Family sues wind farm, alleging health damage

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.

15 thoughts on “Family sues wind farm, alleging health damage

  1. Note it was an “Environmental Review Panel” not a health review panel that took place last year. What is needed is a health review.

  2. They couldn’t link the E.coli contamination in Walkerton’s water to resident’s health problems until they did a proper epidemiological study. How is this any different? IWT’s are emitters of low frequency noise, and there is enough research in other areas on LFN to show people are affected health wise.

  3. This denial is getting tiresome….wish the media would actually research infomation instead of going to industry lobby groups like CanWEA for comment. Seriously, what do they expect they are going to say?
    Seems everyone except the media knows of Colby and Kings purpose in this and they are still being quoted.
    Neither of them have talked to any of the families who are suffering. They are no longer doctors they are just talking heads for the industry or they would have investigated by now.
    Message to the media:
    Do your homework and quit relying on the same old people. Look at the peer reviewed articles released and ask yourself why the government won’t acknowledge what is happening even with these reports sitting on their desks. They don’t WANT to!
    Obviously we have a bigger problem here than you care to consider.

  4. These people who deny any health problems and turbines are linked should be made to live by them! Good luck to the Michaud family – let’s hope they are not dismissed or belittled any more. The way that health-affected victims of turbines are treated is disgusting!

  5. Thanks for this David. By the way, a few months ago, I emailed the Sierra Club regarding “safe setbacks.” I don’t suppose you will be too surprised that I have, to date, received no response.

  6. Note the subtle, but very significant misstatements in this article:

    “It [Suncor] 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.””

    The lie in this sentence derives from the fact that the evidence presented at the ERT was submitted in the context of trying to prove, before it happened, that the future operation of the wind power plant “will cause serious harm to human health.” Because the wind power plant was not operating at the time of the ERT, it was not a question of whether the facility “is causing” harm, only of whether the evidence presented could meet the (arguably, theoretically impossible) burden of proof that something “will” happen. The Michaud case will have to present the empirical evidence, and only after that has been done can any judicial body decide whether the Kent Breeze facility “causes” harm to human health. This is a curious misstatement for “Suncor” to make; they ought to understand this distinction, and the fact that they would make such a glaring mistake when it is clear that they are choosing their words very carefully, makes one wonder if they are deliberately misstating the facts in order to skew public perception (to the personal detriment of the Michauds.)

    Also note these erroneous statements:

    “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.””

    Actually, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in her May 2010 piece of garbage stated “While some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link…”

    This statement from the CMOH is distinctly different from how CanWEA mistakenly describes it in the article above. The CMOH only said that the literature that she reviewed “did not demonstrate” (read: does not explain) a direct causal link, but she certainly doesn’t state conclusively that there is “no direct adverse effect on human health” as CanWEA suggests.

    By pointing this out, I only mean to show that Suncor and CanWEA are LYING; there is also the important elephant of “indirect” health effects that is routinely ignored by those in positions of authority. How disturbing. I hate to be semantical, but they’re winning the fight right now on semantics, and we have to be vigilant to point out their lies, however painful it is.

    • I admire your unravelling of new generation PR language.
      They lost the fight rurally. So I don’t think they are winning in rural Ontario
      Are they winning at all
      I think that the people in cities don’t give hoot if it kills 10 people or a hundred. Nor do they care about bats and birds , or what your house value is. Or your quality of life.
      Because it doesn’t affect them.
      Find something that does , and you have the war won.

      • Exactly. Though property values and human health are not direct issues in Toronto, I believe a good place to start is for people in cities – particularly Toronto which considers itself to be ulta-progressive and enlightened – to know that wind developers are applying for permits to kill endangered species. The CBC’s Dave Seglins, who has finally got information about health effects and property values out into the open via CBC News, has been informed about the application by Gilead Power to kill, harm and destroy the habitat of the endangered Blandings Tutle and Whipoorwill bird at Ostrander Point. I hope this story will break on CBC soon.

        There are many, many people in Toronto who care deeply about birds and animals. They regard such an application to be terribly wrong, and are deeply shocked when they hear about it. And there are many who just do not seem to care, although I believe they do care, but have been seduced and coerced by the “Green” religion. But when enough citizens of Toronto know that the very species they are trying to save are being killed off by the get-rich-quick scam that is Big Wind, the urban tide will turn. Otherwise, what will they tell their children?

      • The fact that hundreds and possibly thousands of Ontarians are suffering in their homes because there are wind turbines operating dangerously closeby, and the fact that developers are in the process of perpetrating thousands more on innocent rural Ontarians, shows that indeed “they” are still winning. This won’t last long; I am confident we will bring them down, in time, but for too many, it will be too late.

        The industry and their government hacks may eventually be held to account for the fact that their PR language is libellous, negligent, and I don’t think any of us would be surprised to find out that they are actually knowingly telling lies in order to try and discredit their opponents. This is extreme evidence of their “bad faith”. Since they are still getting away with telling very subtle lies that completely distort the truth, the media is able to present a story that suggests that maybe these wind companies and the government are being quite reasonable, and overflowing with good faith. We know better than that however, and are forced to play the role of mentor as we patiently guide the media along and show them how to do their jobs.

  7. In Ontario, there are many laws that protect the welfare of children. There are protocols for removing children from dangerous or violent surroundings and criminal charges for those who cause harm to minors.
    Now that FOIA releases reveal that senior MOE officers are reporting to the Ministry that the turbines are too loud, that the noise guidelines need to be be revised and that officers have no means of measuring compliance to noise standards, it is clear that the government has been made aware of the problems.

    We now have a situation where the government allows landowners to sign wind leases and have wind turbines installed on their property, knowing that these landowners are not afforded the same setback protection as neighbouring residents. Many of these landowners have young children, who are helpless to object to the situation, and through no fault of their own, are subject to harmful noise emissions. The government then allows these landowners to be gagged, so that if problems arise, they are unable to warn others of the consequences. Thus, the cycle of harm is repeated with other families. Who is looking out for the welfare of these children and how, as a society, can we justify ignoring their health just because their parents signed a contract with a company? Do the children of lease-holders not deserve the same protection as any other child in our province?

    Can someone explain to me how this is not state-sanctioned child abuse?

      • Offhand, I can’t think of any other situation where a parent can legally subject their child to possible harm for profit. Adult leaseholders may waive the possible negative health effects for themselves, but do they have the right to waive protection for their minor children?

  8. Could there be a third-party intervention on behalf of the minor children? Would a medical doctor or other regulated health care professional be obligated, morally and/or legally, to report possible abuse if they knew of a child who was sick from turbines?

Comments are closed.