There is no danger of an area aquifer being polluted by a proposed wind energy project in Fayette, Henry and Rush counties.
That’s the stance of the company behind the West Fork Wind Energy Center, NextEra Energy Resources, after a group of Fayette County residents approached the county earlier this week with concerns that an area aquifer could potentially be contaminated as a result of construction on the wind project.
That group, consisting of county residents Joe Schultz, Craig Mosburg and Cecil Bell – all residents of Posey and Fairview townships, which would see the bulk of wind turbines in the proposed West Fork Wind Energy Center project, and residents who have been vocal in the past regarding their concerns about a wind farm in Fayette County – presented information Tuesday to Fayette County Commissioners which raised questions of whether the New Castle Till Aquifer, of which a portion is in northwestern Fayette County and in the area of the wind project, could be contaminated due to construction of wind turbines.
“In the past several weeks, we have talked to representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana DNR and IDEM,” Schultz told commissioners Tuesday. “We are concerned about the possibility of the ‘New Castle Till Aquifer,’ ... at risk of contamination by the construction of a Commercial Wind Farm in northwestern Fayette County.
“All of the representatives of the Federal and State agencies we have talked to so far have indicated to us they feel that the greatest risk to this aquifer is contamination by diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, other onsite chemicals or lubricants,” he added. “Also, surface water runoff into open pit construction sites is a major concern and a possible source of contamination ... we were shocked to learn that no studies or special permits were needed to construct wind turbines on top of this aquifer.”
Bryan Garner, manager of communications for NextEra Energy Resources, told the News-Examiner Thursday that not only is that not the case regarding environmental permits and requirements for the project, but that the project itself will undergo thorough scrutiny to insure its adherence with environmental regulations.
“We were disappointed to see the unsubstantiated environmental claims by stated anti-wind activists go unchallenged,” Garner said Thursday. “Their misinformation about wind energy and its impact on the environment does a disservice to the community and serves only to advance their anti-wind agenda.
“The fact is, wind energy is a clean, renewable source of energy that creates no greenhouse gases or air pollutants, uses no water resources to generate electricity and creates no waste by-products,” he continued.
Garner then outlined the various environmental steps the West Fork Wind Energy Center project will have to undergo, as required by law, before becoming reality.
Among those steps will be a “Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan,” which must adhere to United States Environmental Protection Agency requirements per 40 CFR 12.
“The SPCC Plan will satisfy the requirements for the prevention of, preparedness for and for the response to any potential oil discharges at the planned West Fork Wind Energy Center,” Garner stated.
Another step is for NextEra to obtain what is known as a Rule 5 general permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which revolves around storm water runoff during construction of the West Fork project. That, in addition to a “Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan” addressing erosion control and water quality protection, during construction of the West Fork project, will also help satisfy state environmental requirements, per Garner.
“The project will make efforts to avoid or minimize any impacts to wetlands or other jurisdictional waters during construction and operation of the project,” he said. “If minimal impacts cannot be avoided, the project will secure approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and IDEM, as required, and meet any conditions associated with those agency approvals.”
The company feels that the talk of the New Castle Till Aquifer possibly being contaminated is simply another effort to shut down a project which will do nothing but benefit area communities.
“We regret that a handful of dedicated anti-wind activists would continue to manufacture false claims in their efforts to stop responsible wind development in this community,” Garner said. “The West Fork wind project will provide clean energy, good jobs, millions of dollars in landowner payments and tax benefits and a much-needed economic boost to Fayette County.
“Our company owns and operates more than 110 wind farms across the country,” he concluded. “One of our core values is doing the right thing, which includes meeting or exceeding all local, state and federal regulations, protecting the environment and ensuring our projects have a positive impact on communities.”