Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Railroad spur could drive Cabot growth

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Entergy’s plan to build a substation and two high voltage transmission lines near the railroad track in Cabot could mean more to the city than just the assurance of enough electricity to accommodate growth.

The project will connect the two existing high-voltage lines at the new substation.

The huge components of the project are too big and heavy to be delivered by truck. They will come by rail and that will require the construction of a railroad spur that could be used to attract industry to the area.

The railroad runs through Cabot, but it doesn’t stop and that is a detriment to industrial growth. But Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said recently that when he learned two months ago of Entergy’s plans for the Cabot area, he alerted the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that Cabot could soon have more to offer industry looking for a place to locate.

Entergy officials said last week during an open house to introduce the proposed project that it would be to their advantage for industry to locate next to the spur Entergy will build. Once construction is completed, the spur would be used so seldom that the railroad would charge for the non use.

Industry in the area could ensure that the spur is used often so the extra charges could be averted.

Nothing is certain at this point about the construction of the new lines and substation, except Entergy intends to begin building this year and have them in service by 2011.

The environmental and hydrology studies have not been done because the site for the substation has not been selected.

The location of the two new lines connecting the substation to the existing lines will be determined by the location of the substation.

The open house last week was not well attended. Entergy employees, on hand to answer questions, almost out-numbered the guests.

However, there were maps showing that the four sites being considered are not populated areas, and experts were available to answer such questions as, do those high-voltage lines cause cancer?

A pamphlet provided by En-tergy engineer and employee Margaret Snow, a senior environmental specialist with environmental management, said statistical studies and laboratory research to determine the physical effects of long-term exposure to electric and magnetic fields, like those under power lines and near home appliances, have been contradictory.

A 1990 government report said prolonged exposure to magnetic fields is a possible, but not proven cause of cancer in humans.

But a 1992 government report concluded that electric and magnetic fields generated by such sources as household appliances, video-display terminals and local power lines are not health hazards.

Magnetic fields are measured in milligauss. The magnetic field directly under a high voltage line is 200 milligauss, which is considerably less than the reading two inches from a microwave oven, which is 750 to 2,000 milligauss.

Both diminish quickly with distance. A high-voltage transmission line is 10 milligauss at 100 feet away and 2 milligauss at 250 feet.

A microwave oven is 40 to 80 milligauss at 12 inches and 3-8 milligauss at 36 inches.

The study on the effects of electric and magnetic fields continues, but whenever possible, Entergy officials say they build away from populated areas.