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CRYSLER – A North Stormont woman is concerned about potentially harmful dust clouds blown onto her property and those around her as access roads are being built for the Nation Rise Wind Farm.
Laurie Harkin-Chiasson was shocked to learn the dust billowing from the construction contained Portland 10 cement powder, which can cause skin and respiratory irritation and serious eye damage. Harkin-Chiasson said she and her neighbours weren’t notified of the construction on July 11, when she warned her neighbour who was walking with her infant in a stroller as the clouds came through, nor were they notified on July 15 when construction resumed nearby her home.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to stand up for my community,” she said.
The clouds came from a soil-stabilization procedure being done to build the access roads to the 29 wind turbines. The procedure involves removing the topsoil and blending the soil below with cement, before covering the surface gravel to secure the floor for paving.
“I could feel it in the back of my throat,” said Harkin-Chiasson.
The safety data sheet (SDS) from Lafarge, a cement and concrete company, said long- and short-term exposure to the dust of Portland 10 cement can cause severe skin burns, eye damage and may cause respiratory irritation. It may also cause acute silicosis, which “results from short-term exposure to very large amounts of respirable crystalline silica,” according to the SDS sheet.
Harkin-Chiasson has taken the matter to EDP Renewables, the company that owns the wind farm, along with North Stormont council, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Labour.
According to Harkin-Chiasson, it took two calls to the ministry before the EDP began sending notices.
She was particularly angered when she was told through the ministry the company had offered to wash the cars of those affected by the dust.
“Our community’s health and safety is at risk. I was so insulted,” Harkin-Chiasson said.
Windmill construction is not the only use of Portland 10 cement, nor the only time that stabilization work takes place to prepare for paving.
“This practice is not unique to the windmill project,” said North Stormont mayor Jim Wert, who said further investigation is up to the provincial ministries, who have more expertise in the matter. “We’ll certainly impress on them the need to deal with this.”
The construction company building the roads, Clarke Construction, was given a stop-work order from the Ministry of Labour on July 16 for employees not wearing the proper Tyvex suits. Work resumed the next day once they complied with ministry, which said was still investigating.
Borea, the company contracted by EDP to build the wind farm, is also involved in a $10-million lawsuit from 2015 after a St. Anns, Ont. family had received serious reactions from exposure to the cement dust.
The lawsuit alleges cement dust had been blown directly into their home, covering the interior with dust that caused “non-stop coughing” and severe skin and eye irritation. There was no suggestion the exposure in North Stormont reached this extent.
“EDP and Borea take the concerns very seriously,” said Ken Little, project manager with EDP, who confirmed Clarke was using Portland 10 and added the company is working with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and Ministry of the Environment during construction.
Beginning last week, Little said the company is now providing an advanced notice to residents within 200 metres of the soil stabilization, and are posting notices of construction on the Nation Rise website. Little said wind conditions would be monitored during the soil stabilization process, and said they adjust where they conduct the stabilization depending on weather and wind conditions. Little said the decision would be made by site supervisor based on a “visual determination over the field.”
The EOHU and Ministry of the Environment did not return calls seeking comment on this matter.
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