A group of physicists says there's no evidence linking electromagnetic fields to cancer, but that doesn't mean the debate is over.
No matter what hundreds of physicists say, Joe Hewitt won't mind paying 40 cents a month to have electromagnetic field-producing power lines moved from his neighborhood.
Hewitt, former president of the Pinckney Neighborhood Assn., said a recent statement from the American Physical Society -- that there's no evidence EMFs radiating from power lines cause cancer -- wouldn't affect his support for moving 115,000-volt lines from his neighborhood.
KPL moved the line off Fifth Street, upgraded it to transmission status and in July plans to charge Lawrence electric customers an extra 40 cents a month for five years to cover the added cost.
"People aren't even going to notice it, with all the other things that are inflationary around here," said Hewitt, who lives at 1215 W. Fourth.
The American Physical Society may be the world's largest group of physicists, he said, but that doesn't mean the neighborhood association's claims that exposure to EMFs could lead to cancer are bunk.
"You know how science is," he said. "One day it's the Holy Grail, and the next day it's turned over on its end. ... I don't know who to believe, to tell you the truth."
The society's statement, issued after years of quiet deliberation, said that public fears of a possible link between power lines and cancer were diverting billions of dollars into mitigation work.
"The burden of cost placed on the American public is incommensurate with the risk, if any," the statement said.
City Manager Mike Wildgen deemed the report "consistent" with much of the information the city collected for the Pinckney power line debate, which ended in August 1993, when the Lawrence City Commission told KPL to build its new line alongside railroad track adjacent to the Kansas River.
The move added $464,000 to KPL's project cost, prompting the 40-cent surcharge.
"I don't know that it ends the debate," Wildgen said. "This just comes from a larger group, that's all. I don't know that it makes any difference now. The Pinckney line's already in."
Even Michel' Philipp, a spokesperson for Western Resources, KPL's parent company, refused to place too much faith in the society's statement. That said, the company still maintains that no one has produced conclusive evidence that EMFs cause any negative health effects.
"There's been nothing definitive to this point," she said. "This is a strong statement, but to say it's the end of the debate is premature."