Lawyer questions Altalink about potential health risks

A lawyer for the commission that will decide whether a $1.4-billion power transmission project should go ahead cross-examined the company chosen to build the power lines at a hearing on Monday.

A lawyer for the commission that will decide whether a $1.4-billion power transmission project should go ahead cross-examined the company chosen to build the power lines at a hearing on Monday.

Giuseppa Bentivegna, who represents the Alberta Utilities Commission, questioned AltaLink staff about resident concerns that power lines could pose health risks.

William Bailey, principal scientist for U.S.-based engineering and science consulting firm Exponent, was asked if there were any potential health effects for humans or wildlife from the proposed 500-kilovolt direct current transmission line.

“No, there is not,” said Bailey.

Most of the health studies referred to by landowners concerned about the impact of power lines on health deal with alternating current technology, which is much different than direct current lines and their electric and magnetic fields are of a “fundamentally different character,” he said.

There is a small possibility that AM radio reception could be affected underneath the power lines. In most cases, the interference would not be noticeable, but a weak AM signal could be distorted.

The magnetic field created by power lines would be undetectable levels within 100 to 150 metres of the line. The fields fall well within the ranges outlined in guidelines.

AltaLink officials were also asked how they would protect against the spread of weeds and plant diseases such as clubroot.

Some farmers are concerned that crews building and servicing power lines could spread clubroot by tracking mud from one field to another on vehicles.

Darin Watson, the company’s vice-president of major projects north, said the company will check for clubroot and if there is any risk of spreading it, vehicles and other equipment will be cleaned with a bleach solution.

On fields where there is no clubroot, equipment will still be cleaned by either blowing or washing off mud and dirt with pressurized water or air.

The question of how property values might be affected by the presence of power lines was also raised.

One study suggests power lines could reduce country residential property values by three to four per cent.

However, getting a clear picture of how values might be affected has been complicated by the wide range of property prices depending on where they are located in the province and a lack of comparable sales from properties with power lines and those without.

The hearing into the project to build a 350-km power line from Genesee generators southwest of Edmonton to Langdon, near Calgary are in their third week.

It resumes today at the Holiday Inn 67th Street.

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