Utility Provides Update On Substation Expansion In North OC

OCEAN CITY — The new Delmarva Power substation construction and expansion in the Caine Woods community in north Ocean City has continued to make strides in recent weeks after a contentious battle waged by neighbors last winter.

Delmarva Power is in the process of constructing an expanded substation in the area of the 138th Street on a site adjacent to an existing facility after much consternation was voiced by neighbors during the approval process including concerns about safety and noise levels. The Mayor and Council approved the plan in January with caveats the facility was not to exceed safe electromagnetic field (EMF) and noise levels.

Delmarva Power officials this week said in an interview with The Dispatch, the project is progressing on schedule and there has been little heard in the way of opposition.

“We heard all of the concerns and we listened,” said Delmarva Regional President Gary Stockbridge. “We have not gotten any negativity about what we’re doing with this project, and we feel we’ve been nothing but transparent through this entire process.”

The proposed plans were approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and forwarded to the Mayor and Council for approval. However, the town’s elected officials raised concerns based on complaints from the residents in the area and sent the project back to the Planning Commission for additional tweaks in the plans. When those tweaks were added, including the caveats about not exceeding the EMF and noise levels, and the addition of an attractive wall around the facility, the Mayor and Council gave the substation project its blessing.

According to Delmarva Power Media Relations Manager Matt Likovich, the wall was not part of the original plan, but was added at the request of the residents in the neighborhood. The 15-foot decorative wall is designed to surround the substation with landscaping and an irrigation system to screen the substation from view for residents in the area. It will be in stark opposition to the traditional chain link fence and barbed wire that surrounds the older adjacent facility.

“We’re putting a wall around this substation to improve it aesthetically, but it wasn’t initially on the drawing board,” said Likovich this week. “We took all of the concerns under consideration and we’re going to be well within the town’s ordinance in terms of noise. At the end of the day, this project is going to benefit Ocean City, Worcester County and lower Sussex County.”

The barrier wall is currently being manufactured off site and is expected to be delivered and installed by the end of the summer. The work will begin on the south side of the existing substation and proceed north along Derrickson Ave., and then easterly along 138th Street. The final portion will be installed along Sinepuxent Ave.

One critical piece of equipment to be installed in late June is the new transformer, and Delmarva Power officials said this week there will be some minor noise impacts related to its installation. The huge power transformer will be ultimately be filled with mineral oil, which acts as an electrical insulator and cooling fluid, but because of the size and weight of the transformer, it is delivered to the site without the oil.

Once the transformer is delivered, a vacuum pump will be used first to remove any moisture and other contaminants that could damage the equipment. Then, the same vacuum pump will be used to fill the new transformer with mineral oil. The vacuum rig includes pumps and a generator, which will make noise during the filling process. Once the operation starts, the process takes at least 24 hours, during which the generators and pumps will continue to produce noise.

Likovich said this week the procedure is not unique to the transformer at the 138th Street substation and is a standard operation for all transformer installations and repairs. For example, it would need to be done if another transformer at a substation in Ocean City or anywhere else in the company’s system needed to be repaired or replaced. In fact, the same procedure was carried out in April during Delmarva Power’s corrective maintenance at substations in the 41st Street and 2nd Street areas with no complaints.

“Although we did not receive any customer inquiries about that work and the associated noise, we just want to make the community aware of this upcoming process associated with the 138th Street substation project,” said Likovich.

In terms of the underground cable project in Caine Woods, Delmarva Power officials said this week the company has completed the most recent phase and will return in the coming weeks to take care of a variety of property restoration issues. The long-range plan is to resume the underground cable project in the northern section of Caine Woods in 2014 and a more definitive timeline will be announced when it is established.