A 50-turbine windmill project outside of Assiniboia, Sask. is generating concerns for residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Potentia Renewables Inc.’s Golden South Wind Energy Facility broke ground in August 2019. But due to the threat of coronavirus transmission, dozens want the project postponed.
“If it’s delayed for a couple of months, yes, it’s going to hurt someone financially, but it doesn’t hurt anybody’s health or risk anybody’s life,” said Dwayne Woolhouse, an organic farmer near Assiniboia.
Woolhouse, who lives five miles from one of the windmill sites, said his biggest concern is out-of-province and out-of-area workers bringing the virus into the community.
Twenty-five workers are currently stationed in the town. Borea Construction, the contractor for the project, said that will increase to 90 workers by the end of April.
In July, 145 workers will be on-site. The company said that is the most employees it will have working in the area at one time.
According to Assiniboia mayor Bob Himbeault, a large percentage of those workers are from Ontario and Quebec, hotspots for COVID-19.
“Even workers from in province shouldn’t be coming in,” Woolhouse said. “This is not an essential service. If this windmill project doesn’t start up, we’re not out of power.”
“I’m trying to put pressure on people to shut it down for now.”
Many Assiniboia residents, including Woolhouse, are calling on the Saskatchewan government to postpone the project until the pandemic clears.
Under the current provincial state of emergency, construction projects are considered an allowable business.
Norm Nordgulen, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Lake of the Rivers, said he has contacted the government to suggest it postpones the project. He said it’s “in the government’s hands” to deem construction a non-allowable business.
Nordgulen is also “in constant contact with [Potentia Renewables] to better protect the community.”
Derek Cloutier and his partner are expecting twins at the beginning of May. He said he isn’t worried about his health, but instead contracting the virus and transmitting it to his family.
“If I manage to contract it at work somehow and bring it home, you know, we’ve got enough worry there. Now, this is just increasing the risk for that scenario,” Cloutier said.
“It seems like we’re asking for [COVID-19] to be a problem, especially in a place right now where it’s not a problem.”
Borea Construction is on its fourth revision of its COVID-19 response plan. The plan lays out safety protocol for each of its construction sites to follow during the pandemic.
In a statement to Global News, the contractor said, “In addition to enhanced preventive measures on job sites, we have limited interprovincial travel by asking all our workers to remain in the city where they are posted until further notice.
“We are working in close collaboration with our client, Potentia Renewables, as well as the municipality on a daily basis to assess the situation and adjust our approach accordingly.”
Protocol includes maintaining a two-metre distance between workers when possible. If that’s not possible, the task will either be delayed or workers will wear proper personal protective equipment, Borea Construction said.
Rules for sanitization, meal breaks and preventative checklists are all included in the response plan.
An on-site nurse will check temperatures for all employees every shift.
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