By Karen Robinet, Today’s Farmer
Chatham-Kent council is stepping up in the battle against stray voltage. At its March 28 meeting, Coun. Doug Sulman introduced a successful motion which will see the Ontario Energy Board, the Minister of Energy and Hydro One appraised of council’s concerns over stray voltage, which is detrimental to both animal and human health.
In December, Coun. Jim Brown had requested a report on the issue from administration and Kim Cooper, the municipality’s agricultural economic development officer submitted his report which stated that, “stray voltage can have harmful effects on animal health and productivity including decreased feed and water intake, reduced milk production, reluctance to enter the milking parlour, nervousness and aggressive behaviour, lameness in legs and feet, and reproduction impacts such as increased abortion rates, birth defects and drop in conception.”
Dover Centre farmer Lee Montgomery, whose dairy farm was the first in Ontario to be recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as having stray voltage, was on hand to address council in regard to the impact of stray voltage on human health.
He said, “this is a very serious situation we have. This stuff kills. It can maim you and cause serious diseases. We know it causes cancer.”
Cooper’s report stated that in 2006, the province passed a Private Member’s Bill, the Ground Current Pollution Act, which was brought forward by Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Maria Van Bommel.
However, Montgomery said the bill hasn’t improved the situation and that stray voltage remains a problem.
“I know of places in Waterloo County where guys are pretty well going out of business with this,” he said.
Cooper’s report also noted that Hydro One handles 95% of the calls over the issue since it is largely a rural concern.
He said that Chatham-Kent Energy has conducted some investigations in the past few years, but not recently.
He also noted that in the Ridgetown area, some work is being done with several livestock producers who live near the RES/Talbot Wind Farm, which began full operations of its 43-turbine wind farm in December.
The project is connected by a new transmission grid running from just north of Talbot Trail Line, west of the Kenesserie Line to the main transmission grid through Chatham-Kent just north of Hwy. 401.
Along the grid there are six livestock producers, and signed agreements with the wind farm mean that before and after monitoring will be taking place to determine whether or not stray voltage is or becomes an issue.
Later in the meeting, Brown said he’s been aware of the issue for years, “but just recently I’ve seen some of the problems out in our area.”
He said he’d like to see council take some sort of action on the matter and said, “we can’t just shelve this again.”
Sulman agreed and put forward his motion which also requested that testing be conducted before any new energy project proceeds.
He said he’s seen “pictures of fetuses of cattle, burnt hooves, burnt legs and animals totally destroyed as a result of this voltage going into barns and concrete stanchions in milking barns.”
Sulman said that even though the issue is beyond council’s jurisdiction, “we can advocate on behalf of our constituents.”
Coun. Brian King said the problem rests with the fact that, “Hydro One does whatever they want to do, when they want to do it and on their terms.”
He said the problem is not with wind turbines, but the transmission grid itself and said Hydro One doesn’t know, “how many projects they have out there and what needs to be hooked up.”
King said that the issue of stray voltage has been ongoing for 40 years, “because Hydro One doesn’t want to do anything about it.”