Four Months Later, New York Hay Farm is Still Unusable

Fiberglass contaminated hay at New York farm after wind turbine fire.
Tens of thousands of pounds of fiberglass contaminated hay that is unusable. NextEra’s Eight Point Wind Facility turbines loom in the background. (source: Wellsville Sun)
On March 28th, a wind turbine at NextEra’s Eight Point Wind Facility near Greenwood, New York caught fire. As usual, firefighters were helpless to fight a fire burning more than 400 feet in the air and could only watch it burn. As the inferno raged, thousands of pounds of burning fiberglass broke off from the turbine blades, where the wind carried it more than a mile, depositing it in the fields of many local farmers. Much of it landed on Mullen Farms, a local hay farm, ruining their entire first cop of hay. Although NextEra claimed they were 100% responsible for the damage, their clean up efforts were slow and grossly inadequate. NextEra did finally compensate Mullen Farms for the loss of their crop, but only after Mullen was forced to sue them. After legal fees, which the farm had to pay themselves, they only recovered 80% of their loss. To make matters worse, since they obviously could not feed fiberglass contaminated hay to their own livestock, they were forced to purchase hay on the open market.

And Mullen Farms’ problems are far from over. NextEra claimed they would clean up the field and remove the fiberglass. This was started but never completed. The company that NextEra contracted with to perform the cleanup has left and stated they are finished. This while Mullen’s hay fields are still covered in fiberglass. Because of this, it is unusable. Not only did they already lose their first crop, but they will lose their second crop too. And most likely their third. They’ve attempted to contact NextEra multiple times to complete the cleanup, but NextEra has ignored them. When a local newspaper asked NextEra if they would have the cleanup completed in time for the 2024 season, NextEra refused to answer. Meanwhile, Mullen Farms is left with their livelihood completely destroyed.

Fiberglass falling burning Rexville windturbine
Fiberglass rains down from a burning wind turbine in Rexville, NY. (source: Wellsville Sun)
NextEra claims that fiberglass is nontoxic, only causing minor skin irritation if handled. But that’s not what other sources say. As far back as the early 1970’s, Dr. Mearl F. Stanton of the National Cancer Institute found small fiberglass particles (small enough to get into the lower portion of the lungs) to be a “potent carcinogen” in rats with effects similar to asbestos. He went on to state, “It is unlikely that different mechanisms are operative in man.” In 1994, the U.S. Government classified fiberglass as a “possible human carcinogen,” though it has since removed it from the carcinogen list under intense industry pressure. The International Agency on Cancer Research of the World Health Organization has listed some fibers used in fiberglass as possible human carcinogens.

Though it seems there is some controversy as to whether fiberglass by itself is carcinogenic, it’s also worth pointing out that burning something fundamentally changes its chemical composition such that a substance that might not be particularly toxic on its own can become toxic after it is burned. One need look no further than their own kitchen for examples of this. By itself, bread is harmless. But burned toast is not because the burning process oxidizes starches in the bread and converts them into acrylamide, a chemical that is known to be carcinogenic and also cause nerve damage. The same thing happens when frying starchy foods like potatoes in vegetable oil.

One thing that is not in dispute is that ingesting fiberglass particles can cause severe stomach irritation. Mullen Farms has consulted with veterinarians who believe that ingesting fiberglass strands could be fatal to cows or horses.

But even if there really is no danger from consuming burned strands of glass and plastic, the fact is, I wouldn’t want to eat food contaminated with fiberglass, I doubt you would want to eat it, and I doubt anyone at NextEra would be willing to eat it either if I told them there was fiberglass mixed in with it. I wouldn’t feed it to my animals, and the FDA would certainly issue a recall on food if it were found to be contaminated with fiberglass. Real health risks or not, Mullen’s can’t feed their hay to their own animals, nor can they sell it to other farmers or horse owners. The simple fact is that no one is going to buy hay that is contaminated with fiberglass.

Make no mistake. Burning wind turbines are similar to small-scale nuclear accidents in that they can contaminate agricultural fields more than a mile away from the turbine, rendering the soil unusable for long periods of time. The difference? In the 70 plus year history of nuclear power, there have only been two accidents in the entire world that have caused significant off-site contamination, where as there are dozens of wind turbine fires every single year. And some, like this one, devastate the livelihood of farmers.

Blowing smoke and fiberglass from Rexville wind turbinefire
Wind carried smoke and burning fiberglass more than a mile before dropping it on neighboring farms. (Source: Wellsville Sun)

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Mike

Mike

I'm a freelance writer who has published multiple technical books. I'm also a long time resident of rural Buchanan County who owns and takes care of two rescue horses. I am interested in preserving our rural farm land for the future of both our children and our animals.

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