North East Township supervisors aren’t ready to vote on an ordinance to regulate commercial wind farms.
Supervisors said Monday they want more information about how wind turbines might affect nearby water wells and whether the township can regulate shadow flicker, the strobe-like shadows from turbine blades.
Township residents raised concerns about both issues during a public hearing on the ordinance last week.
“Some things were said that I’d like to research a little further and haven’t had the opportunity to do yet,” Supervisor Dennis Culver said.
Water concerns center on the concrete supports for wind turbines. The bases would be set some feet into the ground and could disrupt the groundwater in an area dependent on well water, township residents said.
Supervisors could require developers to hire a hydrologist to identify and address potential water problems, township solicitor Robert Jeffrey said. The proposed wind ordinance does not require a water assessment.
The ordinance also could require developers to provide water to homes if wells go dry, as oil and gas drillers are required to provide clean water if wells are contaminated, Supervisor Vernon Frye said.
But proving that a well went dry because of wind turbines would be difficult, Jeffrey said. “Water contamination is much easier to quantify and trace. If wells run dry, it could just be a dry summer.”
Some municipalities have capped the amount of time that shadow flicker can affect neighboring properties, but enforcing a limit could also be difficult, Jeffrey said. “You’d have to determine who tests that, who makes that determination, or if you’d have to be there with a stop watch all the time.”
Jeffrey said he will investigate whether wind farms have caused water problems in other areas and what can be done to regulate flicker. He also will revise the proposed wind ordinance to incorporate changes and clarifications recommended by supervisors.
No timetable was set for the revisions.
Developer Pioneer Green Energy plans to build up to a dozen wind turbines on land leased in southern North East Township. Property owners that have leased land and some area environmentalists support it.
Stephen Porter, of Fairview Township, of the Northwest Pennsylvania Green Economy Task Force, in an open letter to supervisors Monday, said that credible studies have shown that turbines have little or no adverse effects on health, the environment or neighboring property values and instead provide clean energy and jobs.
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