Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph public health directors are asking the recently launched Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion to investigate the effects of wind turbines.
“We have written our letter specifically recommending that they consider large population-based health studies,” medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer said yesterday.
The presence of wind farms is growing in the region. Mercer said Wellington County has applications pending in the north half. Neighbouring Dufferin already has 100 turbines operating in Amaranth and Melancthon townships.
Increasingly, municipalities want higher levels of government to set standards and probe health concerns like noise and electromagnetic disturbances, with Oxford and Prince Edward counties at the forefront.
Max Worschnigg, a retired home builder living just beyond Guelph’s western fringe who’s owned a wind turbine since late 2006, said it’s quiet and he’s never experienced any adverse health effects. He didn’t see evidence of ill health effects.
“I don’t think so, period.”
But he agreed with adopting regulations in which municipalities can direct construction so residents are happy. “I agree on that. It should be a certain distance away from the next-door property,” he said, citing an example of what a regulatory framework could include.
Ann Towell lives less than a kilometre from a proposed wind farm near Sarnia in Lambton County. She’s worried the Ontario government’s proposed Green Energy Act (Bill 150), which promotes wind and solar energy, will come into effect before a study is done and she’ll see wind turbines out her window without knowing if they’re harmful.
“We may get it shoved down our throats, whether we want it or not,” Towell said yesterday. That may force her family out of its home.
“We’re really not interested to leave, should health concerns arise,” Towell said.
Oxford County, near Woodstock, is seeking support from Canadian communities on a letter to the federal government, which prompted the Guelph health board discussion Wednesday. The Oxford letter asks Ottawa to work with Ontario and other provinces on research into the health effects of low-frequency noise and electrical and electromagnetic disturbances from turbines. It also urges national regulations on where they can be located.
Oxford deputy warden Don McKay said the issue of regulations arises from intentions to amend the county’s official plan, including where to place turbines.
“In order to draw that up, you need some criteria.” The health effects also need to be explored.
We’re looking at the science behind that,” McKay said. “Alternative energy, or green energy, has been with us only a short time.”
Higher levels of government should take a leading role so each municipality doesn’t have to do so, he said. He added Oxford isn’t throwing up roadblocks to wind power.
“It’s not that we’re opposed. In fact, we’re in favour,” McKay said.
The Toronto Environmental Alliance, or TEA, is a well-known proponent of wind energy. It’s website dispels “myths” about windmills’ harmful effects from noise, danger to birds, declining neighbouring property values and unsightly appearance.
If there are scientific, peer-reviewed reports on harmful effects on people, executive director Franz Hartmann would love to get copies.
“I haven’t seen them,” Hartmann said. “There may be negative health impacts, but there’s no evidence to date.”
Further, Hartmann said any drawbacks must be weighed against the benefits of wind power, like reducing the air pollution created by coal-burning power plants.
“We know that coal kills,” Hartmann said.