energy minister Richard Neufeld told TRAHVOL via letter there would be no overhead lines: March 24, 2005
> Date TRAHVOL claims Neufeld retracted his statement: July 25, 2005
> Date of last provincial election: May 17, 2005
> Month lines are set to become operational: October
> The project followed the cancellation of a pipeline to Vancouver Island, which would have provided natural gas for three power plants
Sources: Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines, B.C. Transmission Corporation, B.C. Utilities Commission