I saw this story early this morning. I hesitate to use the word ‘story’ – it’s not a news story, it’s a life gone way too early, and family that will suffer and hope that their son will recover, while having already lost their daughter. Two weeks ago, before I moved out of province, I lived my whole life about a kilometre from the crash that killed this young local woman, and critically injured her brother. Extremely tragic, so hard to imagine. Some may think it was another unavoidable death on our roads. That it was not.
The car left Napperton Dr., (North of Kerwood) rolled and hit a hydro pole. That hydro pole… wasn’t there 6 months ago. That hydro pole had no reason being there, except that a wind developer, WPD, struck a deal with Hydro One to relocate the poles, that had been safely in a farmers field for decades, far from the road, on to the County road Right of Way (ROW), where they could colocate their lines on it. You may recall some of the photos earlier this year of this very stretch of road as the lines were going up. The turbines for these poles have not been installed, yet, but have full approval and will probably go in this summer.
[Here are some pictures of WPD’s Napier Wind project poles being installed – you can see the former poles safely out in the farmers field.]
And they aren’t the only new poles in the area. Anyone who has driven down Kerwood Rd lately knows that this is just the new norm, for dozens of kilometres. Those lines on Kerwood and Elginfield Rd would be NextEra and Suncor’s. I’m infuriated that these companies have been allowed to compromise our community’s safety.
[Pictures from along Kerwood Rd. of NextEra/Suncor poles]
It’s not that we didn’t try to stop these poles from being installed so close to our roads. A presentation was made to Middlesex County as well as taking our concerns to the OEB. And protests. All of this fell on deaf ears. Those who allowed these poles understood the risks. The county eventually hammered out a road user agreement that was used for all the wind turbine infrastructure on their ROW. Including the poles that killed this woman last night.
It measures 168” (4.27m) from edge of roadway to the face of the pole – this is less than 5m which would be the minimum for a road with a design speed of 80 – 90 km/h and according to the Middlesex County submissions to the OEB last year, it should be at least 5m – but realistically, even that is too close. These poles aren’t in compliance, which leads me to wonder… is the OPP taking this into account in their investigations?
This line for WPD project cuts through Kerwood and south of town the poles are located in the road shoulder – setback only 3.175m– that’s unacceptable for a road with a design speed of 110km/h – it is supposed to be 7m – quite a difference. But who’s checking anyways?
My anger then surfaces in these questions, maybe to the ERT, maybe to the MOE, the wind developers, or even to the Premier herself:
How “serious and irreversible” is this woman’s death?
Did the infrastructure in this project cause her death?
If those poles were not there, would she have stood a chance of survival?
And how the hell is one supposed to predict and prove without a doubt that
a) the wind company won’t comply with the setbacks and
b) that this particular accident was going to happen?
Are we supposed to just let these accidents happen FIRST and then act (or not)? This is my worst nightmare, watching this unfold in the community I was born and raised.
This is why I couldn’t stay – and still this hurts too much, even watching from afar. I knew it would be just one casualty after another, and not a damn thing I could do about it when the government has stacked every thing it has against protecting your communities health and safety. Rest in peace Michelle Day.