By Richard Vivian, Orangeville Banner
Two families claim continuous noise and “electrical pollution” from an Amaranth transformer substation has disrupted their lives.
Citing a long list of health problems they contend were caused by the 10th Line substation — nausea, headaches, loss of balance, diarrhea, etc. — the Whitworth and Kidd families want owner TransAlta to purchase their properties and compensate them for what they say they’ve endured.
“I think we’re reasonable people. I mean, this has caused huge health effects and upset to our lives,” said Theresa Kidd. “Our homes became inundated with electricity, pulsing, ringing, and we all started to get ill.”
The substation was built by Canadian Hydro Developers in 2006 as part of the Melancthon EcoPower Centre — featuring 133 industrial wind turbines — and purchased by TransAlta in 2009.
“Our hope is that they’ll investigate other potential sources of their concerns. We’re confident they’re not a result of the transformer station’s operation,” Bob Klager, TransAlta’s director of public affairs, said. “There is a lot of other electricity infrastructure in the area, including the transmission lines.”
The same year TransAlta entered the picture, the Ministry of the Environment instituted a minimum setback for stations such as this at 500 metres from the nearest residence, provided the station has an acoustical barrier, which this one does.
The Kidds’ home is 390 metres from the station and the Whitworths’ is 490 metres.
Before the substation began, the Whitworths and Kidds say they felt fine. But once it began, headaches and sleep deprivation soon followed.
They’re symptoms, they say, worsened after the transformer was swapped out for two that were supposed to rectify issues with noise.
To illustrate their problem, the families recently posted a video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=faEo2-o8FGM) in which a florescent light bulb is seen glowing without being plugged in, while the camera is on night vision mode.
Klager, who acknowledged he’s seen it, declined to comment on the video, stating he wasn’t there when it was filmed.
“It was unbelievable how much better you felt after you left,” Terry Kidd said, noting they’ve been staying with family near Dundalk since April of 2009, when a consultant recommended they leave.
Their family doctor also urged them to get out, the Kidds said, as did Cheryl and Ted Whitworth’s doctor.
“We have nowhere else to go,” Ted Whitworth said, noting they continue to live in the house.
“Who’s going to look after our livestock? Do we dump it? We have 35 years of genetics there — you don’t just dump that and buy it back somewhere else. And where’s the money come to buy somewhere else?”
Frustrated by what they claim is TransAlta’s lack on interest in resolving their problems, the families decided to take their concerns public.
“We made the decision (early on) that you kind of get farther with honey than you do with a stick,” Ted Whitworth said. “We figured we’re halfway reasonable people on a good day and there should be something able to work out without having to turn to the courts, where it costs everybody money.
“And we just don’t have the money to fund a lawsuit against a multi-national (corporation).”
Klager insists TransAlta has been working with the families in an effort to resolve their problems and have, as a result, upgraded technology, installed an acoustic barrier and landscaped the area around the substation.
“We have met with these families in the past and we’ve tried to work with them to address their concerns,” he said. “We do make it a priority to work with members of the communities in which we operate to answer their questions and to address any concerns they may have.”