By MARK HARRINGTON AND SCOTT EIDLER
Updated September 10, 2014 8:41 PM

 

The Town of North Hempstead approved a law requiring warning labels be posted on utility poles to alert residents to a toxic preservative, the first time a local municipality has called for such labeling.

The town board approved the measure 7-0 at its meeting Tuesday night.

“People need to know that the poles have this hazardous chemical in them,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.

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Installation of taller, thicker hurricane-resistant utility poles by PSEG Long Island this year had the unintended consequence of focusing awareness on the toxic wood preservative pentachlorophenol, commonly known as penta.

The 4.5-inch by 7-inch warning notices will say, “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.”

The measure applies to any utility pole installed after Jan. 1 of this year and requires the notice be placed no more than 5 feet high on every fourth pole in a line. Penalties for failing to comply with the law start at $500. The measure takes effect in March.

PSEG Long Island spokesman Jeff Weir said the company believes labeling requirements should be left to the federal or state environmental authorities, which don’t require labels on penta-laced poles.