Vandals suspected in McLean’s Mountain wind farm project spill

LITTLE CURRENT––Northland Power Inc. is claiming that vandals may be behind a recent spill at one of its directional boring sites as part of its McLean’s Mountain Wind farm Project.

“On December 20, 2013, we were alerted by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) area officer about a spill at one of the directional boring sites,” Sarah Charuk, director of communications for Northland Power, told The Expositor. “Approximately 40-50 gallons of alcohol-based windshield wiper fluid from two containers stored on site used to prevent the freezing of the boring equipment were found with the bottom valves opened. Our contractor (White Construction) stated that the containers were tampered with by vandals, however to our knowledge, police were not notified.”

The MOE confirmed the spill when The Expositor inquired stating, “the ministry has notified the company of its obligations to ensure all spilled material is properly cleaned up.”

“The ministry was on site this week to monitor the progress of the cleanup work which is continuing,” Kate Jordon, a media representative with the MOE, said on Friday, January 3. “We will continue to oversee the situation to ensure that the cleanup has been completed as required and make decisions on any needed future actions.”

Northland Power followed up with The Expositor stating that the spill has been contained and the initial cleanup is complete.

“As soon as the contractor (White Construction) was notified of the spill, the contractor arranged for the initial cleanup and ensured that the fluid was contained so it could not leak any further into the environment,” explained Ms. Charuk. “The MOE was notified of the spill and cleanup effort through the spill reporting centre. The spill has been fully contained and the initial cleanup in complete. The Northeast Town toured the site on (Monday) December 30 and stated that it is satisfied with the cleanup efforts. The MOE was on site on (Tuesday) December 31 and was also satisfied with the cleanup efforts. In addition to activity already underway, they also asked White Construction to remove the spilled materials form the drill pit. White Construction will have KRT from Sudbury on site to perform the pit clean out.”

“To prevent such an incident from occurring in the future, Northland and White Construction, in cooperation with the boring contractor Earth Boring Co. Ltd., have developed additional security protocols,” concluded Ms. Charuk. “All parties are committee to a full and complete cleanup and to ensuring that such an incident does not occur again.”

Despite Northland’s claim that “as soon as the contractor was notified of the spill” they arranged for the cleanup, others have claimed this was not the case such as Perch Lake resident John Burnett, as well as Ray Beaudry, spokesperson for the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA).

“I have property up by Perch Lake where they are boring,” Mr. Burnett explained to The Expositor. “The boring work should have been done by now, but instead they are trying to bore through the winter and their equipment is freezing up. I saw the spill and told them, but they didn’t do anything.”

“Mr. Burnett saw the spill on (Monday) December 16 and told the crew that was working,” Mr. Beaudry said. “He told us and we went out to the site (on Saturday, December 21) and took pictures and it was plain to see that no efforts had been made to clean up the spill.”

Both Mr. Beaudry and Mr. Burnett told The Expositor that they suspect the fluid was intentionally dumped to keep the boring hole from freezing.

Mr. Beaudry also claims that the totes of antifreeze he found at the boring site had labels of a maximum weight capacity of 1,640 kg, “which would carry approximately over 300 gallons in each full tote” and that there were “several full totes and several were empty.”

“Just how much spilled?” Mr. Beaudry asked. “How did no one on site notice?”

In a letter posted on the Ontario Wind Resistance website Mr. Beaudry also claimed that he thought additional “spills/dumping” had occurred at other sites associated with the project and that the most recent spill occurred in a “known wetland/key habitat area.”

In response to these claims Ms. Charuk told The Expositor that the spill the contractor became aware of on December 20 did not occur in a key wetland habitat area.

“Since the start of construction there have been some minor hydraulic fluid spills due to o-ring failures (to provide additional context, these spills were minor in nature, ie. they were contained and cleaned up in 10-gallon plastic bucket sized containers),” added Ms. Charuk. Any and all spills were reported to the MOE and the spill action centre and all were effectively contained and cleaned up. All spill material was disposed of at the approved disposal sites.”

Mr. Beaudry had several other statements involving the project and environmental issues, but a representative from the MOE was not available to confirm these claims or to provide The Expositor with the status of the December 20 spill cleanup as of press time on Monday.

“I can’t imagine anyone from Manitoulin doing this,” said Mr. Beaudry of Northland Power’s claim the spill was due to vandals. “Why would someone do that? And why isn’t there an OPP investigation?”

See next week’s paper for an update on this story as it progresses.

Robin Burridge