By Bill Henry Owen Sound Sun Times
Three months after the Ripley Wind Farm went online in December, 2007, Dave Colling’s phone started ringing.
Three of his neighbours were seeing doctors about recurring ear aches. They knew Colling, a former dairy farmer who lives within two kilometres of the turbines near the southern Bruce County community, had an interest in and could test for what he calls “electrical pollution.”
“It’s like living inside a microwave. It radiates,” Colling told more than 100 people Tuesday night in Keady.
He said stray voltage eventually forced four families from their homes. Two have not returned, and one family sold the farm and moved away.
“Everybody says it’s in their heads. It’s not in their heads,” Colling said. “I know these people. They’re honest, hardworking people.”
Wind farm officials in Ripley finally agreed to bury some transmission lines. That improved but didn’t end the problems, Colling said.
Many people experience difficulty breathing and a pressure in their chest. Colling said it’s caused by stray electricity, citing numerous research sources linking illness to electrical hypersensitivity. Symptoms at some Ripley homes can arrive within 15 minutes, he said.
“I can’t spend much time in these homes now because I get the same symptoms.”
One farmer, his pregnant wife and their two-year-old daughter have been living in a single room at a Kincardine hotel since April at the wind farm’s expense, Colling said.
Before that, her parents had taken their “screaming” child to the hospital emergency department some 10 times with ear aches. Her mother moved the girl out of the house, but the aches returned as soon as she would visit for the weekend.
“This little two-year-old girl does not know what a wind turbine is doing to her. She has no connection mentally that this thing is making her sick,” Colling said.
Colling also said there’s evidence that earthworms have vacated much of the land near the turbines, and rodents, cats and dogs won’t go near some farm buildings where he has measured electrical pollution.
“It drives everything away,” he said.
The information meeting at Keady was organized by local wind turbine opponents, part of a provincial network that has lobbied for months for third-party health studies before more turbines are allowed in Ontario.
Such a moratorium is what Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdoch was to ask for today at Queen’s Park through a private member’s resolution. Murdoch wants a moratorium on wind turbines until Dr. Arlene King, the province’s chief medical officer of health, rules definitively that they pose no health risk.
Tuesday, a health ministry spokesman told The Sun Times King “absolutely” believes no definite scientific evidence links the noise from turbines to any adverse health effects, and such a moratorium is not necessary. King, however, told a provincial legislative committee Tuesday she wants more information about any health effects caused by wind turbines.
Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting in Keady took issue with ministry spokesman’s statement, pointing to World Health Organization research which ties high frequency sound and infrasound to numerous health complaints.
Colling pointed not to noise, but to homes where people became sick from what he said was electrical pollution. Both at Ripley and at a wind farm in Shelburne he measured stray voltage he said clearly made people sick.
Six families in Shelburne, where he has also measured stray voltage, sold their properties to the wind energy company there. As part of the settlement, Colling said they can’t speak about what happened.
Kincardine resident Glen Wilds, one of the people forced from his home near the Ripley Wind Farm, declined comment in detail about what happened to his family when contacted by The Sun Times yesterday.
Wilds said the Ripley families affected by the turbines have all agreed to stop discussing their situation publicly, after months of being doubted and ridiculed.
“We’re just tired of it all,” Wilds said. “We’re tired of trying to prove to people that we’re sick.”
Wilds said his farmhouse has been empty since he left it in July of 2008, and his son and family have also left their home empty to live instead at a Kincardine hotel since late April.
“That should be enough proof.”