It was inevitable. As soon as the blades on the Canadian Auto Workers’ turbine were in motion, so too would be the complaints from those who live nearby.
The turbine has been a contentious issue with many who live in Saugeen Shores, especially members of STOP (Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy) who from day one, have made their opposition clear. On March 25, nearly one year since the turbine was erected on the field at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, the turbine was operation.
The situation is now all too real for those who live within 550 meters of the turbine, said STOP spokesperson Greg Schmalz Wednesday.
Easter weekend, was the first weekend the turbine had been fully operating since being switched on which, according to Schmalz, resulted in 11 complaints.
“It’s been over a year now, probably close to 16 or 17 months and this is the first four or five days that people have got to experience what it is going to be like,” he said. “The concept that they are going to become more used to it, will only be if there is no harm done by the machine. But people will never be used to not being able to enjoy sitting outside of their home, nor will they able to enjoy the noise inside their home that disturbs their family.”
The complaints, he said, varied from noise to the outside of resident’s homes to sleep disruption. But it was one particular complaint, which was filed with Saugeen Shores Police Services, that has resonated with Schamlz and members of STOP. According to Schmalz, the family, who reside on Shipley Avenue filed the noise complaint because their two children who were affected to the point they could not sleep.
Saugeen Shores Police Chief Dan Rivett confirmed that the noise complaint was made the evening of April 6 and had been logged on his system.
In the hours to follow, the turbine’s blades were no longer spinning, which Schmalz attributes to the CAW seeing for themselves, how disruptive it could be.
That said, Rivett wished to clarify that, in relation to the CAW turbine, there are “lines not to draw” and Saugeen Shores Police has no authority to shut it down.
“The windmill, if it operates normally, does not violate our noise bylaw within the town,” he explained.
Rivett said while his officers did respond to a noise complaint that night, Saugeen Shores Police Services had nothing to do with the turbine to stop spinning. He said that that decision, would have been made solely by the CAW.
“All we did was what we would normally do and try to keep things calm,” Rivett continued. “We can’t stop people from complaining so what we can do is advise them that they need to make a complaint, to do so through the process that the CAW has set up.
“If it is operating properly it is not a violation. We have no authority to shut it down,” he repeated. “Nor will we.”
In a voicemail, Ken Bondy, the CAW’s national health, safety and environment coordinator, said the complaint lodged with Saugeen Shores Police Services had nothing to do with the shut down procedure over the Easter weekend.
“Just to clarify (shutting the turbine off) was not in any way a result of any complaints that were made,” he said. “We deal with those completely separately and through the Ministry of the Environment.”
Rather, Hydro One experienced a grid fault which resulted in the power to the turbine being cut off.
“You can imagine there’s going to be some trials as we start this operation up,” Bondy said. “There was an over surge to the grid so they forced us to shut down until they can correct that, so that’s what occurred over the weekend.”
The turbine was up and running by approximately 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
For STOP, last weekend’s events has reaffirmed their perseverance and shifted them into high gear in their fight against the union.
“Our concern has been to educate people about the subject matter… to make the experiences of our residents, real and human,” he said. “So that everybody else can understand and in fact, become more engaged in sticking up for their own rights to private enjoyment of their properties.”
Plans are now underway for a website for STOP, where the organization can document, in live time, what they have outlined in their booklet which was produced in the early stages of their opposition with CAW.
“We have a Town supplied map with concentric circles of where the turbine and different areas… around that turbine,” he explained. “We are going to plot with red dots reported occurrences of complaints. ”
Though the website is in its design stages, it’s STOP’s hope “that those who wish to lodge a complaint can do so through the site.”
“We want to make (STOP’s site) CAW specific because there are so many issues to this turbine that are so much different than a rural situated turbine,” Schmalz explained. “The density of people around it, just speaks for itself.”
He referred to a turbine which caught in fire in Goderich in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“That whole subject is very worrisome to us because we live in a wooded area and there’s homes on Goble’s Place for example in the thick woods within 200 meters of the turbine,” he said. “It doesn’t take very much imagination when you see the burning pieces of fibre glass blowing away to realize the woods could be on fire.
“It doesn’t give people on Goble’s Place or Sieffert Court much comfort.”
STOP is now in what Schmalz calls, a monitoring phase. They have three separate groups measuring noise around the CAW turbine- audible and inaudible, which is low frequency noise.
“We just want to let the CAW now that we are doing our homework and monitoring on our own as I’m sure they are too,” he said.
The group is also in the process of hand delivering a second “complaint protocol” to the 117 homes that fall within 550 meters of the turbine. Similar to what they sent out last year, STOP is asking residents to keep a personal diary, get a baseline medical and refer to the list of contacts provided if they have questions or complaints relating to the turbine.
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