With the town-sponsored field trip via bus to a Jamesport substation set for Thursday, July 17, opposition to a controversial PSEG project for the Island continued to solidify.
A new front in the battle to stop PSEG from building an electrical substation on an acre of town-owned property next to the Shelter Island Historical Society on South Ferry Road has emerged: the possibility of an accidental fire that could result in oil and other materials finding their way into the aquifer.
The New Jersey-based power company, which replaced LIPA at the beginning of this year, has made a strong case that a substation would be safe for the environment and human health, be properly screened from passersby and nearby residences and would create little or no noise.
But it might be a hard sell. PSEG has said that if they fail to get approval to build a substation, they will reluctantly begin the process of tunneling under the bay from the North Fork to ensure reliable power to the Island. Last year LIPA made a disastrous attempt to run another power line under the bay from Crescent Beach to Southold. That project was canceled and the LIPA contractor fired after multiple foul ups and missed deadlines. The matter is now the subject of a lawsuit.
PSEG has had experience with dangerous fires at substations that transform electric power, one as recent as January. A multiple alarm fire blazed up at PSEG substation — different in some respects from the proposed Island facility — in Branchburg, New Jersey on January 8 that burned for three and a half hours, with firefighters still putting out hot spots six hours after the initial eruption. People at the scene described a large and smoky fire. Several people reported loud explosions before the initial blaze and after the fire started.
There were no reported injuries.
According to T&D World magazine, a trade publication for engineers and operating professionals in the electric power industry, up to four percent “of all transformers can be expected to cause a fire during a 40-year service life. While the probability of a transformer fire is relatively low, it is not a negligible risk …”
Councilman Ed Brown is already on the record opposing a substation, and two other Town Board members on the five-member body, in off the record communications, have indicated they’re leaning strongly against empowering PSEG to break ground at the site sometime in the future.
The bus trip to the Jamesport substation provided by the town will leave from Town Hall at 9 a.m. Thursday, July 17. To reserve a seat, call Judy Meringer at 749-0291.