While Dufferin Wind Power Inc. (DWPI) “unequivocally” states its transmission line meets all regulations, Melancthon Mayor Darren White wants the county to conduct its own electromagnetic field (EMF) tests.
At county council’s meeting this Thursday (Jan. 8), White plans to urge politicians hire an electrical engineering consultant to determine whether the amount of stray energy being emitted from Dufferin Wind’s 230 kV transmission line is safe or not.
“It’s in the best interest of us to at least know what the levels are that we’re dealing with,” White said. “To have somebody, who is professional in the field, explain to us that this is safe, this is not safe, or under which conditions it is safe.”
Since Health Canada doesn’t consider EMF a hazard, there are no precautionary measures required when it relates to daily exposure. As such, Dufferin Wind spokesperson Connie Roberts noted the company has no testing guidelines to follow.
“We state unequivocally that all protocol has been followed in the construction of this line,” Roberts explained in an email, claiming opponents to her company’s project are requesting EMF measurements that aren’t mandated in Canada.
“DWPI has installed a safe power line,” Roberts added. “It has been built to the latest industry standards; and it is consistently operating at well under capacity.”
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approved Dufferin Wind’s plan to construct the transmission line from its 49-turbine wind farm in Melancthon to Amaranth last year.
The most recent criticism of the project came after a group of residents reportedly witnessed stray energy emitted from the line light a fluorescent light bulb.
While Roberts noted the phenomenon witnessed was a “well-documented side effect of the conduction of alternating current,” White thinks it would be best if the county investigated the matter further.
“It’s the responsible thing to do. You can only make a good decision if you have all the information,” he said. “I just want to make sure it was done in a manner that is safe for the residents and safe for anybody that is in the area of the project.”
White noted the transmission line is located about 70 feet away from at least one home in Melancthon, and close to Hyland Heights Elementary School in Shelburne.
Roberts also noted the transmission line was buried in parts of Shelburne to address community concerns about its proximity to the school.
“High power transmission lines can have a lot of stray electricity issues,” White said. “That’s why they are built in non-inhabited areas and away from residences and schools.”
Extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs are produced by power lines and electrical appliances. As readings are taken further away from their sources, studies find that EMF levels decrease.
Several early epidemiologic studies have suggested the possibility of an association between ELF-EMFs and certain cancers, particularly leukemia and brain tumours in children.
Other studies haven’t found any consistent evidence for an association between EMF and cancers, but scientists continue to investigate the possibility.
To combat local concerns, Roberts cited a study titled “Measuring electromagnetic fields (EMF) around wind turbines in Canada: is there a human health concern?” conducted close to the Kingsbridge 1 Wind Farm located near Goderich in 2014.
That study found the maximum magnetic field levels beneath 27 kV and 500 kV transmission lines were roughly equivalent to that produced by a refrigerator.
“Anything requiring electricity to operate will emit some level of EMF,” Roberts said. “Studies have shown that inside the home, the magnetic fields from high voltage power lines are often weaker than those from household appliances.”
Considering the disparity of opinions on the matter, White feels it would be foolhardy for the county not to delve deeper in the matter.
While it isn’t known whether county council will approve his request, White said his plan has been received positively by many of his colleagues so far.
“Right now, it is just to find out what kind of levels we’re dealing with,” he said. “If there is something that needs to be done after that, once we know, that is the next step.”