© AgMedia Inc.
By GEOFF DALE
It’s been a long time coming but the recent decision by the Ontario Energy Board to deal with the contentious issue of stray voltage on farms is welcome news for former dairy producer Lee Montgomery.
“This all started for me more than 36 years ago when I first noticed problems with the animals,” he says. “Patience has been my best ally. I had to get rid of my cows because of the stray voltage – it put me right of business.”
Montgomery, who now grows beans, wheat, hay and corn, began experiencing problems with his animals in the 70s including skittish behaviour, poor eating habits, lower conception rate and a higher mortality rate in calving.
On Dec. 12, 1980, he took part in a roundtable discussion at his kitchen table and the next morning he learned he had stray voltage in his barn.
When veterinarians, engineers, water testers and farm equipment dealers were unable to determine the root cause, he came to the conclusion, by a process of elimination that stray voltage from Hydro installations was responsible.
This month’s amendments – resulting from the OEB’s nearly two-year-long stray voltage consultation – include:
• Distributors must investigate farm stray voltage complaints using qualified people.
• When a system is found to contribute to stray voltage on a farm in excess of a specified threshold, the distributor must work to reduce the voltage to acceptable levels.
• Distributors serving livestock customers must make available a farm stray voltage customer response procedure that sets out the process to respond to customer complaints and inquiries.
Explaining the phrase “in excess of a specified threshold,” OEB spokesperson Paul Crawford says an investigation will be triggered when more than two milli-amps or one volt of voltage is detected.
“If the distributor is found to be contributing more than one milli-amp or half a volt to that amount, then the distributor has to take steps to investigate or mediate the problem.”
Barry Fraser, former Ontario government agricultural representative for Kent County, who took part in the process as a private citizen, says one of the most important points is that the acceptable level of voltage on the farm to start an investigation has dropped from to 0.5 volts from 10 volts.
“This ensures electricity to farm customers is of a quality that will not unduly impact the health and safety of livestock operations,” he adds. “I’m very pleased the amendments will be in operation by mid-September.”
Montgomery, who was involved in the consultation process from day one, adds while there were “a few more things” he would have liked to have seen resolved, he is very happy with the results and is expecting calls from other farmers on the issue.
“I’ve had phone calls from away as British Columbia,” he adds. “This is all about people being the bottom line.” BF