Power lines in Highland to deliver electricity after years of delay WEST COUNTY--Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

June 03, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Seventeen years after the Potomac Electric Power Co. sought permission to build 500,000-volt power lines through Highland, the lines are up, but still cold.

The ground next to them is also idle, but may eventually be someone's country home after the voltage starts flowing next year.

Before purchasing that dream home, however, buyers may have to examine suspected health risks from power lines that continue to baffle scientists.

Known as Brighton-High Ridge for the two substations it connects, the 10-mile electric line is nationally known in the industry because it was delayed so long by lawsuits, said Nancy Moses, a PEPCO spokeswoman.

After twice winning appeals in Maryland's highest court, PEPCO is preparing to energize the line next year.

It will be one of the final pieces of a 240-mile electric grid connecting PEPCO and Baltimore Gas and Electric and Virginia Power.

Market conditions permitting, the utility also will sell 13 three-acre residential lots and one smaller lot next to the line's right-of-way, Ms. Moses said.

A county Board of Appeals approved a variance last week, allowing the utility to record a lot smaller than the area's rural zoning. That clears the way for eventual development of the property.

The residential lots were left over from 20 lots bought by PEPCO out of the Waterman and Lime Kiln subdivisions for the power line right-of-way. Ms. Moses said the utility bought entire lots because shaving off parts of lots would have left property owners with parcels too small to sell under the area's three-acre zoning.

PEPCO developed its right-of-way and then re-subdivided the land to create the 14 new lots for sale, she said.

Those considering purchasing the land will have more to consider than aesthetics, schools and shopping, however.

They will have do what the scientific world so far has failed to do: decide whether it is safe to live with an electromagnetic field.

As it has maintained all along, PEPCO says the answer is "yes."

"Over the past 20 years, the scientific research has not demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields cause adverse health effects," Ms. Moses said.

Accordingly, the company is under no obligation to inform buyers of the possibility of such risks, she said.

Some studies done over the last two decades have shown a doubling in the risk of leukemia among children living near high-voltage lines. Others have linked electromagnetic fields to brain tumors, depression and breast cancer. Still other studies would seem to disprove such claims.

"There area some independent studies that suggest a risk, and some that show no risk," Ms. Moses said. "Research is continuing and we will continue to monitor the research."

But some people who live near the PEPCO lines say they would rather not take the risk.

Mary Callahan worked with disabled children in several states before moving to her home in Fulton Estates three years ago.

"A lot of the kids I worked with who had leukemia, from different states, had lived near power lines," she said. Partly because of that experience, she was angered to learn that the line was going up next to her property after her husband was told by county planning staff members that it would not.

"What they say is that you can't prove there is a connection, but nobody can really prove that there isn't," Ms. Callahan said.

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