Fears of high voltage cables

PHIL and Brenda Dunn's bedroom is at the front of their Pitt Street home - but it has ceased to be a comfort zone due to a new Ergon substation and the decision to run high-voltage cabling from it just metres from their window.

Mr Dunn fears the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF), particularly once the facility is up and running in a few months' time.

“I told them we don't want it (the 11KV cabling) there,” said Mr Dunn, who has protested to Ergon, Bundaberg Regional Council and the Minister for Natural Resources.

“It is neither practical nor possible, nor should it be expected of us to reconfigure our dwelling in order to arrange alternative sleeping accommodation.”

He also has concerns about the $28.6 million Walla Street substation being next to a playground and 11KV cables run past a school.

“I am as concerned about these issues as much as our own situation,” he said.

EMF is a source of anxiety globally, with a World Health Organisation international project into the issue under way.

“EMF fields of all frequencies represent one of the ... fastest-growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading,” it said.

Leading building biology company ecolibria says EMFs are hard to shield, but decrease in strength as you create distance.

“Many health affects are associated with EMF exposure but the most common are disturbed sleep, insomnia, headaches, tingling, loss of short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, chronic fatigue and more seriously breast cancer, childhood leukaemia and brain tumours,” it said.

Mr Dunn was loaned a field strength monitor to assess EMF in his home, but is not satisfied.

“It defies logic that provision of Ergon's own monitoring equipment clearly displaying over-voltage / under-voltage well beyond the acceptable 6% tolerance and field strengths already on the edge of acceptable limits is passed off as okay,” he said.

Mr Dunn says Ergon failed to inform residents of the scope, intent and impact of the project.

Ergon spokesman Rod Rebhein said all powerlines had to comply with National Health and Medical Research Council EMF guidelines.

“Ergon Energy has obtained all of the necessary approvals for the line works associated with the substation,” he said.

Ergon followed the principle of “prudent avoidance” on EMFs.

“That means powerlines are located on road reserve alignments to ensure the level of EMFs the lines create do not exceed the safe levels as set out in those guidelines,” he said.

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