December 30, 2007

Wind farm contaminates well

On July 4, 2007, a transformer in one of the substations at the 195-turbine "Maple Ridge" wind energy facility on Tug Hill in western New York exploded.* The wind company -- Iberdrola-owned Scottish Energy-owned PPM Atlantic -- reported the spill of 491 gallons of mineral oil to the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and cleaned it up.

The DEC apparently never inspected the clean-up or even suggested to the company possible contamination they should look out for. They didn't even check, it seems, the amount of recovered oil.

In late November, a nearby resident noticed oil in his water and confirmed that there was oil in his well. Thus, 3 months after the event, the DEC finally got involved. At of Dec. 29, when it was reported in the Watertown Daily News, of "about 15" wells tested, only one was found to be contaminated. (Does that mean "within tolerable levels as defined by the law" or truly "no trace of oil"?)

One also wonders if this is the end of the story. Will the DEC continue testing the nearby wells as the oil continues to seep through the area? Will they examine the wind company's clean-up and try to determine exactly how much was spilled and unrecovered? Or will it all be brushed under the tarmac?

*This is a normal problem with transformers, because over time they generate combustible gases. Normal maintenance requires the oil to be periodically filtered to remove the combustible gases before they build up to dangerous levels. As with so many other things, the wind company seems to have thought this danger didn't apply to them. Now, they check and remedy all the substation transformers and the transformer at the base of each turbine on a regular schedule.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms environment, environmentalism