Representative from CPUC addressed Alpine regarding EMF
By: Susan Hogoboom
For The Alpine Sun
Engineer Chuck Williams, an independent contractor hired to conduct studies on behalf of the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to determine the electronic magnetic field (EMF) levels from the Sunrise Powerlink (SRPL) project, presented his findings on Thursday, July 7 at at the Alpine Community Center. Several CPUC employees were in attendance, but only a handful of members of the public showed up. Mary Jo Borak, a CPUC supervisor, at the beginning of the meeting, introduced the paid consultant, to whom the majority of the questions were directed. Prior to the meeting, it was made clear by another CPUC official that there was to be no formal transcript taken of the meeting.
Williams studies, which began in April 2016 and concluded in June 2016, were in the wake of concern from Alpine community members, San Diego County Supervisor Diane Jacob, and Senator Joel Anderson. Both Jacob and Anderson requested the investigation by the CPUC in Feb. and March 2016.
Williams gave an overview of EMF’s and their sources. He described them as occurring everywhere in our environment from natural sources, such as weather systems, and from man-made ones, such as basic electrical appliances. He explained that not only underground electrical distribution lines but overhead distribution lines expose us to EMF’S. He went on to explain that the amount of exposure from said lines fluctuates depending upon the amount of the electrical current, which also varies throughout the day. He said the level of EMF exposure depends upon how far one is from the transmission line and whether or not there are other transmission towers and distribution lines in the vicinity.
Williams’ study concluded that the boulevard’s underground line was installed in compliance with the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) Magnetic Field Management Plan.
Measurements indicate that EMF levels along the boulevard are at their highest above the duct banks but are lower the further one is away from the banks, which probably explains why one’s EMF exposure is higher while driving down the boulevard, than while walking on the sidewalks, where they were measured to be between 0.2 mG. and 11.7 mG. Williams explained that these levels are in the same range as those observed in other parts of the Alpine.
EMF levels were also recorded in two areas where the lines transition from above the ground to underground. One measured 27.4 mG’s, with the other measuring 84.8 mG’s.
The states of Florida and New York, unlike California, have set EMF exposure limits, and some occupational and international organizations have set thresholds in regards to EMF levels. Williams said, according to his findings, our boulevard EMF levels are substantially below the thresholds that are suggested as standards for EMF exposure in other states and internationally. He also said that the EMF measurements at the bridge to the Alpine Elementary school parking lot and at the stairs between the Alpine Elementary school parking lots are below the short-term public exposure recommended threshold set by international organizations. The bridge area measured between 6.2 mG and 9.0 mG and the area around the stairs measured between 2.1 mG to 3.0 mG.
Williams cited other 2016 studies. The Faulkner-Milligan EMF Study cited levels ranging between 0.1 mG and 18.5 mG on Alpine Boulevard.
The Alpine Unified School EMF Study documented ranges between 0.4 mG and 6.6 mG outdoors of the campus. The San Diego County Office of Education EMF Study found EMF levels in classrooms to be below 1.0 mG thus concluding that the project does not expose those on school grounds to any hazardous levels.
Robbie Faulkner, a former engineer, conducted a study with higher readings than those of the CPUC’s. This individual has presented the results of at least one other past study to the Alpine Planning Group and has expressed his concerns that the power along the distribution line will increase over time. He said he questioned the credibility of the report and its findings “criminal.”
Williams said that clinical studies have shown no association between exposure to high EMF levels and hazardous health conditions but did admit that the World Health Organization and other panels have determined EMF’s to be a possible carcinogen as a result of a weak link to childhood leukemia.
Williams stressed that, as an engineer, he can only give a scientific viewpoint drawn from the studies conducted in his job capacity as an engineer and made it clear that his specialty is not that of a doctor, therefore he was not qualified to offer a medical opinion regarding any possible links between SRPL and childhood leukemia.
The effects of the controversial project are yet to be seen, but according to Borak, SRPL is probably here to stay. She said that, to the best of her knowledge, no CPUC project in over 100 years has ever been reversed completely and only one has been revisited. Still, only a small portion of that one was changed. “I think the Sunrise Powerlink will continue to grow and expand,” she said, not making it clear whether her definition of “expand” meant that a future increase in power along the line is planned.
“They want us to go to sleep and forget about it, and that’s not going to happen,” said Mike Milligan, demanding transparency from SDG&E.