OC Substation Testing Reports Questioned

OCEAN CITY — The debate over semi-annual testing on a north-end Delmarva Power substation continued this week with a resident calling into question the reporting of the results.

About six years ago, Delmarva Power came to Ocean City seeking to expand its substation on Sinepuxent Road between 137th and 138th streets. At the time, the substation expansion was approved despite concerns from residents in the community about increased noise and potentially harmful electromagnetic activity emanating from the plant.

The expansion was ultimately approved with conditions, including a sound-proof barrier around the exterior of the roughly block-long property. Another condition of approval was semi-annual testing by an independent third party to ensure the noise and electromagnetic activity did not exceed acceptable safe standards.

In the years since, the semi-annual testing has been conducted eight times and at no time has the noise and electromagnetic activity come close to approaching the acceptable standards. To that end, Delmarva Power officials earlier this spring came before the Planning and Zoning Commission seeking to remove the condition that requires the semi-annual testing, arguing the completed tests have shown no indication of any dangerous levels of noise or electromagnetic activity.

The planning commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council for removing the semi-annual testing requirements for the north-end substation after being satisfied the tests to date have not shown any indication of dangerous noise or electromagnetic activity. However, the Mayor and Council have not yet taken up the issue.

On Monday, former councilman and uptown resident Vince Gisriel again called into question the validity of reports submitted by Delmarva Power.  Gisriel has since obtained the reports prepared by independent third-party specialists and said the reports submitted by Delmarva Power were essentially excerpts.

“I continue to have concerns about the conditional use for the power station at the north end,” he said. “Over the last few years, there have been eight reports submitted by Delmarva Power to the residents in the area and to the planning commission and they are about eight or nine pages long. As you can see, the independent environmental specialists’ reports are much more voluminous.”

Gisriel pointed to the independent reports, which were considerably thicker by a large margin compared to the excerpted reports provided by Delmarva Power.

“The residents and the planning commission never received these reports,” he said. “What we have been given are excerpts, but there are things in these larger reports and a lot of details in here the residents need to know.”

Gisriel said it was important for the residents in the area and for town officials to get the full independent reports and not shortened and perhaps edited versions provided by the utility company.

“We’re talking about whether they have been in compliance going backwards,” he said. “Some of this needs to be interpreted by an independent party that knows about these things.”

During its presentation to the planning commission earlier this spring, Delmarva Power said it was seeking the exemption from the testing requirement for a variety of reasons, the first of which is the eight tests conducted over the first four years have shown no indication of noise or electromagnetic activity even approaching the acceptable levels at the north-end substation. The second reason largely financial. Each of the semi-annual tests costs around $80,000, an expense passed down to the ratepayers.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.