Amidst accolades surrounding the completion of the Wolfe Island wind turbines, a friend and I just took our first trip of the season to my small property on Simcoe Island.
About 5 km west of Marysville, at the turnoff to the Simcoe Island ferry, stand about 15 or more turbines, quite evident on the boat trip across. We drove west another 4 or 5 km to the property, which faces south.
It’s a lovely spot, though noticeably different this year. We did not stay late enough to see the flashing light on each tower, though you can see these from the Kingston waterfront quite clearly, reflecting over the lake.
What we can’t see from Kingston, but what one island neighbour told me is among the biggest changes to their lives, is the noise. When the wind is up, “it sounds like a jet engine coming through — and they’re not all up and running yet.”
On the website www.windturbinesyndrome.com,families in Shelburne, Ont., Wisconsin, Missouri and England make similar comments when telling stories and showing their YouTube videos about the effects of living near turbines — headaches, nausea and insomnia, to name a few.
Some cope, while others sell or abandon their homes because of the effects on their health.
I wonder if some of the research and commentaries by Dr. Nina Pierpont (going back to 2005) about the health effects of noise, low-frequency vibrations and something called “shadow flicker” are the same sources of information behind the rumours I’ve heard of a possible Ontario government policy to restrict turbines to at least 1.5 km away from where people live and work.
I wonder, too, about how many turbines would have been built on Wolfe Island had the project been caught by such a policy.
Eleven years ago, I helped organize an international conference about breast cancer here in Kingston. Delegates talked about the emerging environmental risks to human health of chemicals used to make soft plastics.
Speakers urged a precautionary approach and to avoid the use of these chemicals in food containers and baby pacifiers.
Now the science about these chemicals has become the basis for bans on soft plastic toys from overseas that contain these same substances. Are we missing a similar lesson? Should we be making comparisons to “wind turbine syndrome”?
I’m all for green power and the policy to support it, but not if it risks human health and communities.
I’m worried about the health of my island neighbours.
The science isn’t complete yet, but what about the precautionary tales of families, physicians and scientists such as those on the website?
In the case of the Wolfe Island wind project, and for the sake of the folks with whom I share a small part of Simcoe Island, I hope it won’t take 11 years to figure it out.
I guess time will tell.
Karen Weisbaum, Kingston