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Rexville farmers continue to pay price for wind turbine fire


Eight Point Wind facility owner says that cleanup is now complete

By Andrew Harris, photos provided

The now infamous and catastrophic fire at the Eight Point Wind facility in West Union NY littered fiberglass debris over a wide area as it burned.  A large portion of the land that was contaminated with shreds of fiberglass debris are hayfields owned by the Mullen family farm.  The fiberglass rendered the first “cutting” of hay this season contaminated and unusable.  Below is the picture of the tons of otherwise pristine hay, now piled up at the site of the destroyed wind turbine.

That turbine was demolished and removed by Jackson Demolition, a contractor hired by the owners of the Eight Point Wind facility. They plan to replace the turbine in the near future and company representatives have attended multiple Town of West Union public meetings.  During those meetings, the owner of the Eight Point Wind facility has repeatedly committed to cleaning up the debris from the accident and compensating those impacted for financial losses.

Eight Point Wind have sent teams to hand pick the debris from local fields, forests, roads, and front yards.  In the case of family farms like the Mullen Farm who grow premium forage, the accident rendered the crop unsellable.  After a legal demand by the Mullen Farm, Eight Point Wind compensated the farm for the “first cutting,” but the farm only received about eighty percent of that revenue after legal fees. 

For most hay and forage farmers, there are multiple cuttings per year, at least two and ideally three or even four.  After the first cutting was finished, the mowed fields were apparently still contaminated with fiberglass insulation shreds.  The farmers called Eight Point Wind to report the debris was still present and compromising the crop.  They sent pictures showing the fiberglass strands and asked NextEra to employ the equipment needed to remove the debris before the next succession of grass emerged.  They received no response from NextEra and grass grows fast.  The pictures below provided by the farmer showing plenty of fiberglass strands in the fields.

As the debris slowly disappears under the new grass growth, the Mullen Farm wonders if hiring legal counsel just to break even on the crop is the best answer.  Paying a lawyer twenty percent leaves very little profit for the small family farm.  They have to cut, dry, and bale the hay regardless and the hay still cannot be used on the farm or sold on the open market.  Hay shortages happen, supply and demand can often allow a hay farmer to make a sweet last-minute deal.  In the Mullen Farm’s case, they are totally eliminated from reselling the hay due to the contamination.  Moreover, the farm will be forced to purchase forage for their own animals on that same open market.  Veterinarians that the farm have consulted with believe ingesting strands of fiberglass could be lethal for a cow.

After the first cutting was taken off the field was the opportune time to use a piece of equipment that Eight Point Wind explained to the community as a giant vacuum cleaner.  The equipment is designed for removing debris from large areas like hayfields.  At the meeting we attended, this solution seemed like a reasonable way to mitigate the damage from the debris and give the Mullen Farm hope to resume normal operations sooner rather than later.

Apparently, that hasn’t happened and the Mullen Farm is getting further and further into a lurch.  The first cutting which was compensated for was a break even deal after the lawyer got paid.  This second cutting is now likely lost as well, along with the opportunity to use the specialized vacuum equipment until the fields are mowed again. 

We contacted the owner of Eight Point Wind, NextEra Energy about the cleanup, or lack thereof, and asked the following questions:

  • Why wasn’t the machine you described to residents at the town meeting, best described as a giant vacuum, employed on the Mullen Farm after the first hay cutting and when it was clear more debris was in the fields?
  • Will you compensate the Mullen Farm for the second cutting of hay or do they need to hire a lawyer and continue to lose wealth due to this wind turbine fire?
  • Will you employee the aforementioned “vacuum” equipment on the fields after the second cutting in order to allow the Mullen Farm to proceed with 2024 operations?

NextEra did reply to our questions but they didn’t provide any answers. 

NextEra Public Relations spokesman Michael Mazur provided this statement:

“NextEra Energy Resources takes all claims very seriously and carefully investigates the specifics of each individual case. I cannot provide further information on this particular situation.

It is important to note that, in response to the turbine incident, the company engaged a contractor who removed debris from the area and a public health toxicologist with expertise in evaluating exposures to various materials and the potential for health effects. The toxicologist determined no long-term health effects or impacts to the environment are expected.”

This lack of specific comment by NextEra is what most would consider standard corporate policy in such a situation.  Michael Mazur is the mouthpiece for a very large, publicly traded corporation valued at about $150 billion dollars.

While the corporation isn’t expected to make comments against shareholder interests, the actions on the ground indicated that the Mullen Farm cleanup effort isn’t happening.

After reports that the main contractor for the cleanup, Jackson Demolition, had pulled up stake and left town we asked Mazur a follow up:

SUN: Hi Mike, the local Eight Point Wind representative Brett Herzog has confirmed with landowners that the cleanup contractor, Jackson Demolition, announced that the contract for cleanup has ended and they are no longer working with the Eight Point Wind Farm.  Can you make a statement affirming or denying this development?

NEXTERA Rep Michael Mazur: Thank you for the follow-up, Andrew.

I can confirm the company has completed its clean-up efforts, which have been substantial in terms of time and resources. Thank you, again.

While we appreciated the prompt communication from NextEra, that only creates more questions about the future of the Mullen Farm.   

Hoping for a third party to chime in and give some perspective, we attempted to contact the local New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets local representative Michael Saviola to speak about the Mullen Farm situation.  His only reply was to a text, “Sorry I can’t talk right now.”

This isn’t a big surprise either because state regulators are reluctant to comment on a matter that is being investigated or has a high likelihood of litigation in the future.

The NextEra statement and the lack of a statement from “Ag and Markets,” indicates another uphill battle for the Mullen family farm.  Without additional clean-up efforts and a lack of action by state regulators, the Mullen Farm is left with few choices moving forward.

We will continue to follow this story and the aftermath of the “Rexville Wind Turbine Fire.”

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