Published in the December 7, 2017 edition.


WAKEFIELD – The town has identified seven potential consultants to help evaluate the health, safety and environmental effects of a proposed 345KV underground electric transmission line that would run through 3.5 miles of Wakefield. Last night, a subcommittee of the Board of Selectmen discussed the list of consultants to whom the town has reached out and requested that they respond with proposals. They have until Monday, Dec. 11 to respond.

Also last night, the subcommittee chose two abutters to the proposed route of the line to provide input on the choice of a consultant and to serve as liaisons between the abutters and the subcommittee.

Three names were submitted by abutters. One of the two who will serve as liaisons is Candace Del Rio of Houston Street. She is a registered nurse at Mass. General Hospital with a background in clinical research. The other is Michelle Bachman of Salem Street whose background is in policy analysis and environmental review. She currently works for the New England Fishery Management Council.

The line is part of a larger, joint proposal of National Grid and Eversource to run 8.5 miles of underground transmission cable from an Eversource substation in Woburn to the National Grid Substation off Montrose Avenue in Wakefield. The proposed route of the project through Wakefield would come down Albion Street and Broadway, cross North Avenue and then follow the abandoned railroad bed for approximately one mile, running across Bennett Street, Richardson Street and Water Street. The line would then turn down Salem Street to Montrose Avenue and up the access road to the National Grid Substation.

After a contentious public hearing on Nov. 13, where many residents raised health and safety concerns, especially around electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation, National Grid agreed to provide up to $20,000 to fund a consultant of the towns choosing to help analyze the health, safety and environmental effects of the transmission line.

A subcommittee of Selectmen Ed Dombroski, Ann Santos and Tony Longo was created to identify such a consultant. All of the names were funneled through Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio’s office so that proper procedure for procuring the services could be followed.

At last night’s subcommittee meeting, Maio reviewed the names of the seven individuals to whom he had sent the requests for assistance. They include: Peter L. Tirinzoni, P.E., Power Delivery Consultants, Inc., Essex, CT; Carol Rego, CDM Smith, Boston, MA; Dr. Robert I. Kavet, Kavet Consulting LLC, Oakland, CA; Dr. James C. Weaver, MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, Cambridge, MA; Dr. Joseph D. Brain, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Richard Littlehale, Pembroke, MA; and Environmental Scientist Richard Lester, Boston MA.

Longo asked Maio if he thought that $20,000 would be enough to get the job done. Maio said that in his opinion, $20,000 would come close to what was needed to perform the needed analysis.

Maio noted that the request for services requires that the consultant chosen be able to provide a completed report by Jan. 22, 2018, meet with the subcommittee prior to that and meet with the full Board of Selectmen on Feb. 12, 2018.

One citizen at last night’s meeting asked how National Grid would pay for the lease of land in Wakefield for their underground transmission line.

Public Works Director Richard Stinson was in attendance last night and explained that the land they would use is in the public way, and utilities have the right to go into the public way. He said that the portion of the route that will go along the abandoned railroad bed is under the MBTA’s jurisdiction.

Another resident asked about the consultant’s time frame, given that a decision by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) is expected by mid-December.

Stinson and Maio indicated that while the EFSB has closed its public hearing to further input, it will initially issue a “tentative decision” and comments will be allowed at that time. Maio said that was how the town would use the consultant’s report.

The next subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13, when the subcommittee expects to choose a consultant from the responses received. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Wakefield Memorial High School, where National Grid will also be conducting an “open house” in the cafeteria that night at 7 p.m. for the public to learn more about the project and ask questions.

A continuation of the Nov. 13 public hearing sheduled for Dec. 11 is expected to be postponed to a later date.