By Mike Beitz, Stratford Beacon Herald
A standing room only crowd at the Sebringville Community Centre Tuesday night was seen by organizers as a good barometer of the level of concern about a proposed industrial wind farm just north of the hamlet. Nearly 300 people turned out for a community information meeting on the planned 10-megawatt project, which would see five turbines installed within two kilometres of Sebringville between roads 130 and 135.
“I think it says that people are becoming more aware of the issue, and they want to learn more about the subject,” said Dean Trentowsky, a spokesperson for West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT), which hosted the meeting. “It’s important to them.”
WEPAT wants a moratorium on wind farm development until an independent health study has been undertaken to determine the impact of the massive turbines.
It’s a key piece of missing information that communities need to make an informed decision, said Trentowsky.
Indeed, each of the guest speakers Tuesday night was critical of the lack of information from surrounding wind farm projects like the one proposed for the Sebringville area, and a lack of support from the provincial government.
“It’s a big concern of ours . . . how secretive it is,” said Jeanne Melady, a representative of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) who gave some background on the so-called Zorra Festival project. “We need to have more transparency. People need to know.”
Information presented by Melady and the other speakers painted a bleak and sometimes frightening picture of the effects of established wind farms on those who live nearby.
Lorrie Gillis of Wind Voice, a self-reporting group on the effects of wind turbines, noted that more than 136 people in Ontario who live near turbine installations have reported health-related problems, including heart palpitations, headaches, sleep deprivation and nausea.
“I believe this number is the tip of the iceberg,” said Gillis.
Barb Ashbee related how she was forced to leave her home near a Shelburne turbine after experiencing those symptoms, as well as a host of others, including pressure in her chest, ringing in her ears and strange rashes.
“All of these health events were not a coincidence,” she said, noting that the symptoms disappeared shortly after she and her husband moved away from the turbines.
Having her concerns dismissed or ignored by the province is “insulting and demoralizing,” said Ashbee, who suggested that failing to act on the growing evidence of health issues related to wind turbines is “unconscionable” and represents negligence on the part of the McGuinty government. Some of those issues may be related not only to the noise and vibration from the turbines themselves, but also to stray voltage associated with the transmission of power, said farmer and electrical consultant Dave Colling. Especially for those with electrical hypersensitivity, “dirty electricity” produced by turbines can be devastating, Grey County realtor Mike McMurray suggested that property values, especially in rural areas where natural beauty, peace and quiet are big draws for landowners, can also be hurt by the presence of wind turbines, in some cases losing 20-40%. In other cases, homes become unsellable, and are abandoned or demolished.
“It is inevitable this will have an impact,” said McMurray.
Many in the crowd seemed to support the stance taken by the speakers that more transparency is needed when it comes to wind turbines.
Alan Riehl, who lives near Sebringville, said that while he has concerns about some of the issues raised during the meeting, including property values and the capability of the electrical grid to support new projects, he said he’s keeping an open mind about the turbines.
“I’m not against them and I’m not for them,” said Riehl. “But I do think a lot more information is needed.”
Perth-Wellington MPP and Environment Minister John Wilkinson, who was invited to the meeting but did not attend, issued a statement beforehand supporting the province’s position on wind energy.
“Some people have already made up their minds to oppose wind turbine projects,” said Wilkinson in the statement. “That is their right. Fortunately, the majority of people are very interested in seeing greener forms of energy in Ontario so we can finally break our addiction to dirty coal. The medical community has always been very clear on this issue. Dirty coal and the resulting air pollution leads to unnecessary illness and premature death. Green energy leads to cleaner air and prevents needless suffering and health-care costs.”