ST. ANNS — A local resident says a plume of construction dust from the Niagara Region Wind Farm was so severe it sent two adults and three children to hospital.
Stefanos Karatopis was at home Thursday, July 23 when dump trucks began unloading concrete to construct an access road to one of the 77 turbines. The work began shortly after noon and Karatopis said that by 6 p.m. he could barely breathe without coughing. His sister and her three children, who live in between Karatopis and the host property, were even worse off, he said. A fine film of construction dust settled over their country home and seeped in through open windows.
Later that night, when the coughing and burning failed to subside, Karatopis, his sister and her children went to the emergency room at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
“I’m still pulling crud out of my eyes even after they were irrigated at the hospital,” said Karatopis. “Our throats were burning. Our eyes were burning. I couldn’t breathe. It was a very horrible, horrible feeling.”
Karatopis said the windy weather created plumes of dust that spread from the host site to his property. The contamination, he said, was worse at his sister’s place. He said she has been unable to return home because of the dust.
“It’s a carcinogen,” said Karatopis. “We don’t know the long-term effects of this.”
Karatopis contacted both the Ministry of Environment, the Township of West Lincoln and Niagara Region Public Health, neither of which, he claims, took him seriously.
Ministry staff attended the site the following day, said Kate Jordan, a ministry spokesperson.
“Earlier this week, the ministry received a complaint about dust from construction at the Niagara Region Wind Corporation impacting a residential home. Work at the wind farm is underway to construct an access road,” said Jordan. “From discussions with the local health unit, we understand the complainant sought medical attention related to the dust complaints.”
According to Jordan, ministry staff attended the site and instructed the project’s developers to provide notification to area residents in advance of construction activities. Ministry staff also received the material safety data sheet for the cement being used at the site.
Jordan said ministry staff attempted to discuss the concerns with Karatopis but were denied access.
“Along with the health unit, we attempted to discuss the concerns with the resident but were turned away,” said Jordan adding they were unable to review copies of medical records to assess potential health impacts. “We would be pleased to follow up further if the resident wants to provide additional information that we could look into.”
Karatopis has sought legal advice over the situation and plans to move ahead with some type of action. He invites anyone in the community who has experienced as similar situation to reach out to him and join what he hopes will be a class action suit against the wind farm’s owners. He can be reached at 905-325-2422.
Karatopis is a member of the Niagara Land Owners Association and is proponent of property rights. He said the government’s Green Energy Act and the projects developed through it go against Crown Land Patents. He hopes to use the decades-old legal documents to fight the further development of the Niagara Region Wind Farm.