Cohocton Wind Watch: Wind farm road controversy: Slag concerns Ag and Markets
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Wind farm road controversy: Slag concerns Ag and Markets

Although the DEC has cleared the use of slag on wind farm access roads, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets has concerns.

In a Sept. 8 letter to Invenergy regarding the High Sheldon Wind Farm, Agriculture Specialist Michael J. Saviola said his department is against the practice.

The letter was written in response to a July 15 letter from the DEC to Invenergy, regarding such use of slag on the project. Work on the roads had already proceeded by the time of the September mailing.

"It appears that the use of this industrial byproduct may be acceptable as "structural fill" in an urban or industrial setting, however, the Department does not support the use of any adulterated industrial byproduct material (such as steel slag) as road base on, or adjacent to, structural lands used for the production of food and/or forage crops," Saviola wrote.

That's contrary to a Department of Environmental Conservation finding which says such use is within state guidelines. A copy of Saviola's letter was received Wednesday, in response to an inquiry last week from The Daily News.

The Ag & Markets review found it's "not unreasonable" to conclude that soil pH will vary greatly in locations where the material is used as a road base, with the potential to leach trace metals into farmland soils.

That could affect the availability of plant nutrients and other elements which could be toxic to higher plants and microorganisms.

The higher plants and microorganisms may be affected by rapid changes in pH, Saviola writes. Trace metals may lead to phytotoxic conditions at certain pH levels.

That means it could be harmful to plants.

Ag and Markets recommends each affected landowner be notified and testing completed when slag is used near crops. Soil should be remediated -- including shipping in new topsoil if necessary -- if crop loss, stunting or "burning" occur.

The developer would be responsible for such corrective actions.

At the same time, the use of slag in the wind farm's access roads is within state guidelines that DEC has found.

Representatives last Friday said Tecumseh Redevelopment, which now owns the former Bethlehem site, has a Beneficial Use Determination.

Materials are no longer considered solid waste once a BUD is issued, as long as they're used for the prescribed purpose.

Slag is a byproduct of steel production, and has been used in road based construction throughout Western New York for several decades. A DEC spokeswoman said thorough testing hasn't indicated any significant environmental impacts, and leachate into adjacent cornfields isn't a concern.

Slag is also used as railroad ballast, a cement ingredient, and as a limestone substitute in agriculture. Project Manager Eric Miller of Invenergy said last week that the company hasn't received any complaints from landowners about the quality or construction of access roads on their properties.

Seventy-five turbines area planned for the High Sheldon Wind Farm. A total of 39 turbines had their rotors attached as of Tuesday.

Construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year, weather permitting. The wind farm is slated to start operations in January or February once it substation is complete.

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