“Serious environmental impact if White Pines proceeds” : witness

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 7


On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds.   WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.
Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers.  He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment.  Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.
Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).   Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements.  Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley.  The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.
However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.
Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux.  A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.
According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas.  Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.
WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist.   His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.
Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County.  He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters.  Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction.   Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.
Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.”  While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.
Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters.  Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies.  However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work. 
Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary.   He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.

-Paula Peel, APPEC 

What's your reaction?


  • Scott Drysdale
    Posted December 8, 2015 5:38 pm 0Likes

    Turbine generator manufacturers who developed hydroelectric turbines were initially reluctant to develop the newer wind turbines…. Some of the reasons cited were as follows: Laws of Physics favor the hydroelectric turbine because it is water cooled, there are not confining weight and efficiency constrictions and in the event of electrical or bearing fire, they are self extinguishing. In the case of wind turbines the weight is a serious challenge that leads to many other challenges including generator life and servicing issues, risks of fire where wind can fan the flames, prone to be affected and/or create forest fires etc. They are also much more difficult to protect from vandalism….

  • Tracy
    Posted December 8, 2015 6:54 pm 0Likes

    Are there any homes within the White Pines project area?

    • Lynda
      Posted December 8, 2015 8:20 pm 0Likes

      Yes, there are many homes in the area along with heritage buildings. If there was a fire in the area, evacuation for some would be very difficult as some have only one road out.

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted December 9, 2015 7:49 pm 0Likes

      Yes. Not clear on the number but the majority of homes would be affected by the noise/vibration/sensation emissions.

  • Tracy
    Posted December 8, 2015 11:42 pm 0Likes

    Is there not concern about the health and well being of the people living there? There is much documented, published research stating that exposure to infrasound is very harmful and could result in death.

    • Lynda
      Posted December 9, 2015 8:20 pm 0Likes

      Tracy, it’s all about money. The government obviously does not care if the residents and wildlife live or die. They done’t care about the environment in the county. They know there are issues but they are ignoring them. Who paid for the latest wpd’s witness’ study? Big Wind and they do not care either. I’m sick of the dictatorship we are living under. My family and I are making plans to leave Canada if the turbines affect us or our animals in any way.

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