The recent request by state Sen. George Borrello to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for an inclusive environmental analysis for NYSERDA’s proposed offshore wind turbine feasibility study was described in an article “Borrello: Diversify Great Lakes wind study” (Feb. 11). The senator noted several areas of concern which are unrepresented by environmental experts in the NYSERDA study. The potential pollution of our region’s prime source of drinking water by the installation of wind turbines received the largest citation of the unaddressed concerns noted by Borrello.
The lake’s bottom sediments are the resting place for a hundred years of industrial legacy pollutants like mercury, and PCBs. The previous decades of state and federal regulations have resulted in less pollution flowing into the lake’s waters and have allowed the heavy toxins to settle into the layers of bottom sediments.
At this time overlying sediments are shielding the pollutants from the water intakes of shoreside municipal water filtration plants like the one at Dunkirk which serves the city and the North County Water District.
Placing wind turbine bases or supports in the lake will stir up the sediments and reintroduce their buried poisons into the water source for millions. Burying the miles of interconnecting electrical cables and offshore transmission cables in the sediments will create additional hazards.
The city of Dunkirk water filtration plant intake is close to the path of a proposed transmission cable coming ashore at the National Grid interconnect facility adjacent to the shuttered NRG plant.
This direct threat to human health is compounded by the fact that toxins in the water will be ingested by small aquatic creatures and work their way up the food chain to the sportfish which drive much of the Lake Erie economy.
The concern for toxic underwater sediments in the placement of electric transmission cables is not unique to Lake Erie.
A planned transmission line in the bottom of New York’s Hudson River is receiving objections from the downstate freshwater advocacy organization Riverkeeper which cites the same threats to drinking water and aquatic health from industrial toxins in the river bed.
It would be reassuring if NYSERDA or the state Public Service Commission would allow expert testimony on this and several other threats to the health of Lake Erie by placing wind turbines in our waters of life. But complex and conflicted relations between our state government and industry have resulted in environmental compromises in the past, as Love Canal reminds us.
A federal court has indicted Michigan authorities for failing to protect the drinking water of Flint, Mich., citizens from known hazards in the supplying of water to that city. Let’s not let that happen here.
Mark Twichell is a Fredonia resident and a member of the Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie.
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