Twenty residents of East Hampton and a business group have filed suit against LIPA and PSEG Long Island, charging that a new power line through their neighborhood has lowered property values and threatened groundwater and their health.
The suit, filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court in Riverhead, claims a 6-mile overhead transmission line has reduced property values by about $300 million, and threatened aquifers with a chemical used to treat poles, which are up to 65 feet tall.
"The poles and the lines have caused serious injury and will continue to cause serious injury," the suit says, noting the presence of a pole preservative, pentachlorophenol, that "causes serious injury to humans."
The suit, which seeks class-action status, charges LIPA and PSEG with negligence, fraud, violation of environmental law and trespass.
It seeks at least $50 million in damages -- including costs of removing toxins -- and for emotional distress, as well as an injunction requiring the utilities to remove the poles and bury the transmission lines at their expense.
PSEG president David Daly declined to comment specifically on the suit but said the company was "very confident" that its approach to the project was proper and "the right procedures followed."
At a LIPA trustees meeting Thursday, resident and plaintiff Rebecca Singer presented LIPA and PSEG officials with a large jar filled with soil she said was tainted with the chemical, and requested that officials smell it. None took up the offer.
Daly said "virtually all poles across the U.S. are treated with it," referring to pentachlorophenol, and that its use is standard "industry practice."
Irving Like, an attorney for the residents and the group, Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy, of East Hampton, said residents want PSEG and LIPA to cover more of the costs of burying the 23,000-volt transmission line. He noted that the damages claimed in the suit far exceed the estimated cost of about $25 million to bury the line.
PSEG has said it would bury the transmission line at a future date, but that East Hampton residents must pay the additional costs. PSEG wants to continue with the project to complete it before the start of the summer, but a stop-work order issued by East Hampton, currently being contested by PSEG in state Supreme Court, has held up work at a LIPA substation in Amagansett.