Residents air concerns over power line’s path

WEDDINGTON – Residents from Marvin and Weddington had their chance this week to learn more about a planned power line, voicing health and aesthetic concerns about the line’s path.

Union Power held the first of two planned forums Tuesday, May 8, to meet with residents and receive feedback before drafting options for the new power line connecting Weddington and Marvin. The power company says the line is a necessity due to growth in western Union County over the last 10 years.  The new power line, like those that run along streets on power poles, has to be added between the two towns’ substations to prevent the infrastructure from being overwhelmed and potentially causing mass power outages in Weddington and Marvin.

Union Power officials hope the meetings, which follow a mailing to area property owners explaining why the line is necessary, help paint a better picture of what an acceptable path for the line would be. The company has already surveyed the area looking for landmarks that need to be avoided and is now looking for public input before finalizing any plans.

Trish Standon, a Lake Forest Preserve resident, said she was concerned about the line’s potential impact on the health of area residents and to property values.

“I don’t think there has been any conclusive evidence as to whether there are negative (health) effects,” Standon said. “There also is a negative effect on property values.  For the town of Weddington to get a water tower and power lines it’s going to bring the essence of the town down.”

Union Power tried to address the health concerns at Tuesday’s meeting with graphics showing there are more electromagnetic radiation, or EMFs, coming from a cell phone, fan or hairdryer than from the type of power line they plan to construct.

Another resident on Tuesday was more concerned about the aesthetics of the project.

“There are so many obstacles like creeks and streams and ponds in Weddington you don’t want to disturb,” said Steve Westphall, who lives in Aero Plantation in Weddington.  “(Union Power) just needs to balance the needs of power and the desire for natural beauty.”

The next meeting will be held in late summer or early fall to get resident feedback on 15 to 20 possible routes for the line.  Union Power leaders say cost is not an obstacle at this point. They’re more concerned about finding the best route.

Union Power leaders say the project must happen some time soon – no matter what path is chosen. The demand for electricity in central and western Union County has increased more than 30 percent since 2004. And with only one 100,000-volt transmission line serving the area, a problem with the line could cause simultaneous power outages at all five power substations in the area, which could affect up to 16,000 people.

Union Power hopes to have a path chosen by the end of 2013.  The line should be up and running by 2016. Union Power leaders will not have to go through a rezoning process or receive approval from the council in either Weddington or Marvin before constructing the line.

A notice will be sent before the next meeting to all residents living within the project’s 10.2-square-mile zone.

Many residents at Tuesday’s meeting also were concerned about the new water tower, which will either be located near the Weddington Corners shopping center on Weddington Road or off of Hemby Road behind the Providence Volunteer Fire Department.  Both Union Power and Union County Public Works say the additions are necessary with the growth seen in Weddington and the increase in pressure on both utilities.  Public Works hopes to chose a location for the tower within the next month.

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