Impact to Our Community
Impact to Local Businesses
Constructing a substation in East Boston and digging up the roads to install the 115,000 volt cables is going to be hugely disruptive. Large portions of the streets will be closed while crews excavate and then install the cables and conduits under the streets, leading to more congestion in an already dense neighborhood with heavy truck traffic. Beyond this, the project will negatively impact the neighborhood with the sound of construction, which will be taking place from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday if the project gets approved.
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This approach simply does not make sense. In addition to the health, safety and environmental concerns, this project would have a number of negative impacts on the Community here in East Boston as well.
This is the City’s most recent plan to develop the empty parcel, with Eversource’s substation going in the upper right:
Eversource claims that a new substation is needed to account for projected load growth, and that 35% - 40% of the electricity from an East Boston substation would go to the Airport. However, without the massive electrical usage by the airport, a new substation in East Boston would not even be contemplated.
Eversource also claims that a mere 52% of the electricity from the substation would be used by residences, and 48% would be used by businesses, including the airport.
Why should the East Boston community bear yet another burden for the airport? Why can’t the substation be placed on airport property and fed from the new South Boston substation?
The airport is looking to expand Terminal E – why should Eastie have to sacrifice one of its last municipal lots to power it?
There are plans to build a new police station in the lot, at the corner of East Eagle St. and Condor St. Although the substation is in the opposite corner of the lot, there are high voltage cables wrapped completely around the proposed Police Station Site, which could lead to EMF interference with their equipment.
Police Station and EMT Services
There are two large-scale Army Corps of Engineers projects that will be occurring at the substation lot, and both would likely be interfered with by construction of a substation.
The first is an Emergency Steam Bank Stabilization Project which is aimed at stabilizing the long eroding shoreline that borders the parcel to the north.
Army Corps of Engineers Projects
Beyond this, there is little indication that the parties are working together. Eversource was unaware of the City and Army Corps’ plans until very recently, and the Army Corps’ plan shows bridge spans being stored on what is now Eversource’s land, where they are proposing to build the substation. Forcing both of these projects down the Community’s throat without the necessary coordination or community input is simply unacceptable.
Eversource will not be footing the bill for this $60M project, but the community will be. Yes, you the local rate payers will have the costs of this project rolled into your rates over the coming years, while Eversource pockets the profits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for having the transmission lines in the ground.
In Eversource's own words:
"The remaining $41.7 million in Project costs would not be eligible for regionalization and would be a localized cost, borne by Eversource Eastern Massachusetts customers."
And since Eversource laid that bill at the community's feet, the expected project costs have climbed to $59.8 million.
The real estate value of the homes near the proposed substation and high voltage lines would also take a hit if the project is approved.
Realtors in Sudbury, MA recently took to the streets to protest a proposed project in their town, saying it would hurt property values and that the possibility of the project has already killed deals.
Most people simply do not want to live under or near high voltage power lines, so obviously this is going to negatively impact home values that are close to them. People also tend to not want to live near substations, which are unsightly and inherently dangerous.
Channel Fish Company is a long-standing, family-owned business on East Eagle Street in East Boston and is a direct abutter to the Eversource proposed substation and cables. Channel Fish has been operating in East Boston since 1977, and employs approximately 100 people, many whom are residents of the Eagle Hill neighborhood of East Boston.
The electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from the proposed substation and high voltage lines will likely interfere with the sensitive electronic equipment at Channel Fish. This equipment includes, but is not limited to, its metal detector (magnetic anomaly detector) and its testing equipment (nuclear magnetic resonance machine).
If Channel Fish’s metal detector does not operate properly because of EMF interference, metal such as fish hooks, fish tags, staples, or metal shavings could get through its plant and unintentionally end up in its products. Channel Fish’s customers have zero tolerance for foreign material, so if its metal detector does not work at 100%, Channel Fish’s business is in peril.
Impact of Construction
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The site of the proposed substation is one of the last vacant lots in East Boston. It is owned by the City and it has the added benefit of being right on the waterfront. It is and should be a blank canvass for the community to design for its benefit, but the first brush stroke is going to be building a dangerous, unnecessary and unsightly electrical substation, made without community input. WHY?
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There has been very little community input with regard to this project. In fact, many people in the community are just finding out about Eversource’s plans now, nearly 8 months after they had planned to begin construction!
When the City originally agreed to “swap” the land with Eversource, they acknowledged that there was not going to be enough time to engage the community about the plan because of time constraints to secure funding for the new library. They decided to do it anyway, behind closed doors, and now we have an uphill battle.
EMF interference (EMI) has long been a concern of the City’s, dating back to 2010. The City and Eversource have both proposed studying whether interference would occur, but 6 years later no study has been performed or commissioned.
It seems that the substation site may have been moved far away from its initial spot, further away from the proposed Police Station, in order to prevent any issues with electromagnetic interference (EMI). However, those who moved the site did not anticipate Eversource’s plans to run the 115,000 volt cables completely around the proposed Police Station site, and they were probably not aware that most of the EMFs would be emitted from the high voltage.
Eversource, the City, and the community are all concerned about possible electromagnetic interference with police communications – so why is Eversource getting the “go ahead” before we know if electromagnetic interference is likely to occur or can be mitigated?
This is an indication that the land on which the substation is to be sited is not well-suited for excavation and construction. It is also unclear how substation construction about 15 feet from the very eroding shoreline they are planning to reinforce will interfere with this stabilization project.
The second project is the storage of the dismantled Northern Ave. Bridge on the parcel. Whether you support this project or not, it is clearly unwise to try to simultaneously move and store large bridge spans and constructing a substation in the same small lot.
(view of the proposed substation from the Chelsea Creek)
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The Boston Zoning Code for East Boston explicitly prohibits the construction of substations in Waterfront Manufacturing Zones, which is how Eversource’s parcel in East Boston is classified.
The parcel is also located within a Designated Port Area, and is subject to Chapter 91. This means that Massachusetts DEP regulations require this property to be used for a “water-dependent use,” and a substation clearly does not fulfill this requirement.
Although it is clear that the existing rules and statutes forbid siting a substation on this land, the EFSB has very broad powers, and can nevertheless rule to override these requirements.