BELLEVUE – Could the plans for a proposed wind farm in the Bellevue area be on shaky ground?
That’s the concern many people have raised since some of the proposed wind turbines for the Emerson Creek Wind Project would be on top of porous bedrock known as karst.
“A karst is basically a term that applies to the dissolution in rock, typically limestone,” said Mike Angle, the chief of geosurvey for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). “The limestone starts to dissolve underground and can cause a collapse.”
Karsts can cause sinkholes, rivers to disappear or blue holes like the one in Castalia. It was brought up often by citizens who oppose the wind turbines being placed in their community.
“Our concern is that it’s a fragile rock formation and directed underground water flows that interact with people’s wells,” said Dennis Schreiner, a member of Erie-Huron Anti Wind, a group of residents who oppose the project.
To secure the turbines, Schreiner said they will have to put massive anchors made of concrete and steel into the ground, which he fears could containment the water or change its course.
“When they broke through these features they affect water drainage,” Schreiner said. “My well could go away.”
ODNR studied the karst in the Bellevue area in 2008 after large rainfall caused sinkholes and flooding in the area. Angle said their study was speculative and was meant to make the information available for permitting and engineers.
“We are not engineers or construction people, but the concrete pads would be enough to secure the turbines I believe,” Angle said.
Apex Clean Energy, the company planning to build Emerson Creek through its Firelands Wind subsidiary, say only six of the 87 proposed turbine locations are in probable karst. It only plans to build up to 71 turbines.
Wind energy projects have built on karst areas before and Apex is designing projects in Oklahoma and Texas in karst areas, according to Apex spokeswoman Natasha Montague.
“We’re committed to designing and constructing the Emerson Creek Wind Project in a safe and sustainable way for the surrounding community,” Montague. “Geotechnical borings and investigations will be conducted at each turbine location to ensure turbines are only built in locations that have safe conditions.”
The karst was a part of the proposal to the Ohio Power Siting Board who has the final say in approving the project. The company pointed to a preliminary geotechnical report conducted by a third-party engineer, which found the construction of the turbines would most likely not “have a significant impact on the local geology and/or hydrogeology.”
Schreiner and others though want a more in-depth study done because they believe the karst is more prevalent than people think.
“The karst feature in relation to my house stop three miles away, but I have karst sinkholes,” Schreiner said. “The truth is all those features have not been verified because they ran out of money.”
He and other opponents of the wind farm point to a study of the karst in the region done by Doug Aden for ODNR in 2013 in which he spoke about the importance of identifying karst regions because they are “highly susceptible to pollution and structures built near them may subside.”
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