Residents fighting plans for an electricity substation in their village have made an 11th-hour plea to councillors to reject the scheme.
Developers behind the 11-turbine windfarm planned for Aberdeen Bay want to build a substation at a former landfill site in Hareburn Terrace at Blackdog.
But the proposals hit a stumbling block earlier this year when 75% of village residents united to oppose them, citing concerns about the possible contamination of the land with materials such as asbestos.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee deferred making a ruling on the application pending an environmental assessment, which confirmed there was “low-level traces” of asbestos in one of the areas sampled.
Yesterday, pensioner Edna Booth – who has been a driving force in the campaign against the proposals – knocked on doors around the village to let people know councillors would be making a decision on Tuesday, and that the plans have been recommended for approval.
The team behind the £230million European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EODWC) has already pledged to improve ground conditions by removing the asbestos if the substation scheme is approved.
But Mrs Booth said last night she was not satisfied the development was worth the risk, adding: “People kept asking the same question – why dig into a landfill site when you know there’s asbestos there? Everyone is so worried about it.
“They did tests and found small quantities of asbestos, but they may well find more.
“Who is going to be here in 20 or 30 years’ time when our kids develop asbestos-related illnesses?
“Blackdog has been treated as a dumping ground for years, and we’re sick and tired of it.”
Fellow opponent Nicola Brown also reiterated concerns about the volume of traffic the development would bring into the village, which is just off the A90 Aberdeen-Ellon road.
She has calculated the scheme will mean more than 6,000 vehicles coming into the village over the 14-month construction phase.
She said: “We’re just scared for the village and the kids.
“There’s nothing here, so the kids do tend to play on the pavements and the streets.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that the council is even thinking about passing it.”
Iain Todd, spokesman for the EOWDC, said: “The partners behind the EOWDC have always informed the local community of their commitment to improving any areas of ground where contaminants are discovered if consent is granted for the onshore works in order to render it safe for development.”
Meanwhile the substation developers could use “reassurance monitoring” to quell any further fears about residents breathing in asbestos, a health and safety expert has suggested.
Harris Cooper, head of occupational health and environmental safety at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said by monitoring the site, the developers would be able to prove to residents they were not at risk.
He said: “One aspect from a community point of view would be reassurance monitoring, where you monitor the air around the area to demonstrate that the fibres are not being dispersed.
“It would be carried out for the duration of the works.
“It is quite a well-established practice.”
An EOWDC spokesman insisted last night that all the necessary safety requirements for working on the site would be adopted, and that the developers would be “amenable” to extra monitoring.
He said: “The project partners would implement full regulatory control measures, as required by the HSE, to render the area safe should the development proceed. As part of this and through our commitment to reassuring the local community, we would be amenable to auxiliary monitoring methods should the HSE deem them appropriate.”
Mr Cooper stressed that not all sources of asbestos were potentially harmful, and said it depended on whether there was a risk of it becoming airborne and inhaled by others.
He said that cement sheeting – such a floor tiles – were “very low risk” and would cause very little harm if not broken up, while asbestos sheeting – such as lagging or insulation – was far more risky and should be cleared without delay if found.