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Tougher turbine talk from Town; Town to file Freedom of Information request

The Town of Saugeen Shores will file a Freedom of Information request to get results of acoustic testing done this spring of operations of the Unifor wind turbine at its Family Education Centre in Port Elgin – a turbine some area residents and elected officials believe is not in compliance with its operating agreement, and is causing health issues.

The Town’s on-going frustration with Unifor and the local Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) was evident at the Aug. 18 committee of the whole meeting when councillors called for the FOI after receiving an acoustic immission audit update from the MOECC District Manager. It was in response to Saugeen Shores’ July 11 letter detailing concerns about insufficient data to make a determination of compliance, and with Unifor’s refusal to share any results with the Town.

In the most recent letter, MOECC District Manager Rick Chappell concurred with the Town’s request to reinstall monitoring equipment in two locations with continued monitoring at a third.

“It is the ministry’s expectation that a full and complete report for all three locations be submitted as early as possible in the fall of this year so a full assessment by the ministry can be completed in accordance with the Ministry’s Compliance Protocol,” Chappell wrote.

Saugeen Shores Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau suggested they send another letter to the Minister asking that the acoustic testing be made mandatory, and to ensure one of sites tested is one where a complaint was lodged.

“If they don’t receive [test results] this fall, the Ministry should order the [turbine] shut down, permanently, because they have to make [testing] mandatory and they have to put that backstop on it or they’ll never get results – I think that’s clear,” Charbonneau said, adding the Town needs to file a FOI request to get whatever data is available of turbine operations and to get all correspondence between Unifor and the Ministry about the turbine that has been in operation for six years.

In support of the FOI request, Coun. Dave Myette said it is time, or even overdue, for the Town to

“get aggressive on this file and insist, as opposed to request, that the compliance is met and promises are kept, and there be consequences, severe as they may be, attached to failure to comply…” Myette said.

Coun. Neil Menage said maybe they should thank the Ministry as Chappell wrote “The Ministry requests that all data collected to date be submitted to the ministry so it can determine of there is sufficient data to assess compliance or determine if mitigation should be implemented until a full commissions audit can be completed.”

“That sounds to me like about as heavy language as they can possibly get out of that [MOECC] office, telling them ‘cough up the information you’ve got now ‘ … .and if there’s enough information we will follow through.” Shouldn’t we be thanking then for that?” Menage asked.

Mayor Mike Smith noted Unifor has denied Town requests for the test data, and asked “why do they have to keep it secret?”

CAO David Smith said the Town is anticipating the MOECC “may” refuse to share the test data, hence the need for the FOI request.