Channel Fish Keeps Up Fight Against Substation

By John Lynds

In a neighborhood decimated by environmental risks that has played host to the region’s transportation infrastructure like Logan Airport and its jet fuel farms, three harbor tunnels and Route 1A, residents are becoming increasingly wary of Eversource’s plans to place a substation at the City Yards directly across from American Legion Playground in Eagle Square.

For months, East Boston’s Channel Fish Company in Eagle Square, a plant that processes fish for human and animal consumption as well as bait, has been fighting Eversource’s plan to place the substation next to its factory. Channel Fish’s owner, Louis Silvestro, has been pleading his case to the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board who will rule on the substation’s location.

Aside from his environmental concerns, Silvestro argues the magnetic field the substation would produce would hinder very sensitive metal detection equipment inside his fish processing plant.

At Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting, Channel Fish’s attorney Don Berardi squared off against Eversource’s John Hoey.

While Hoey argued the substation is necessary to handle forecasted electric load growth in the area, Berardi said the existing Chelsea substation that feeds Eastie is enough to handle forecasts.

Aside from causing a potential threat to Silvestro’s company, Berardi said Eversource’s own expert admitted to an Electric Magnetic Field (EMF) link to a possible increase for childhood leukemia at a Empower Winchester meeting in February. Winchester is also fighting an Eversource substation proposal and a You Tube video exists of the admission.

However, Hoey said their own hired experts for the Eastie project found no link between the EMFs the Eagle Square substation would create and cancer and added that the EMF created would be equivalent to using an ‘electric shaver’.

Berardi shot back and said the physician Eversource hired for the Eastie study, Dr. Peter Valberg of Cambridge, was a former expert witness for the cigarette manufacturer, Phillip Morris Company.

In the 2015 class action lawsuit Lori Aspinall v. Phillip-Morris brought by Aspinall alleged that Phillip-Morris misled those who bought its cigarettes by calling one of its products “Marlboro Lights.” Aspinall claims that the name misled the 197,700 members of the class into thinking that Marlboro Lights cigarettes had less nicotine in them and were a less harmful alternative.

According to court documents, Dr. Valberg was the only expert called that concluded that Marlboro Lights were safer than “full flavor” cigarettes despite the surgeon general and several other groups, including the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings that “light” cigarettes can be more harmful to consumers than the full-flavor brands.

Last month Eastie’s two elected officials wrote a letter to the state’s Environment and Energy Secretary, Matthew A. Beaton, and Chair of the Energy Facilities Siting Board, Angela M. O’Connor, looking for answers to several questions regarding the project.

“We understand that you have conducted an independent analysis of the expected impacts of the proposed substation,” wrote Rep. Adrian Madaro and City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “As the elected officials of East Boston, we have some questions pertaining to this study. In particular, we would like to better understand the impacts to our community with quantifiably measurable data and seek answers to (several) questions.”

Madaro and LaMattina want to know the following:

  • Is there a demonstrable need for this substation in East Boston?
  • What are the expected health impacts to the residents of East Boston?
  • What are the expected environmental impacts to the community of East Boston?
  • What are the expected impacts to surrounding businesses?
  • What alternatives have been explored? In particular, has the possibility been explored of expanding the Chelsea facility to accommodate the need for more power?
  • Where else have these types of high voltage lines been run? In other words, are there other communities that house these high voltage lines in residential areas, and if so, what have their impacts been?
  • What are the risks involved when these high voltage lines are installed underground? What are the risks presented to the community with the construction and operation of the substation?
  • Are there risks involved with the proposed substation being located near oil tanks?
  • What percentage of the load capacity created by the substation will be used by Logan International Airport?
  • What impacts would this substation have on nearby property values and home insurance rates?
  • How would the current proposal impact operations of the proposed City of Boston Public Works, EMS, and Police facilities at the same location?.

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