Monitoring Utility Expansion Key To Approval

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While it came with understandable objections from the community, the Ocean City Mayor and Council was right to approve the Delmarva Power & Light’s substation expansion plans with certain conditions.

The utility currently operates a substation between 137th and 138th streets in north Ocean City in the dense Caine Woods residential community. That substation needs to be expanded significantly to allow for the installation of a Static Var Compressor, which company officials report will maintain and improve reliability when it comes to electric service in the resort area.

To be certain, the substation should not be where it’s located in a residential community in the first place, but it’s not financially feasible or practical for the substation to be relocated. With that option ruled out, the council was tasked with making sure this expansion is conducted with the health and safety of the community residents in the forefront.

Over the last two years, as this expansion has been in the planning phases and the utility has been gobbling up property surrounding the existing infrastructure, community residents have grown concerned the new substation will release an unsafe electromagnetic field (EMF) for the entire community as well as result in excessive noise for nearby residents.

DP&L put forward its own experts to show neither would be the case, although residents remained skeptical amid concerns of objectivity. Before the Mayor and Council heard the issue again this week after remanding it for further study last year, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave a favorable recommendation to the expansion as it had already once.

This was an uncomfortable situation for all parties involved here, including the utility company, the residents and city officials. Many of the residents who have expressed concerns were among those who were active voters in last November’s election and word has it some of those citizens were calling in their chips with the elected officials they supported and helped to get re-elected.

While that can be awkward for the politicians, the correct decision was made here in going against the wishes of the most vocal citizens in the north-end community.

We have come to expect power and when it goes out for a short amount of time we all get agitated. When there is a prolonged outage, the agitation turns to panic. This expansion has been billed as a means to stabilize service and to enhance its reliability. That’s critically important for all of us.

In approving the plans, the council did require twice annually for an independent party to test the larger substation’s EMF levels as well as the noise it produces. The readings will be taken in January and July reportedly and if excessive levels are recorded the council will be notified and action taken.

Unfortunately, if that occurs at that point, it will be too late to truly do anything substantive to the already constructed substation. However, corrective measures would then be ordered to address whatever was irregular.

While nobody wants a huge substation in their neighborhood, this enhancement needed to be done for the greater good, and the council did the best it could to ensure the utility follows through on what it promised throughout this long process.

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