Rush group says power cables a health risk


A NORTH Co Dublin coastal community group is suing Eirgrid in a row over cables for an east-west electricity interconnector going through the town of Rush.

Rush Community Council Ltd has brought proceedings arising from concerns about an association between a certain type of electro-magnetic field generated by high-voltage power cables and childhood leukaemia. The group alleges the interconnector will be operated in a manner not in compliance with planning permission

Eirgrid argues the interconnector will be operated in accordance with its planning conditions and will comply with international guidelines on magnetic fields.

The proposed interconnector will connect the Irish power system to the electricity grid in Britain through undersea and underground cables. It is due to be completed this year.

The case centres on the route of the interconnector and a section which comes to shore from under the sea at North Beach in Rush.

In its action, the group is seeking an order restraining Eirgrid operating the interconnector in any manner which results in the creation, production or emission of time-varying magnetic fields.

It is also seeking declarations if the interconnector creates any time-varying magnetic field that is unauthorised development.

Opening the case yesterday, James Devlin SC, for the group, said planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála in September 2009 for an infrastructural project of national importance. Despite local concerns about health risks to people living in Rush, planning permission was granted after the board conducted an oral hearing.

He said before and during the hearing, Eirgrid maintained the direct current carried by the interconnector’s cables would flow in only one direction and would only produce a static or non-variable magnetic field. Eirgrid had argued the interconnector’s cables would produce a magnetic field lower than the naturally occurring background geomagnetic field of Earth.

Mr Devlin said the group had persevered in its efforts to have an independent expert examine the potential health risks of the interconnector. It was agreed between the parties that Dutch-based experts Keva would prepare a report.

It produced a report in June 2011 stating the cable circuit would also generate time-varying magnetic fields due to time-varying currents superimposed on the directed current – called the ripple – due to changes in the transported current. That information was contrary to reassurances from Eirgrid to An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Devlin said the residents’ health concerns over varying magnetic fields arose because of their “statistical association” with childhood leukaemia. As a result of the report, it was their case that the proposed interconnector was going to operate in a manner for which approval had not been granted.

He said the issue of varying magnetic fields was not dealt with by Eirgrid during the oral hearing and Eirgrid had not sought to have the matter referred back to the board for a variation of the approval granted.

The case continues.