West-end residents concerned over transformer station doubling in size

Construction is set to start on the Runnymede Transformer Station at 99 Woolner Avenue on June 12, as part of Hydro One and Toronto Hydro's Power West Toronto project.

Construction set to start on Runnymede Transformer Station in early June

Cam Watts (right) is concerned about a transformer station doubling in size in his west-end Toronto neighbourhood. (CBC News)

With a west-end transformer station set to double in size this summer, some community members are questioning the safety of the electromagnetic fields being emitted from the growing facility.

Construction is set to start on the Runnymede Transformer Station at 99 Woolner Avenue on June 12, as part of Hydro One and Toronto Hydro's Power West Toronto project.

Approved by the Ontario Energy Board this spring, the project includes the addition of two transformers to the Runnymede station, and the replacement of overhead wires along roughly 10 kilometres of the transmission corridor located in Toronto's west end — improvements the hydro providers say are needed to electrify the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

The Power West Toronto project, from Hydro One and Toronto Hydro, includes the addition of two transformers to the Runnymede Transformer Station at 99 Woolner Avenue. (CBC News)

The additional transformers are a concern for Cam Watts, who lives in the St. Clair Avenue West and Jane Street neighbourhood.

"We just don't know what we're getting," he told CBC Toronto. "They're basically going to double the footprint of the transformer station."

Watts said he's worried about the electromagnetic fields coming from the facility, which is against a park where local kids regularly use the playground and basketball court.

"We're creating more industrial land in the middle of a neighbourhood we're trying to make more welcoming," he said.

The expansion area for the Runnymede Transformer Station is butted up against Woolner Park. (Hydro One/Toronto Hydro)

'No negative health impacts' with electromagnetic fields

When it comes to community concerns, Hydro One spokesperson Denise Jamal said the project won't increase the voltage, and there will be a negligible increase in electromagnetic fields. 

"Health Canada and the World Health Organization are very clear: There are no negative health impacts with electromagnetic fields," she said.

Around a decade ago, the WHO concluded a review of the health implications of emitting electromagnetic fields, which tried to find a causal link between exposure to the fields and some forms of cancer.

"The international agency for research on cancer did a very large review of all the evidence and could not — did not — find that the experimental studies confirmed a link," said Dr. JinHee Kim, a public health physician with Public Health Ontario.

Hydro One is holding a public information session about the project on Tuesday night, and notified residents about the changes in a letter last fall.

But Watts said that's not enough. He questioned why a public meeting is being held so close to shovels hitting the ground — and said not enough information has been shared with the community.

"I'd love to stop it until we know what we are getting into," he said.

With files from Chris Glover