8/29/10 A letter from Vinalhaven, the "success story" touted at wind siting council meeting AND Maple Leafs and Badgers face the same policy when it comes to wind farm complaints: Review the existing literature and ignore the people who are suffering
I am one of the neighbors of the Vinalhaven wind turbines, misled by turbine supporters in 2008 and 2009 that "ambient sounds would mask the noise of the turbines." As I write these words, the noise from the wind turbines churns in the background.
My home is 3,000 feet from the turbines, and my experience is contrary to all the assertions that were made during the permitting process a few years ago. At this hour of the morning, it should be peaceful outside, the quiet interrupted only by the calling crows or osprey circling.
Some locals dismiss the noise complaints, saying that Vinalhaven had a diesel power plant for years. But to live near excessive noise is not the reason I chose to own property here. Also, as I have become familiar with wind turbine noise, it is more and more clear that there is a fundamental difference between turbine noise and other forms of industrial disturbances. Here, it is not just the constant noise, but the pulsing drone that makes the noise particularly hostile that is so disturbing. It is inescapable.
At a recent public hearing on Vinalhaven on turbine noise sponsored by the Island Institute, one neighbor - at the point of tears - said that she had been forced from her house when her chest began vibrating at the same syncopation as the turbines outside.
At that hearing I said I supported wind energy so long as the economic advantages to ratepayers were clear and so long as surrounding property values were not affected. The jury is out on the first point, but not on the second. The constant noise from the turbines, even at 3,000 feet, has taken away a valuable part of my investment and a key part of my family's well-being.
I never imagined my first waking thought would be: where is the wind blowing and how much noise are the wind turbines making now? But that is what happens in this formerly quiet, beautiful place.
At the public meeting in Vinalhaven, I asked a question: when would the natural quiet be restored and when would my property values be protected? There was no answer from the project supporters.
Neighbors' complaints about turbine noise rose immediately after the three, 1.5 megawatt GE turbines were turned on, last fall. A year after the Vinalhaven turbines were greeted with wide public acclaim, the turbine neighbors find themselves, through no fault of their own, in an extraordinarily difficult and expensive effort to demonstrate that the wind turbines do exceed state regulations.
The cost of wind turbines has been shifted onto neighbors who never imagined these kinds of burdens when the benefits of wind energy were sold to the public. It is wrong and it is unfair to impose both the noise and the uncertainty of resolution - or if there will ever be resolution - on a few nearby homeowners.
These inequities are predictable. They will multiply wherever wind turbines are placed within a mile-and-a-half of residences, and under the State of Maine's archaic noise regulations.
The State of Maine must provide some relief to neighbors of wind turbines. To start, a fund should be established from a utility fee imposed state-wide that allows citizens to access highly technical and expensive noise and acoustic measurement equipment and data and independent experts.
The collateral damage of wind turbines is the assessment of the noise they make. No one in authority admits this, during the permitting process. They say, "The noise will be minor," or "the sound of the wind blowing in the leaves will cover the sound." That is simply not true.
The Vinalhaven neighbors have already spent tens of thousands of dollars to engage the local utility on the matter of measuring the churning noise. The costs are not trivial, but once turbines are erected in your neighborhood, their noise will be affixed to nearby property.
Note from the BPWI Research Nerd: Yesterday, the Greenbay Press Gazette reported that state health officer and administrator for the state’s Division of Public Health, Seth Foldy concluded there were no health concerns associated with living 1250 feet from wind turbines based on his review available scientific literature.
Would his conclusion be the same if he spoke face to face with wind project residents in our state? Unfortunately he doesn't feel this is necessary.
For the time being this scenario is being played out wherever wind projects are sited near homes. People complain about sleeplessness from the noise and headaches and nausea from the shadow flicker and are repeatedly told there is no evidence in the literature to support their experience.
Since no organized study has been done as a result of the many complaints from wind project residents, it's not surprising the available literature doesn't reflect their experiences. If Health Department officials refuse to speak to those who are suffering, it never will.
North of the border, in Ontario, the story is the same. These letters from a former wind project resident to the director of the Public Health Agency of Canada are very much like ones sent to Seth Foldy at the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, and were met with a similar response.
Letter #1: From Barbara Ashbee to Dr. King – January 26th, 2010
Dear Dr. King
I am writing to you today on behalf of residents throughout Ontario, who have become victims suffering adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines being placed too close to their homes.
This issue has been routinely ignored by all ministries involved in renewable energy at all levels of government. My focus is on our provincial government as it is their policy that is forcing harm to people in their own homes. Many people have been so horribly affected that they have had to abandon their homes. Our public health department is the last potential department that I can think of that should be helping us and yet there has still been no assistance. I have never in my lifetime seen anything so disturbing as the way these people are being treated. It is unconscionable.
I understand you have been busy with H1N1 and I respect the overload of work you must be wading through, but I tell you these people that are being affected by wind turbines have been suffering longer than this flu outbreak has been in our midst. They have been routinely ignored and called names by our Ministers, the developers and by the Premier himself. We need help Dr. King and we need it now! These people do not have time to wait for another literature review to be done. There is ample evidence that these people are being harmed and I am getting extremely tired of being pushed off and ignored.
We need these turbines decommissioned now and no new turbines erected until there is a proper 3rd party independant health study completed. How can anyone that is supposed to be looking out for us continue to do their job and ignore this?
These victims have been forced to abandon their homes to live with relatives, have been billeted in motels, forced to pay rent for a safe house, forced to move into trailers and tents and sleep in their cars. What more do you need to acknowledge we have an urgent problem here?
These same people have followed every protocol under very debillitating conditions by contributing to the EBR registry, attending and presenting at the standing committee hearings, attending and speaking at green energy workshops held in the province, attending and speaking at green energy act public input meetings across the province, attending and speaking at 2 Grey-Bruce Public Health open houses in Owen Sound and Walkerton in the presence of Dr. Hazel Lynn, Dr. Ray Copes and the MOE officer. They have written countless letters to the Ministers of Environment, Energy and to the Premier himself. As well as 100′s of messages and requests made to, and through their MPPs and local councils.
Nothing has happened.
I do not know what anyone expects of these people. The depth of distress these people feel by being hurt by the very systems and people that should be helping them, has created an overwhelming sense of injustice and they have lost trust in everyone.
I speak with these people almost daily and I am at a loss as to what to tell them Dr. King.
I await your response.
Barbara Ashbee, RR1 Orangeville
Letter #2: From Barbara Ashbee to Dr. David C. Williams, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health – February 28, 2010
Dear Dr. Williams,
Thank you for your letter dated February 16th in response to my letter to Dr. King, regarding the wind turbine health issues. I appreciate your response but am disappointed when you say you are reviewing existing information. Are you speaking of another literature review? I believe there is enough compelling information that a study on people should be in order.
It is very difficult for me to be pleased with the recent appointment of the research chair from our Ontario government. As I understand it, this gentleman is an electrical engineer with experience in renewable energy technology, but with no expertise in wind turbine technology. He is not a health professional and so to hear you suggest he will “provide expert advice on potential health effects of renewable energy technologies” does not provide any degree of comfort.
Are you able to give me a better time frame of how long these residents must continue to suffer in their own homes without any government support while you are reviewing things? Why aren’t these installations being shut down while this ongoing research is being done?
This imbalance of power is overwhelming, and it is bewildering; why the lack of response from government since they received the very first complaints and why the continuing delays? Canadians expect our health ministries to be responsive to people who are experiencing adverse health effects, especially by a policy forced upon them by their government. Please keep in mind these people are powerless to shut these things off and our Ministry of Environment, who governs these projects, has not been able to monitor, control or assist in any way. The fact that Minister of Environment, John Gerretsen uses the term NIMBY to describe victims is befitting of the attitude from this government. The victims and their families have lost faith and trust, and who could blame them?
The quote below is from just one the many victims.
“I am angry, helpless, and disappointed our government would let something like this happen. I am appalled at their ignorance and lack of compassion. It saddens me to watch my family and friends suffer from the same [health] effects of the turbines. “I spend as much time as I can away from my home, away from my son who is also sleep deprived. We are exhausted and miserable. I often seek refuge with friends, often falling asleep minutes after I arrive. I feel like a gypsy.“What was once a beautiful place to live has been destroyed.”
– Tracy Whitworth, schoolteacher (Clear Creek, Ont.)
The victims need these wind installations decommissioned immediately so they can return to living in a healthy environment in their own homes while the various ministries and “experts” do their research.
If you do not agree with that, then a statement explaining your position is requested.
It is astonishing that our provincial government is proceeding with new wind installations with the knowledge of the adverse health effects associated with them. Perhaps sustainable energy resources are their mandate, but your mandate is to protect and prevent harm to our health. With all due respect, so far I have not seen any evidence of protection or prevention, or this would not continue to carry on as long as it has.
Barbara Ashbee, RR 1, Orangeville, Ontario