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ACW council, minus three, listens to wind turbine discussion

The K2 Wind Power Project was front and centre again but three Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh elected officials were not around to hear the discussion at the July 17 council meeting.

The meeting addressed various issues surrounding wind power but before that began, Reeve Ben Vandiepenbeek, deputy Reeve Neil Rintoul and Coun. Murray Curran arose from their chairs and left council chambers.

The trio previously stated that they have a pecuniary interest in the matter. Reeve Vandiepenbeek said it was not mandatory for them to leave but a decision was made to step out, as they have previously done.

“I have a farm leased,” Reeve Vandiepenbeek said.

Deputy reeve Rintoul told the QMI Agency that an ACW resident asked them to leave at a previous meeting, to open the door to more fruitful discussion.

“I feel bad in a way,” Rintoul said. “The pro’s and con’s are discussed in there. It’s not mandatory. If they want us to leave, we will.”

“But we are not to comment, period. One way or the other.”

Capital Power announced last August its intention to develop a 270-megawatt wind power project in ACW, adding to an existing wind power operation, also in the township.

ACW resident Jennifer Miltenburg, a wind turbine leaseholder, said it was her impression that leaving council chambers was an act intended to keep the peace between council and residents in attendance.

“I think that there is a certain sector that tends to make noise, so voices can’t be heard and to avoid that, they left the room.”

Wind power has proven to be a polarizing topic and every facet of it is debated by supporters and opponents.

“It’s a real sensitive issue,” Rintoul said.

On the agenda was a Health Canada announcement to design a research study exploring the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects of those living near wind power development.

“With what the federal government is proposing to do, will they have the power to put the breaks on this?” Coun. Barry Millian asked aloud.

The provincial Liberal government has championed green energy, and their energy plans and policies include wind power. “Would Ottawa have the power to say to Toronto, hold everything,” Millian added.

Council received a letter prior to the meeting from Shawn and Tricia Drennan.

Mr. Drennan attended a source water protection meeting in Wingham, the letter stated, and picked up a map showing “our highly vulnerable water aquifers.”

Drennan said after studying the map, he realized the K2 wind project was clustering the mass of turbines around water resources and the transformer switch yard containing the close-to-surface water aquifer was dangerously close to the townships water recharge areas.

When council looks at a turbine location map, “they too will be greatly concerned for our water resources,” the letter said. The K2 project description did not address water aquifers or water recharge areas.

“To my astonishment nothing was listed,” he said.

The project description did note the potential to affect water quality of water wells near construction sites and ground water quality could be affected by accidental spills and releases.

“We the community are looking to our council for guidance on this incredibly important issue. These are the water resources for all ACW residents,” Drennan said in the letter.

Addressing council at the meeting, Drennan suggested hiring a hydrologist, “to see if it’s an issue.”

Coun. Millian said he didn’t see the harm in investigating.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” he said.