A Virginia Electric Power Co. spokesman says the company will consider reducing the height of the controversial 140-foot towers it plans to add to its existing power lines that cross the Manassas National Battlefield and seven miles of Prince William and Loudoun counties.
More than 100 residents who attended a meeting on the proposed 230,000-volt power line last week said the line is unsightly and a health and safety hazard and urged that it and the existing lines be buried.
"We will ask the Prince William County Planning Commission at its meeting set for tonight to reconsider its approval of the power line," said Sarah Gardiner, an organizer of residents opposed to the line.
Gardiner lives 150 feet from the line in the Catharpin section of the county near the battlefield.
She said most of her group learned of Vepco's expansion plans only within the last month. "We never received any notice about this, even though it runs through our property," Gardiner said. "We don't know what Vepco is doing or why."
Vepco won approval for the additional power line a year ago from the planning commissions of the two counties and from the State Corporation Commission.
At the time, Vepco said the power line would be in addition to two existing lines within its 240-foot-wide right of way between Gainesville and Leesburg. A 500,000-volt line strung on 110-foot metal towers and a 110,000-volt power line on wooden poles are in the right of way.
Vepco spokesman James Buck said current plans are to remove the wooden poles and hang both the 110,000- and 230,000-volt lines on the new towers.
In response to National Park Service and citizen concern about the unsightliness of the proposed 140-foot-high power line, he said, Vepco will consider reducing it to the height of the existing 110-foot towers.
Rolland Swain, superintendent of Manassas National Battlefield Park, said "Vepco did make an effort to reduce the visual impact" by proposing to eliminate the wooden poles, "and reducing the height of the new towers would be a significant improvement."
The Vepco right of way crosses the historic Brawner farm, on which two major Civil War battles were fought. The farm lies within the park's designated boundaries but has not been bought by the Park Service.
Gardiner said the high-tension lines pose a shock hazard to persons and animals beneath them and a health hazard from the electrical field created by the high-voltage lines.
But Swain said the health hazards "have not been clearly established."
Buck denied that any hazards are created by the high-voltage power lines, which Vepco began installing in 1964. Vepco now has 865 miles of 500,000-volt power lines in the state, half of the 1,700 miles of such lines in the nation, he said.
Buck noted that the W&OD Trail of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority runs beneath a 230,000-volt Vepco power line.
The park authority concluded there were no potential hazards before building the trail. Gardiner said there will be a total of 845,000 volts, however, in the lines that will run across her property and the battlefield.