NORTH STORMONT – Some residents continue to be frustrated with construction of the Nation Rise Wind Farm, saying construction notifications are not being posted in a timely and adequate manner.
Rainer Pethke, a farmer on County Road 9, was fixing the fence at the back of his property last week when he saw Clarke construction performing soil stabilization across the back end of his property for an access road for turbine 28. Pethke returned home to check the Nation Rise website for the relevant notice of construction for turbine 28 and said there was none.
After visiting the construction site and speaking with the supervisor from Clarke, who did not know if nearby homes had been notified, he filed a complaint with the the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). After lodging the complaint, Pethke said he noticed the website had been updated to include the soil stabilization at turbine 28.
The website is supposed to publish a two-day advance and week-long preview to all construction activities, however “what will happen from time to time is that some scheduled delays will occur,” depending on weather conditions, said EDP project manager Ken Little.
Little confirmed the online notification for the soil stabilization at turbine 28 was made on the morning of July 29, the day that Pethke noticed the construction from across his property.
Little said such last-minute changes to the schedule are common.
“There are activities that we have changed the morning of,” he said.
The Standard-Freeholder has previously reported about the soil stabilization technique performed by Clarke Construction, a subcontractor of Borea, the company building the turbines. Soil stabilization involves mixing dry cement with soil to create a stable foundation for access roads. The technique can form cement-dust clouds, which can cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system if exposed.
Construction workers performing the soil stabilization must wear masks and tyvex suits to avoid exposure.
Currently, EDP provides an additional notice to homes within 200 metres of the soil stabilization site. Little said residents within that boundary were notified about the soil stabilization on July 28, a day before construction began. For Pethke, the boundary isn’t specific enough, as it applies to residential structures and not the entire property.
“My main frustration is the lack of notification,” said Pethke. “To me, (the 200-metre boundary) is irrelevant.”
While Pethke’s home is around 570 metres away from the turbine site, his property line is only three metres away. Had he not known about the toxicity of the dust, he could have been exposed if he was working on the far side of his corn field.
“It could even have been a case of ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ if I had taken the simple act of walking over to see what was going on while they were spreading. It’s a good thing I know better, but others may not.,” Pethke said in his complaint to the MECP.
He said is worried about farmers and others whose homes are further away than the 200-metre boundary, but whose properties fall within the nearby area.
“Property owners can be conducting regular farming practices on the edges of the property,” while they perform the soil stabilization, said Pethke.”People who are adjacent should be notified.”
Additionally, he is concerned about the affected people not being aware of the hazards of being exposed to the cement dust.
The stabilization technique being used by Borea is not just used during the construction of wind farms; it is one of a few commonly used methods to stabilize soils so they can adequately support whatever’s being built atop them. The same protection and notification procedures would apply to any contractor using this same method to stabilize soil for any construction project.
EDP has been subjected to criticism on how its has been notifying adjacent property owners, mostly from those who have been opposed to the project since it was first announced and remain opposed.
“It blows my mind that they’re so disrespectful to property owners,” said Pethke, explaining he noticed EDP’s notification website was down during one of its recent public consultations. “They’re not very good at communication.”
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