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ComEd project in Huntley raises ire

Published: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013 12:07 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013 2:15 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Neighbors Leslie Reining, with 8-month old daughter, Nora, sits beside Harris Khan in Khan's backyard porch Monday talking about the safety concerns of having an 80-foot-tall electric tower 25 feet away from Khan's property line in Huntley. ComEd did this as part of the Northwest Reliability Project, and the towers are to go live in September.

HUNTLEY – Two neighbors in Huntley have continued the fight against a controversial ComEd project, and they say the utility company’s unwillingness to compromise is forcing them out of their Wing Pointe subdivision along Kreutzer Road.

Leslie Reining and Harris Khan, who live next door to each other on the eastern cul-de-sac of Great Plaines Drive, had their backyard view of Kreutzer Road dramatically altered this summer with an 80-foot-tall electrical tower that soon will carry a 138,000-volt power line.

ComEd in May installed the tower nearly 25 feet away from Khan’s backyard as part of an area electrical upgrade called the Northwest Reliability Project that Huntley officials and other affected homeowners have previously resisted.

The tower stands 75 feet away from Khan’s back door, and the close proximity sent the two neighbors into action. They met personally this summer with two ComEd officials, whom the neighbors said were not receptive to their concerns that the tower puts their health and safety at risk and diminishes their home values.

“They don’t value our emotions. They don’t care about any of us,” Khan said. “Just the thought of that is so infuriating. They are not willing to work with us.”

After ComEd installed the tower, Reining put a for-sale sign on her front lawn. She said she would take her house off the market if ComEd moved the tower.

She is concerned that her two infant children could have their health adversely affected if they are exposed to increased waves of electricity from the tower.

Fearing the consequences of living near a power line, the two neighbors, who have lived in Wing Pointe for 12 years, want ComEd to relocate the tower directly across from them on the south end of Kreutzer Road, which contains undeveloped farmland.

“It’s unnecessary to have this tower so close to a home,” Reining said. “There is no compassion.”

The Northwest Reliability Project began in 1994 and is meant to provide more electricity to the growing area of southern McHenry and northern Kane counties. The final, $60 million phase involved connecting a 138,000-volt line along 12 miles of Kreutzer Road.

Numerous project delays and problems with acquiring the necessary property to build the final route are just a few reasons why ComEd can’t move the tower away from Khan’s backyard, spokeswoman Liz Keating said.

The route also won approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission, solidifying the project’s course, she said. The power line along Kreutzer Road should be activated by late September.

“In the larger context of all the work that had been done and the fact that the project is important to increasing capacity and that we were already behind schedule, the ultimate goal was to get the project done and the lines activated,” Keating said.

Scientific evidence is also inconclusive on whether the tower that stands feet away from Khan’s backyard would harm neighbors’ health, she said.

High-voltage towers emit invisible waves of electricity that rapidly reduce in strength the farther a person moves away from it. Generally, a person 300 feet away from a line would be no more exposed than the average person encounters each day, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

A person is exposed to three times the average at 50 feet, depending on the strength of the line, the institute has found.

The institute was one of the first to comprehensively detail decades of studies that looked at the possible health hazards of electromagnetic fields.

Scientific studies have shown weak or nonexistent associations between heightened exposure and cancers in both children and adults. The clearest evidence suggests a weak association with child leukemia, according to the institute.

Reining and Khan’s concerns are a part of a long list of complaints about the route that began in 2007. Huntley officials spent nearly $250,000 to fight the route and suggested an alternative path before the ICC ruled against them in 2008.

Village Manager Dave Johnson has since talked with Reining and Khan about their concerns, but he said the village’s hands are tied.

“It would have been the more neighborly thing to assess the impact of that future tower to the residents in Wing Pointe,” Johnson said. “If we had a choice, that pole wouldn’t be where it is. We have no authority in where those poles are located. We have spent years fighting that route for that reason.”

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