Allison Para, a lifelong resident of with a background in sustainable development, has begun circulating a petition for PSE&G to redesign their to instead bury the lines underground for a four-mile stretch through Montville. She has the support of children in her neighborhood and may also reach out to the school district for help.
“This just launched two weeks ago,” Para said. “Right now we have five kids involved, and I have had some other interest. The petition is getting word going. I spoke to ( Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried) at the Arbor Day presentation and he said if I needed any help, he would help me. I hope to take advantage of that.”
Para is the former chairperson of Emerging Green Builders of New Jersey, a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. She was a sustainable design coordinator for an architectural firm in New York City and has five LEED-certified projects in her portfolio. She is completing her bachelor's of science degree at College of Saint Elizabeth, and has chosen this project as the topic of her senior thesis.
Para said that when the plan to stop the lines failed and , she decided to take action. The power towers cut through her Montville neighborhood where children play and behind , where she was once a student. Para is concerned about potential health effects from the lines and said that lines are underground throughout Europe and parts of the United States, including San Francisco, so why not here?
“We’re standing under an electromagnetic field, which radiates from these utility towers,” Para said. "These towers are dinosaurs. The fact that they are going to be doubling the voltage — they need to take away the towers and dig and bury the lines underneath, where they can."
Before starting the project, Para checked with the Montville Environmental Commission and was told that studies had been done showing that the lines could not be buried underground. She asked to see the studies and was referred to Environmental Committee Chairman Lawrence Kornreich, PhD.
On July 15, 2008, Montville Township Committee had a special meeting with PSE&G about the proposed line. Then-Committeeman Tim Braden asked PSE&G if they had considered burying the lines, but John Ribardo, the PSE&G project manager, said "it is just too difficult. It is not practical" and that burying the lines is infrequently done in America.
At the same meeting, Committeeman Jim Sandham asked about potential health effects from the same line, but the PSE&G representatives said many of the health studies did not take actual magnetic field measurements into account. Para believes PSE&G is sweeping health-related information under the rug.
Para said she has found data linking radioactive fields to cancer and children’s leukemia, mostly affecting young and older generations. While it is not known if there are clusters in New Jersey, Para said it is worthy of exploration.
While getting her certificate in Sustainable Design from Boston Architectural College, she recalled reading information from Rocky Mountain Institute about the emittance of radiation through utility lines and how it can be hazardous to the health of the environment. Para said the deadline for revising PSE&G's Environmental Impact Plan is September. Her project is in its preliminary stage. Students are circulating her petition and she expects more people to get on board.
The goal of her senior thesis is to change an organization’s practices into sustainable development, and she wants to change PSE&G.
“There are a lot of organizations that say they have a sustainable program, when it’s just basically what they call ‘green washing’ and they’re really not thinking about sustainable development,” Para said.
“In this case, it would be to bury the utility lines to lessen the radiation exposure. You’re sustaining the environment.”
Para said people point to issues regarding high maintenance, such as having to dig up the line if there are problems, but said there is always risk in everything that you do. Lightning could strike a tower, which is an even higher risk because of the radiation, she said. Underground, the radiation is reduced because it’s covered.