by Avis Favaro and Elizabeth St. Philip CTV News
A rural family in southwestern Ontario has launched a lawsuit against a nearby wind farm, claiming the turbines are damaging their health. They are demanding the farm be shut down.
Lisa and Michel Michaud, and their two adult children, say they have no intention of moving away from their home and want an injunction to shut down the Kent Breeze wind farm, developed by a Suncor Energy Services unit.
They also want to be compensated for damages to the tune of $1.5 million, plus other costs.
The Michaud family says their peaceful lives at the 12.5-acre farm, near Chatham, changed in early May when the eight turbines on the nearby wind farms started turning.
First, Lisa Michaud, 46, says she got sick with vertigo.
“It is like when you have the flu or something and you have a chill. It is similar to that going through your skin all the time,” she tells CTV News.
Then, her husband Michel, 53, began having symptoms.
“There’s ringing in the ears. At night, you have trouble sleeping. You feel a vibration in the chest,” he says.
Not long after, their son Joshua, 21, complained of vertigo and balance problems.
“It’s constant there is no reprieve,” he says.
They’re suing Suncor, claiming the turbines triggered their now non-stop health problems.
“It’s not a question of money. We want our health back. We want to keep our place. We just want these things gone,” Michel says.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
This is not the first time that people have described complaints from living near wind turbines. But most studies to date say the sounds and vibrations coming from these units simply can’t be linked to health problems.
“There is no science to implicate wind turbine noise in adverse health effects and there is no credible epidemiological data to implicate this,” says Dr. David Colby, the Medical Officer of Health for Chatham-Kent.
Suncor says it engaged “in a comprehensive regulatory process to obtain an Ontario renewable energy approval to build and operate the Kent Breeze wind power facility” and “operates Kent Breeze with strict compliance to established regulations.”
It also notes that the Environmental Review Tribunal in a lengthy appeal examined health issues related to this wind farm and found “the evidence did not demonstrate that the Kent Breeze project, as approved, causes serious harm to human health.”
“We are confident that the large body of scientific and medical research presented at the tribunal from scientific experts around the world has not shown a direct correlation and should not defer from wind development,” the company said in a statement to CTV News.
Can WEA, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, says it doesn’t want to comment on the lawsuit while it is still before the courts, but says it too is confident that wind turbines have no direct effect on health.
“The balance of scientific and medical reviews around the world have concluded that sounds or vibrations emitted from wind turbines are not unique and have no direct adverse effect on human health,” the group said in a statement to CTV News.
“This is backed in Ontario by the findings of Chief Medical Officer of Health Arlene King in a May 2010 report.”
They added that they will continue to review new information on the subject as it is made available.
The family’s lawyer says other families in the area are coming forward with similar complaints. They say they plan to stay rooted to their farm, while the legal battle decides whether the turbines stay or go.
“I’m not against being green, but when you are sick all the time, it’s not fun,” says Michel.