An explosive issue has materialized for North County residents who live along an San Diego Gas & Electric power line that's due for expansion in the near future.
The utility wants to detonate charges at more than a dozen hard-rock locations to clear the way for new steel power poles.
Representatives with the utility first broached the subject a week ago with the owners of some 18 homes in the hilly Rancho Dorado subdivision of San Marcos, announcing that the four-mile blasting project would begin in mid-November, within 300 feet of their properties.
"When somebody's putting explosives in your back yard, it does not make you feel very comfortable," said George Jackson, a Summit Point Way homeowner who lives across the street from a ridge where wooden power poles now stand. "There's a big difference between a tractor digging a hole and throwing explosives down a hole -- blowing up something."
SDG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Briscoe said the blasting is necessary because 14 of 24 foundation sites for 80-foot high galvanized steel power poles are too rocky to gouge out quickly or quietly with jackhammers, rock-breakers or core-boring equipment.
Briscoe said explosive charges would be detonated simultaneously in three places at each of the 14 hard-rock sites -- a one-time sequence lasting about one second -- under steel plates covered with dirt.
"I believe the exact phrase SDG&E used," said Josh Schilling, a neighbor of Jackson's, "was that it's going to sound like popcorn going off in your microwave."
According to Briscoe, noise from the blasts would not surpass 80 decibels -- roughly the volume of an alarm clock going off. She said the 24 new power poles are part of expansion project to double the capacity of the powerline corridor to 276 kilovolts, while eventually removing 60 longstanding wooden power poles that rise 55 feet.
The company's contractor sent inspectors to record pre-existing issues involving the homeowners' foundations, pools and structural characteristics.
"[SDG&E] gave us a statement that they would take care of any damage that they caused," Schilling noted. "But until I get the [inspectors'] report, I won't know what damage they're saying I already have, versus what they actually cause."
Schilling said he doubts there will be significant damage, but "we're going to take down the knickknacks and so forth ... or anything that could shift or fall."
Other Summit Point Way homeowners take issue with the higher capacity of the new powerline, as well as related EMF issues; the close proximity of a large, covered reservoir; and the height of the new poles in an area close to the approach path to McClellan-Palomar McClellan Airport.