12/3/09 Wind company buying homes made uninhabitable by turbine noise and shadow flicker. Canadian neighbors share our health concerns about poorly sited wind turbines
DUFFEREN COUNTY WIND FARM HEALTH EFFECTS
It’s also where they raised their four children.
When talk of a Dufferin county wind farm first started, the Frasers thought it was a great idea. They threw their support behind anything intended to better the environment. But soon after an industrial turbine — about as tall as a 25-storey building (80 metres) — started spinning nearby, they decided they had no choice but to move away.
They’re one of six Dufferin property owners to sell their land to Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD), proponents of the Melancthon EcoPower Centre, the very same operation Fraser is convinced caused their health problems.
“I’d have such a headache I’d be holding my head thinking the top was going to come off my head — that’s how bad it was,” Helen Fraser says.
“We had no idea how they would impact us until they were put up. Basically, we were all for them because we’re for anything that’s green, until [the turbines] started running. Then we started getting the symptoms.”
The Frasers lived near the first phase of the wind farm, which started operation in 2006. Not long after, she says she started to experience headaches, muscle pain, fatigue and a ringing in her ears. Bruce, she says, began having problems with his blood sugar and when the turbine faced a specific direction, their dog would urinate inside the house at night.
They didn’t connect their troubles to the turbines at first. Fraser says that came after they went away on a couple vacations and their symptoms disappeared ... until soon after they returned home.
At the time, Fraser says they lived about 420 metres from the nearest turbine. They now live in Shelburne, several kilometres away from the turbines, where Helen says they’re doing “amazing.”
“I don’t have any of the symptoms that I had before. It’s like day and night. ... We just couldn’t go on living, for health reasons, the way we were living.”
Of the six properties purchased by CHD, Scott Hossie, the company’s Ontario environmental manager, says two were purchased as a result of residents’ health complaints.
“That’s not the preferred outcome for Canadian Hydro. We prefer to find a solution that allows us to continue operating and our neighbours to continue enjoying Melancthon and Amaranth townships. By and large, we’ve been successful in doing so,” he says.
“Really, the concerns about effects on health, or concerns raised by our neighbours of wind turbines with respect to health, are very much the exception.”
CHD purchased the other four properties, Hossie says, for storage and to house construction workers as the turbines were going up.
“It’s my understanding that all these houses, if they’re not needed by Canadian Hydro, will presumably go back onto the market,” he notes.
Hossie declined to talk about which properties were purchased because of residents’ health concerns, explaining CHD and the sellers signed contracts not to discuss their deal.
Fraser says she signed such a contract.
“I can’t discuss the sale,” she says, suggesting CHD could “come back” at her if she did. “I can discuss the turbines, but we can’t discuss the sale of the property.”
Former Seventh Line of Amaranth resident Barbara Ashbee-Lormand says she too signed a similar contract with CHD, which purchased her home.
“At this point, we can state that we and Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. are pleased that we have reached a comprehensive settlement which addresses, to the satisfaction of all parties, the issues that had arisen between us regarding the performance of the General Electric wind turbines at the Melancthon EcoPower Centre,” she wrote in a statement emailed to The Banner. “The parties have all agreed that the specific terms of the settlement will remain confidential.”
Prior to the settlement, she complained vibrations from low frequency noise kept her and her husband, Dennis, up at night. She said they worked “diligently and openly” with CHD to resolve the issue without success, before they hired a lawyer to take up their case, which resulted in a settlement being reached.
The majority of people living near the local turbines don’t appear to suffer the symptoms experienced by some nearby residents.
“We’re having no problems at all,” says Melancthon’s Randy Nielsen, speaking for his wife and two teenage children. “We’re surrounded by turbines.
“We’ve had people come to visit and they all like them.”
Of about 300 neighbours, the Ministry of the Environment has received complaints from 17 regarding the Melancthon EcoPower Centre.
“If you have problems with wind turbines in your home, and you’re really having difficulty, the wind industry will eventually settle with you,” suggests Dr. Bob McMurtry, a former member of the Health Council of Canada and former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario.
“It’s worked out best for (the wind industry) if they keep those things quiet. There’s no requirement by the government for the wind industry to report settlements.”
McMurtry acknowledges he has spoken on behalf of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) — a grassroots group dedicated to raising the profile of health complaints from people living near turbines — but maintains he has no formal affiliation with the group.
“Despite individual concerns on occasion, peer-reviewed literature has never indicated any trend associated with health effects coming from wind turbines,” says Hossie. “From Canadian Hydro’s perspective, if anybody has a concern, we deal with it proactively on a case-by-case basis. We certainly do take those very seriously.”
Most of the time, he says, noise complaints are mitigated through routine maintenance and upkeep of the turbines.
“In North America, we now have more than 10,000 wind turbines operating. Concerns that have been expressed with respect to health impacts across that entire fleet are few and far between,” adds Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). “Our common understanding is that the overwhelming majority of people who live near wind turbines actually have a quite positive experience and are living productively and harmoniously with those turbines.”
McMurtry takes a different perspective on the existing literature.
“It’s remarkable. [Turbines] been around [in Canada] for over 20 years and no one’s done an adequate study to demonstrate their safety,” the doctor says.
He believes a “proper” study of the issue would take about five years to complete, with a budget of at least $1 million to complete the work.
EZT SUPPORTS FREEZE ON WIND TURBINES
By Heather Rivers
3 December 2009
EZT councillors have added their voice to a call for an embargo on industrial wind turbine projects until more studies on their health effects become available.
In a recorded vote, five of the six EZT councillors voted in favour of the carefully worded resolution designed to show their support for a moratorium.
Coun. Clive Lawry was the only councillor to vote against the resolution.
The resolution requested the Province of Ontario “impose a moratorium on all industrial wind turbine projects currently being considered until such time as the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Tourism have time to review medical, economic and environmental studies relating to industrial wind turbine development and undertake any additional studies or reviews necessary to create realistic guidelines to assure the health and economic well being of those living in proximity to industrial wind turbine developments.”
The resolution was to be forwarded to the premier of Ontario, Minister of Health, Minister of the Environment and Energy, MPP Ernie Hardeman, MP Dave MacKenzie, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and all other Oxford municipalities.
Their request follows a resolution by Zorra Township on Nov. 17 that also requested a wind turbine moratorium.
Zorra councillors passed a resolution in support of a petition presented to them by concerned citizens of Uniondale and Cobble Hills, who want to stop a local wind turbine project in Zorra Township.
The petition urged a halt to construction of wind turbines within a two-kilometre radius of any residence until a third party conducts an in-depth study of the effects of wind turbines on local residents.
The Zorra resolution also included a request that the provincial government require the environmental assessment to be reviewed by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and chief medical officer of health for Ontario, and that minimum distances set out in the Green Energy Act be applied to all homes, not just neighbouring properties.
In February, county council also called on the federal and provincial government to dedicate more resources to scientific studies for low frequency noise, and electrical and electromagnetic disturbances in areas of industrial wind turbines.
GREY COUNTY WANTS WIND TURBINE MORATORIUM
Chris Fell, Staff
The Blue Mountains Courier-Herald
The list of those demanding a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines in the local area continues to grow.
Grey County council joined the chorus of those demanding a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines at its regular meeting held on November 24. County council passed a resolution asking the provincial government to study the health affects turbines have on people more comprehensively before allowing further turbines to be built.
Former Warden and the longest serving member of county council Howard Greig brought forward a resolution asking for the province to impose a moratorium immediately until health affects are clearly studied.
“There’s no denying – in my mind – these can affect your health if you’re too close to them,” said Greig, the Mayor of Chatsworth. “We need an independent, third party study to say where these turbines should be so there is no affect on the health of our citizens,” he said.
Greig’s resolution received immediate support from Grey Highlands Mayor Brian Mullin. Currently there is a large-scale wind turbine proposal for Grey Highlands and citizens in that municipality have been fighting for the province to study the health affects of the massive machines.
“There is a wealth of information out there. Before our landscape is covered with large numbers of these turbines it’s time the province sorted out the wheat from the chaff,” said Mullin, who said provincial regulations on wind turbines aren’t based on any data from what he can tell. “The province has imposed a setback of 550 metres for them. I have not seen the studies used to determine that setback number. I think that number was just pulled out by the bureaucrats,” he said.
The moratorium received wide support from the vast majority of county councillors at the meeting. In a recorded vote it passed 76-15. Grey County council has now joined local Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdoch in calling for a moratorium on the construction of industrial wind turbines until studies about their affects on people living nearby are completed. The province recently rammed through the Green Energy Act that takes away local planning authority on energy projects deemed by the province to be “green.”
Southgate Mayor Don Lewis objected to the county’s resolution. Lewis said Southgate has a large wind turbine project right next door to it near Shelburne and he hasn’t heard about too many problems with them.
“Do we have any authority or any right to ask for this? What’s the point? Other than to make us feel warm and fuzzy,” Lewis questioned.
Both Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson and Deputy Mike Traynor also voted against the resolution proposed by Greig.