Written evidence submitted by Dr Rachel Connor (EB 10)
Energy Bill 2016
I am a consultant Radiologist and Chair of our Local Community Council: Moscow and Waterside Community Council in East Ayrshire , Scotland.
I have particular concerns about the effect and impact of windfarm development on the hydrological environment in general , but in particular, the effect current and proposed windfarms have had and are likely to have, on Public and Private water supplies(PWS) in Scotland.
1. Windfarms and impacts on hydrology and water supplies.
Moscow and Waterside are two communities that have the misfortune to be neighbours to the largest onshore windfarm in the UK, Whitelee windfarm and its Extensions, which comprise 215 turbines up to 140m in height.
During the seven year Whitelee windfarm construction period, 2006 to 2013, four families lost their water supplies altogether, within the same 12 month period, due to sediment related problems coinciding with the peak of windfarm construction. These supplies were geographically at disparate points around the windfarm and were not considered by Scottish Power Renewables(SPR) to be ‘at risk’and were not being monitored. Three of these households had to install boreholes to provide alternative water supplies at their own cost, between £12-16,000. Many other PWS also suffered from sediment related problems and gross bacterial contamination resulting in actual illness. SPR admitted not notifying the appropriate authorities of the water contamination for 7 years, until this came to light following investigation by local residents.
In addition, there was documented deterioration of both surface and groundwater, following extensive monitoring by SPR, Scottish Water and Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, contrary to the Water Framework Directive. The EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) came into force on 22nd December 2000. It was required to be adopted into municipal law, i.e. UK statute, by all Member States.
The WFD defines pollutants and in particular, in ANNEX VIII, includes an indicative list of the main pollutants. Several list 1 pollutants appeared in groundwater during the Whitelee windfarm construction with Bis (2- ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), a recognised endocrine toxin, evident at levels up to 3200ug/l- 400 times statutory allowable levels in drinking water. Arsenic was also detected within groundwater prior to constructing the windfarm extension at 11ug/l, above allowable drinking water levels of 10ug/l. There is no evidence that the cause of groundwater contamination was investigated.
Over 70 PWS are reliant on the Whitelee windfarm site for their drinking water, which unlike treated public water, is neither treated nor properly monitored.
It should be noted that contrary to standing orders between SPR and SW, SW were not informed by SPR of any pollution events at Whitelee and neither raw or treated public water was tested for DEHP.
Much of the Whitelee windfarm site is built on a statutory surface drinking water protected area (as defined by The Water Environment (Drinking Water Protected Areas)(Scotland) Order 2013) and on the Scottish Water (SW) public water catchment area at Whitelee windfarm. Under the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), Article 7, these are protected catchment areas providing abstraction of public water supplies. The whole windfarm is on a statutory groundwater protected drinking water area.
There are two public water reservoirs on the Whitelee windfarm site which provide raw water to Amlaird water treatment works (WTW), which supplies more than thirty four thousand customers.
With 28 turbines on public water catchment area, the potential for deterioration in hydrology and in particular reservoir raw water quality was not taken into consideration by Scottish Ministers who consented the initial 140 turbine Whitelee windfarm in 2006 under a Section 36 agreement. No risk assessment of the potential effect of the windfarm on the two public reservoirs on the Whitelee site was conducted prior to construction of the initial windfarm in 2006. This is contrary to the Aarhus Convention requirements, to which the UK and Scottish Governments are cosignatories.
A risk assessment was conducted on behalf of Scottish water in 2008, (during the height of windfarm construction), which did raise concerns about the effect of the Whitelee windfarm on reservoir water quality, acknowledging that other windfarms had previously caused deterioration in raw water quality in other public reservoirs:
5.3.1 Windfarm construction and water colour: Windfarm construction has co-incided with an increase in raw water colour at Amlaird and other Scottish Water treatment works..’ (Catchment risk assessment Amlaird WTW for Scottish Water. ADAS. 2010)
Jacobs Ltd, environmental consultants for SPR also raised concerns regarding the deterioration in groundwater during the construction of Whitelee windfarm:
8.4 In the light of the unexplained trends and changes noted above, it is recommended that
the available monitoring data and information is assessed against the predictions made in
the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the windfarm development. The
significance of the observed groundwater quality information should be assessed and
consideration given to the need for revising existing impact predictions and associated
mitigation / precautionary requirements.
8.5 It is understood that a second phase of the Whitelee Windfarm is planned for construction
and groundwater monitoring will again be undertaken to establish baseline conditions and
monitor any construction impacts. It is recommended that during any such Phase 2
groundwater monitoring, bi-annual monitoring of the boreholes within the Phase 1 area is
also undertaken and the data reassessed on a yearly basis. During this monitoring it is
recommended that phenols at WP01 are specifically targeted and subjected to further
assessment and review.
Jacobs Ltd Scottish Power Whitelee Windfarm Post Construction Groundwater Quality Monitoring, Report – November 2009
Despite the documented adverse monitoring results of surface, groundwater and public water – as well as deterioration of water quality and quantity in numerous PWS, these environmental effects were not taken into consideration before awarding consent for the additional 75 turbine windfarm extension in 2010.
During the construction of the windfarm extensions 2010-2013, SPR conducted no groundwater monitoring, contrary to planning conditions (7.1) and continued to fail to meet planning conditions to inform local residents of adverse monitoring results affecting private water supplies.
Amlaird water treatment works (WTW) which receives the raw water from the two public reservoirs at Whitelee was extensively upgraded and rebuilt in 2005 to deal with inherently peaty water from this catchment. However, for prolonged periods, the potable public water supply from the WTW , failed to meet statutory standards during the period of windfarm construction. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator required SW to provide a sustainable solution to reach required the statutory EU and UK requirements for potable water and a decision to ‘main out’; to replace the water supply, was made by SW in 2011 after other remedial works had failed .
Both the water treatment works and the two public reservoirs are now being taken out of commission with the building of a new 1m wide pipeline, which will bring water from North of Glasgow to East Ayrshire at a cost to the public of £120 million.
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) has been transcribed into Scots Law and The Water Environment (Drinking Water Protected Areas)(Scotland) Order 2013. This Order describes criteria that would necessarily constitute a breach of the WFD:
1. Drinking Water Protected Areas have to be protected with the aim of avoiding any
deterioration in their quality that would compromise a relevant abstraction of water intended for human consumption. A supply intended for human consumption would be compromised if as a result of deterioration in the quality of the water body:
2. an abstraction (or planned abstraction) of water intended for human consumption
has to be abandoned and an alternative used to provide the supply;
3. water abstracted (or planned to be abstracted) has fo be blended with water
abstracted from another source;
4. additional purification treatment has to be applied; or
5. the operating demand on the existing purification treatment system has to beincreased significantly.
All of the above occurred in relation to the construction of Whitelee windfarm.
This £120 million will be funded by Scottish Taxpayers, whilst the ‘rent’ for hosting the 60 turbines on a public water catchment area, several million pounds, is fed into SW’s unregulated subsidiary company, Horizons Ltd.
Scottish Power Renewables, who will gain billions of pounds from UK Government subsidies and all UK electricity consumers , have provided no retribution either for hydrological damage, deterioration in reservoir water quality or for affected PWS.
In 2013, the Scottish Government passed a bill, The Water Resources (Scotland) Act 2013, which requires that
1. (1)The Scottish Ministers must-
take such reasonable steps as they consider appropriate for the purpose of ensuring the development of the value of Scotland’s water resources.
This in particular reference to the Climate Change(Scotland) Act of 2009
Scottish Water is therefore required to develop its assets (land) for the purposes of generating income from renewable energy as one of its core functions. It required Scottish Ministers to consider applications on public water catchments areas, for renewable energy projects favourably, and it requires Scottish Ministers to report on the progress made in this area, to the Scottish Government at three years (February 2016) .
It is the view of the public that this creates a conflict of interest with what should be the core value of Scottish Water – to provide a plentiful supply of potable water which meets regulatory standards, not to maximise its assets for industrial windfarm development which may jeopardise water quality.
The evidence of windfarms causing damage to both public and private water supplies is not unique to Whitelee. This is a matter of National importance.
It is not adequate for the UK Government to ignore the impacts of their renewable energy policies on its rural citizens. Planning consent for renewable developments may be a devolved matter, but we are all citizens of the UK and windfarms would not be possible without support from the UK government. Subsidies for on shore windfarms should be removed under the Renewables Obligation.
Local planning authorities may be more directly answerable to local communities, rather than UK or Scottish Government Ministers, if they are tasked with consenting major windfarm developments, but our experience is that they do not have either the resources or expertise to assess the environmental impacts of large windfarm developments, or to ensure compliance with planning conditions.
There are justified concerns over Westminster plans to curtail judicial reviews for wind power developments which could produce something akin to a developers' charter. As others have already observed, such proposals would unacceptably diminish the financial protection for members of the public bringing environmental law cases before the courts in England and Wales. The changes to procedures in England would undoubtedly be followed by Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It is correct to caution, that should these be implemented, the UK would be inviting further and justified complaints to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee from UK citizens adversely affected by such curtailments.
By not scrutinising Environmental impacts and ensuring compliance with planning conditions for large renewable energy developments, the UK Government is complicit in sanctioning inappropriate developments that contravene EU and UK Environmental Law by providing subsidies to Renewable Energy developments from UK taxpayers.
2. Subsidies and Contracts for Difference.
With the intended closure of the current Renewable subsidy scheme for large developments, (perhaps in 2017, or earlier) many developers are pressurising the UK Government to extend the ‘Contracts for Difference’(CfD), which is in effect a further subsidy, guaranteed over 15 years to those developers that are successful in the bidding process in being awarded such a contract.
With the current and likely long term fall in fuel prices, this will continue to pay developers a subsidy to produce electricity at vastly inflated prices over market value.
CfD is a process which is underpinned by public money, at the expense of UK electricity consumers.
It is an opaque process with no public accountability and the criteria for awarding a contract to one company, but not another is not evident in publicly available documents.
That this blind auction is conducted by a private company (National Grid) with no public accountability is reprehensible.
National Grid, is tasked by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with determining whether applicants are eligible to apply for a CfD according to criteria set out in legislation from the UK Government.
However, it is not possible for the public to have sight of whether applicants have provided the correct information to meet those eligibility criteria.
In essence, there are no checks that are available for public scrutiny,that provides reassurance that the application and bidding process are transparent.
For example, it is not possible to know whether a particular company has the required written grid connection contract, the date that contract was signed and the proposed connection date.
It is not possible for the public to know whether an applicant has submitted the correct, required land ownership , way leaves or land use entitlement documents to meet eligibility criteria.
My experience in trying to obtain confirmation of a connection agreement under FOI to DECC and National Grid, is to have all the eligibility criteria redacted on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity’.
Further attempts have been made on behalf of our Community Council to obtain this information regarding the consented but not yet built Sneddon Law windfarm, developed by Community Windpower Ltd, (CWP Ltd) from Scottish Power Energy Networks(SPEN):
Could you please confirm the correct name and location of the windfarm and provide me with the following information:
· The Connection Contract number
· The date this was signed
· The date of agreed connection
· The agreed MW capacity
Whether connection enabling works will be provided by SPEN, as the connection company concerned, or whether these will be provided by CWP Ltd to the nearest substation (and thenceforth connection via SPEN) If possible, please provide any submitted maps which clarify this.
This has resulted in a reply (A.Menzies .SPEN 22/01/16) which states:
I should advise that for commercial reasons, there may be a number of points in which I am not at liberty to share information without the consent of my customer.
Why is this basic information either not freely available or available on request?
This information has importance for local communities in understanding who is responsible for assessing potential environmental impacts and providing appropriate mitigation to protect the environment from the effects of exporting electricity from a windfarm site e.g. effects of a cable trench on private water supplies.
The current policy of failing to release such information from DECC on request by the public and its subsidiary company, The Low Carbon Contract Company, which is tasked with administering CfD’s and the private company National Grid (who determine eligibility for and award of, the CfD’s) on the basis of ‘commercial confidentiality’, is in direct contravention of EU Law:
The public must have access to an urban planning decision concerning the establishment of an installation having significant effects on the environment
Protection of trade secrets cannot be invoked to refuse that access
Court of Justice of the European Union PRESS RELEASE No 1/13 Luxembourg, 15 January 2013
3. The Requirement for Environmental Responsibility within the terms of the Contracts for Difference.
The construction of Whitelee windfarm involved the felling of 3 million trees and disturbance of 1 million cubic metres of peat. This is a gross loss in terms of a carbon sink and fragile ecosystem. A 10% increase risk of flooding in the River Irvine river basin was predicted in the Environmental Statement for the next 10 years, until replanting has established an effective forest canopy.