East Hampton’s Utility Poles Create Eyesores, Soil Contamination Issues for Town

Toxic Chemical
After a Dec. 5 law passed in East Hampton, NY, the extra utility poles left over from last year’s upgrade were finally removed. But the problems with the poles haven’t ended just yet.

Residents of the town and village of East Hampton complained that the extra poles ruined the village’s aesthetic. As a result, the Village Board passed a law that gave local power company Public Service Energy Group (PSEG) just 15 days to remove those poles.

But the new wood utility poles, which replaced the smaller metal ones last year in PSEG Long Island’s attempt to “harden” the local electrical infrastructure, also gave rise to other fears for village residents.

The wood used in the utility poles is treated with a chemical called penta, which is short for pentachlorophenol. Non-profit organizations in East Hampton, including Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy (LIBFRE) and Save East Hampton, worried that the chemical may have seeped into the groundwater.

Groundwater plays an important role in providing water for as many as half of the country’s population; it also provides 95% of all fresh water for the United States.

Thankfully, the chemical did not make its way into the groundwater, according to testing by the FPM Group. However, the soil in areas surrounding the utility poles contained extremely high levels of penta — much higher than the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation deems safe.

The DEC allows for 6,700 micrograms per kilogram of the chemical in commercial areas around New York State. However, penta, or PCP, at three of those sampling location at 12 to 18 inches into the soil was found in concentrations of up to 79,700 micrograms per kilogram, according to FPM.

The town and village officials are now asking that PSEG test for the chemical around all 276 poles installed in 2014. The utility company must also develop a remediation plan to remove and replace contaminated soil, so as to not affect groundwater later on.

East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell called the high level of penta “alarming” and said that “the utility [company] has a responsibility to make it right.”