Fears for aviation safety at wind farm near Woodstock Ontario
Woodstock Sentinel, June 30, 2015
Concerns raised over flight paths around proposed turbine site during second day of wind farm appeal
A map outlining the proposed turbines (marked by T*) in relation to the flight paths of Curries Aerodrome in Norwich. (Submitted)
Five witnesses for the East Oxford Community Alliance (EOCA) took the stand during the second day of the Environmental Review Tribunal regarding the proposed Gunn’s Hill wind farm, bringing forward further concerns regarding health and the airways above the proposed turbine site.
The first three witnesses to take the stand on Tuesday all brought forward the same concern regarding Prowind’s proposed wind farm: How the turbines will affect the Curries Aerodrome and the planes that fly out of there.
Keith McKay, a pilot for 32 years and member of the EOCA, said he was concerned with flight safety around wind turbines.
“We are very concerned about the safety of ourselves… but also for commercial flights going overhead,” McKay said. “We don’t know if all the mitigating options that (Prowind) are proposing will work, we don’t know the time span. So any commercial flights flying over, we are concerned about their safety as well as ours.”
McKay added that Prowind is in negotiations with NAV Canada to put in mitigation standard to solve the problem, but he isn’t convinced this will work in an appropriate time.
“Prowind has decided that if this goes ahead, they will put up the turbines,” he said. “We are opposed to that for safety reasons.”
Michelle Poulin-McKay appeared with McKay on the stand, and said the safety concerns they have on a local level are due to unsafe distances between turbines, as indicated from a flight study.
“(As for) our concerns on a bigger scale, NAV Canada has said that there can be interference with radar in London and Hamilton international airports from the turbines,” Poulin-McKay said. “So mitigation measures are being put into place to mitigate that interference, but as those mitigation measures are being put into place and being tested, what risk does that put to the public until there’s assurance that all mitigation measures are in place and that they’re all working.”
George Rand, who owns and operated Curries Aerodrome, was next to appear on the stand. Rand brought forward more concerns regarding the airspace above his aerodrome, mostly in regards to fertilizing and seeding his crops from the sky.
“I was talking to my crop duster, and he doesn’t spray amongst (the turbines) at all,” Rand said.
Another concern Rand raised was in regards to turning left in aircraft with turbines. If the turbines were constructed, turning left would be near impossible in most areas above the Curries Aerodrome, forcing pilots to turn right, which is not regular procedure..
“The general rule is take off, turn left and come around,” Rand said. “That’s the worldwide standard. And sure you can turn the other way, but a stranger coming in isn’t going to know that.”
The fourth witness to take the stand was John Eacott, a member of the EOCA who lives near where the proposed turbines will go on a private property that he has converted into a nature reserve.
Eacott raised a number of concerns regarding the health of animals surrounding the area, as well as the lack of research and standards on the part of the ministry.
“I thought I would take a look at what the impact is of all of this,” he said. “What’s the impact of 7,000 turbines on wildlife. When the ministry says you can take up to 10 bats, or up to 14 birds without having to report anything… How many bats, how many birds can you start knocking down and say, ‘Ok now that they’re not going to come back?’ That’s serious and that’s irreversible.
“I think to accept the material that I had to plow through and say where does this apply,” Eacott added, “and then after they got their approval, they then came up with a clarification document, which came after the approval. It was a hodge-podge of material that was approved. Some of which was not even relevant anymore and not even taken out.”
The final witness called to the stand by the EOCA was Karen Wesseling who lives on a dairy farm with her husband in the proposed site.
Wesseling brought forward many concerns regarding her family as well as her cattle herd, noting specific issues that her vet told her about cattle that already live near wind farms in Middlesex and Huron counties.
“The problems ranged from an increase in somatic cell counts, which then leads to a disease called mastitis. Which is an udder disease and has to be treated with penicillin. Because we live in Canada, that milk cannot be sold to the milk board, so it’s wasted milk,” Wesseling said. “The cow, once she has mastitis, is prone to have it again, so it affects her quality of life because she is wrought with disease for the rest of her life.”
Other effects Wesseling sighted were an increase in abortions among cows, a harder time giving birth and infertility.
“Because their behaviour is more erratic with the introduction of the turbines, farmers are unable to identify if a cow is in heat or acting erratically due to the turbine,” she said.
Wesseling also brought forward concerns regarding her family, as one of the proposed turbines would be 86 metres from her farm.
Some of these concerns include falling debris, ice throw from the turbine and negative health affects that would force them to move. Wesseling says if she is forced to move it would be crippling to her family.
“(My husband) has to stay on the dairy farm,” she said. “He will come home for meals and to sleep. There’s no down time. I chose to not work off the farm. I did have a career before I married him and I chose to give that up to have children and raise them with him. Otherwise we’d not see him, unless our hands are in the operation as well.
“So we can have a chance to spend time with him,” she added. “So his children can bond with him, so I can have a relationship with him.”
The tribunal will resume next Tuesday, July 7 at 9 a.m., where the EOCA will bring forward expert witness Bill Palmer. The Township of Norwich will make a presentation and the director for the Ministry of the Environment will bring forward its first expert witness Denton Miller.