County council will hire an electrical firm to conduct an electromagnetic field (EMF) study of Dufferin Wind Power’s transmission line, but some politicians fear the results won’t carry enough weight.
After debating the study’s merits for several months, council agreed to pay Kinectrics Inc. $15,000 to measure the stray energy emitted from the 230 kV transmission line on Thursday (April 9).
“This is a necessary study to undertake,” said Melancthon Mayor Darren White. “It will offer good peace of mind to the residents. Particularly the ones that are affected by this particular project.”
The issue reached its boiling point in late 2014 after a group of residents reportedly witnessed stray energy emitted from the line light a fluorescent light bulb.
While Dufferin Wind officials noted the phenomenon is a “well-documented side effect of the conduction of alternating current,” county council seeks to investigate the matter further.
“Their scrutiny of the transmission line is of no real concern, but we have asked ourselves why is EMF an issue this time, with this line, when it hasn’t been an issue before,” Dufferin Wind spokesperson Connie Roberts told The Banner in an email.
“Dufferin Wind Power is confident our transmission line meets all regulations,” she added. “We have no concerns and will be happy to receive the results of the study when it is complete.”
While Dufferin Wind isn’t concerned, some politicians around the county table expressed their fears the study won’t carry enough weight.
Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams questioned whether the county was getting enough bang for its buck. Kinectrics has pledged to complete EMF readings at three locations – two overhead lines and one underground – over a period of five days.
“It seems to me, to spend that amount of money for three readings, on such a large network of wires, just doesn’t seem appropriate to me,” Williams said. “I can’t support $15,000 for three readings.”
Kinectrics has also pledged to compare EMF readings to available standards. However, Health Canada doesn’t consider EMF as a hazard to human or animal health.
“It was challenging to find anybody who would speak to the health effects because it’s difficult to find a comparator,” said Scott Burns, Dufferin’s director of public works. “As far as health impacts, they shied away from that.”
While the company will not plainly state whether the EMF levels its records are hazardous to human health or not, White feels the county staff can undertake that work.
“The main problem with this is Ontario and Canada don’t really have a safe standard,” White said. “If we have the numbers, the rough data, than we can relatively easily be able to figure out what each of us think is a safe level based on other country’s standards.”
Several early epidemiologic studies have suggested the possibility of an association between Extremely low frequency (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.
“We need this thing to be heavily loaded,” argued Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver. “In terms of the impact and what actions need to be taken, if any, to mitigate.”
Roberts has previously 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 told The Banner earlier this year. “Studies have shown that inside the home, the magnetic fields from high voltage power lines are often weaker than those from household appliances.”
Council plans to draw from its Dufferin Wind reserve fund – money paid to the county for an easement on its abandoned rail corridor – to cover the $15,000 study cost.
“The money paid to the county was given to them in good faith,” Roberts said. “If county decides to use the money for an EMF study that is their choice.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding