A controversial proposed site for the placement of a wind farm in Enfield, N.Y., is the focus of regional concern and debate. The primary question is: Should an industrial (utility-scale) wind farm be situated where it can cause significant harm to neighboring townships and a neighboring county?
The location in question is in westernmost Tompkins County on the border of Schuyler County and at the crossroads of four townships: Enfield, Newfield, Catharine and Hector. The close proximity of the site to neighboring municipalities is a major concern. In many ways, the proposed site will negatively impact neighboring municipalities more than it will Enfield.
According to current topographical maps of the general Enfield site area, most of the proposed site is a high plateau with an elevation of approximately 1,800 feet. However, there are two gradual slopes that are significant points of concern. One is at the southern end of the proposed site sloping downward into Catharine and into the southeastern corner of Hector. The other is at the northern end of the proposed site (northwest side) sloping upward to Buck Hill and then downward into Hector.
The location and topography of this proposed site indicate that Catharine – including Cayuta Lake – and Hector would be the two primary recipients of construction storm-water runoff pollution. This raises the following serious concerns and questions.
As storm water flows over a construction site, it picks up soil, chemicals and debris and washes them into fresh-water resources. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s publication “Wind Project Lifecycle Overview,” the construction phase of the wind farm can take from five to 18 months.
This allows considerable time for construction runoff pollution to occur. The proposed windmills (there are at least 10 to 15 windmills proposed) are approximately 400 feet high, and each windmill could require a concrete foundation of up to 40 feet deep and 40 feet square.
In addition to whatever soil, debris and chemicals (oil, diesel fuel, etc.) that might accidentally be spilled during construction, pollution from the washout of the concrete trucks required to pour these massive concrete foundations also could be washed into Cayuta Lake and a portion of the Catharine and Hector fresh water supply. Construction site runoff pollution is a reality that threatens the townships and residents of Schuyler County – not Enfield or Tompkins County. Measures may be undertaken to minimize this pollution.
Does the Town of Enfield have the right to construct an industrial site that will harm a neighboring municipality? Who will defend the rights of Hector and Catharine residents to clean water and an unpolluted lake? These are issues that must be confronted now, before the pollution occurs. Enfield, Catharine and Hector must address these issues immediately and put in place wind farm statutes and regulations that respect each other’s lives, borders and rights as neighbors.
We all can appreciate the need for cleaner energy. However, we do not have the right to expose our neighboring municipalities to the drainage, runoff pollution and threat to water tables (not to mention the health effects of the noise and shadow-flicker) that will accompany Enfield’s industrial wind farm. The Enfield board should require a setback sufficient to protect the neighboring municipalities from the construction pollution and other problems that an industrial wind farm will bring. By responsible siting of the wind farm and proper placement of the windmills, this pollution can be kept, as much as possible, within the borders of Enfield.
Bruce Varner of Enfield is spokesman for Neighbors For Safe Wind Farms.
1 December 2007
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