St. Marys Journal Argus
With approximately 70 per cent of the town’s streetlights already retrofitted to a new style of LED (light-emitting diode) bulb — and approximately 150 fixtures yet to be replaced — citizens of St. Marys have had ample time to become accustomed to the altered style of light now prevalent as the sun goes down.
Enhanced feeling of safety was one reason suggested by one visitor to the Journal Argus last week, when the topic of the new streetlights was raised. And, according to Town of St. Marys Director of Operations Chad Papple, that person is not alone in praising the retrofit. And safety’s not the only reason.
“We’ve received a number of messages in support of the new streetlights, both about their appearance and that motorists feel the roadway is much brighter than with the (old-style) high-pressure sodium lights,” explained Papple earlier this week.
As evidenced by a Letter to the Editor in this week’s Journal Argus (and published online in the "Letters" section of this website), however, there has also been considerable criticism of the town-wide project that began early in the winter and is scheduled to be complete, Papple says, “within the next two weeks.”
Among comments heard off-the-record by Journal Argus staffers are that the fixtures are too numerous causing the light from them to overlap, and that they are too bright. And while these criticisms may simply lie in the placement of the particular lights (“One of the key benefits to LED lighting is that it focuses lighting to where it’s needed — the roadway — and not ‘uplight’ which contributes to light pollution,” Papple explained. “In cases where it’s determined that lighting needs to be altered, shields are installed on the fixture to prevent this backlighting effect. Again, it’s rare that this is needed, but is an option available and will be utilized in cases where it’s warranted), the concern raised in the letter is unquestionably of greater magnitude.
“I have a genetic disorder called Ocular Albinism, which primarily affects my eyes and vision,” writes Emma Hicks in the letter — which can be seen in full on Page 7. “I’ve been cautioned by specialists to avoid, or limit, any exposure to blue spectrum light (which is found in LED lights).”
Papple says the town is aware of the effects on people with what he described as a “rare, serious genetic condition,” and confirmed that the Town had heard from a resident about this particular concern. Emma Hicks told the Journal Argus her mother had written Town Council about the new streetlights, and Papple confirmed that Town staff has been in communication with the family regarding the concerns.
“We have taken steps to address their concerns in an effort to provide relief,” Papple said of the Town’s communication with the family. “Until a long-term solution to this specific area is identified, the Town has replaced two of the LED fixtures with the original high-pressure sodium fixtures, and have made adjustments to two other fixture heads to re-focus the lighting pattern away from their house. The health and well-being of our residents is our primary priority, and we’ll continue to work with individuals on solutions if these significant concerns are raised.”
Papple stressed the energy efficiency of the new lights, with a projected 60 per cent decrease in electricty use, as well as the fact they’re free of both lead and mercury that are in the old fixtures. He cited financial savings of over $1.6 million over a 20-year period, and a virtually non-existent need for maintenance.
Hicks, however, says people should be wary — even if they aren’t affected by ocular albinism. She cited numerous studies linking blue-spectrum lighting to more widespread health effects.