By Mary Golem, Owen Sound Sun Times
With landowners in the area now being approached by wind energy companies to sign land leases, “we need to arm ourselves with as much information as we can in order to make an informed decision,” Ingrid DeVisser told close to 200 people attending a public information session on industrial wind turbines in Elmwood Tuesday evening.
Just how many landowners in the Hanover/Brockton area have been approached is unclear, but DeVisser stressed to those in attendance they need to do “a personal assessment” of the possible risks including health effects from noise and vibration on both human and animal health, the financial implications “and the ethics — is it right?” she asked, “before signing anything.”
A panel of three anti-wind energy experts — an electrical pollution consultant, a retired pharmacist and a landowner forced to vacate her home because of health issues caused by nearby turbines — spent about two hours warning those in attendance about low frequency noise and related health concerns, stray voltage and electrical hypersensitivity, decreased land values and restrictive land leases.
Speaking mainly about low frequency noise, Carmen Krogh, a retired pharmacist who has not only extensively studied the effect of such noise but also suffers from its effects, said “some people doubt that these symptoms occur. I can tell you they are real. Low frequency noise is an annoyance and an annoyance is described by the World Health Organization as an adverse health effect,” Krogh said, adding low frequency noise can cause everything from sleeplessness and problems concentrating to increased physical stress, pychological problems and even heart palpitations. “Also understated is the impact of shadow flicker” caused by turbine blades.
Krogh said there is currently no scientific methodology to measure wind turbine noise “to determine if they are compliant to acceptable noise decibel levels or not . . . there needs to be more research . . . these turbines need to be moved away from residences . . . we need to understand what the impacts are before any more of these are built.”
Ripley-area electrical pollution tester David Colling claims “dirty electricity” or stray voltage caused by turbines “will make you sick.” He said the high frequency voltage on the transmission lines coming from the turbines interferes with the standard power lines leading into homes.
Colling, a former dairy farmer, admitted he signed a lease with a wind energy developer, along with some of his neighbours, in 2004 but urged those at the meeting “not to make the same mistake I did. After I saw what these things were doing to my neighbours and my community, I knew I had to get out,” adding he was “fortunate enough to get out of my lease, which had expired, after three years.”
Colling said he personally knows of five families in the Ripley area who have had to abandon their homes “and are living in motels paid for by the wind companies” because of serious health issues caused by turbines in their area.
“Yet people on the street told these people they were crazy . . . they’re under gag orders by the wind companies not to say anything, but their health concerns are very real. These people were sick,” Colling said, warning those attending the meeting not to get involved.
Describing what he has seen happen to his community since the turbines went up as “horrific”, Colling was emotional when he stated “it will split your community . . . all these turbines do is make greedy people more greedy. Those in favour are driven by greed and the almighty dollar and it will destroy your community. I’ve seen it happen.”
Barbara Ashbee knows full well the health effects caused from living near wind turbines. While she spoke, she played a taped recording of the noise from a wind turbine. After hearing the recording for only a few minutes, many in attendance breathed a deep sigh of relief when the recording was turned off.
“Silence really is golden,” meeting chair Bruce Jacklin commented, as several in the audience nodded their heads in agreement.
When noise decibel levels consistently reached over 68 in their home, Ashbee said she and her husband — both suffering from headaches, nausea, lack of sleep and other health issues — were forced to leave their home.
“It was heartbreaking,” she admitted later, “but we had to. We couldn’t stand it.”
“Once we left our house the symptoms went away. What does that tell you?”
Ashbee says she knows of “several” families across Ontario similarly affected “yet still today our government denies there’s any effect from these things. Ontario families are powerless to defend themselves against these big wind turbine companies.”
“When I hear of other families being affected I can offer them no help, just empathy. I know what they are going through and it’s awful,” she said. “We are all victims of a flawed energy policy.”
Brockton Coun. Anne Louise Gibbons serves as the municipality’s representative on the municipally-driven working group committee, spearheaded by Arran-Elderslie council, which is looking into how area municipalities can prevent any further wind development projects in the area.
“We’re doing what we can to ensure our area is not destroyed by these monsters on the horizon,” Gibbons said, admitting “there’s very little municipalities can do because of the Green Energy Act. “What we are doing is gathering information and with that, we will develop protocols.”