It will only go as far as Dufferin Wind Power’s transmission line is long.
County politicians, however, plan to hire a land surveyor to measure the length of the wind farm developer’s transmission line and see if the findings could trigger an environmental assessment (EA).
As per provincial regulations, any transmission line in Ontario exceeding a length of 50 km automatically requires an EA be conducted.
According to Dufferin Wind spokesperson Connie Roberts, the line running from Melancthon to Amaranth is 47.25 km long, but county council wants to find out for itself.
“The easiest thing I think you can start with is getting a survey. See how long that line actually is,” local resident Karren Wallace told county council on Thursday (Jan. 8). “What would the cost of a survey be? I don’t know, but what is the cost of regret?”
Controversy has swirled around the construction of Dufferin Wind’s 230 kV transmission line ever since the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approved the company’s plan last year.
In August, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) noted it was possible more than 300 utility poles along the transmission line could act as conduits for surface water pollutants, such as fertilizers, to enter the groundwater supply in the event of heavy rain run-off or flooding.
Dufferin Wind voluntarily completed a sealing program, which the MOE reports consisted of applying bentonite clay seals around 306 utility poles.
While the MOE considers the sealing program an effective mitigation method going forward, a group of local residents and politicians aren’t as sure.
Those conduits for contamination concerns, coupled with Dufferin Wind’s use of pentachlorophenol (penta) treated utility poles, have left some of them worried about the drinking water supply.
MOE officials have already stated they aren’t concerned about Dufferin Wind’s use of penta treated utility poles, as Health Canada and Environment Canada have both approved its use as a wood preservative.
“(People) aren’t concerned because they don’t like wind turbines or because they are pissed off at transmission towers,” said Melancthon Mayor Darren White.
“They’re concerned because they drink water out of that ground. They drink water where this project was built,” the mayor added. “The onus is on us to do our own due diligence, if for no other reason.”
White also wants the county to hire an electrical engineering company to measure the level of electromagnetic field (EMF) energy being emitted from Dufferin Wind’s transmission line.
Since a group of residents reportedly witnessed the stray energy emitted from the line light a fluorescent light bulb late last year, White thinks it is incumbent upon council to investigate.
“We need to know if that is safe or not. We need to know under what conditions it is safe, under what distances, what times of exposure it is safe,” he said, noting the transmission line is located about 70 feet away from at least one home in Melancthon.
“This is nothing more than due diligence. Nothing more than getting our own numbers,” White added. “It is very simple. It is not a targeting motion to stop Dufferin Wind.”
Since Health Canada doesn’t consider EMF a hazard and there are no precautionary measures required as it relates to daily exposure, Dufferin Wind officials see the issue a bit differently.
In a letter received by county council on Thursday, lawyers for Dufferin Wind suggested White’s request “unfairly and unreasonably targets” the company’s transmission line, which was constructed in accordance to provincial standards.
If an EMF study were to be done, Dufferin Wind lawyer Jonathan Myers argued that study include all high voltage transmission and low voltage distribution lines in the county.
“We are interested in the input of council or any third party who chooses to validate the quality of (the transmission line) design,” Roberts said in an email. “We anticipate their findings, if conducted accurately and fairly, will reassure the local community that Dufferin Wind Power has built an exemplary wind farm.”
While council decided to have the transmission line measured on Thursday, White agreed to temporarily put his EMF study request on hold. In the meantime, county staff will investigate what consultants could conduct an EMF study and determine how much it might cost before reporting back to council next month.
“This isn’t an attack on Dufferin Wind. There is a power line running through our county that wasn’t there a year ago,” said Shelburne Mayor Ken Bennington.
“We owe people some answers as a council,” he added. “Someone out there smarter than me needs to be able to measure this (EMF), so I can look people in the face and say … it is acceptable.”