Huron County to probe wind turbine health impacts
“We’re treating it as a potential health hazard as if it were a food [poisoning] outbreak or a cancer cluster” — Huron County epidemiologist Dr Erica Clark
Ontario Farmer, March 15, 2016
By Frances Anderson
(reprinted with permission)
Clinton -The Huron County Health Unit is launching an online survey for residents a suffering in the shadow of industrial wind turbines.
Erica Clark, the Health Unit’s epidemiologist, said the survey will be tested in April, and the goal is to launch the survey in May.”
“We’re treating it as a potential health hazard investigation… exactly as if it were a food disease outbreak or a cancer cluster” Clark explained in an interview.
“The health unit’s mandate is population health, so if it’s something that impacts the health of a community, it’s our jurisdiction.”
And, she added “to my knowledge, we’re the first health unit that’s started this investigation.”
The health unit couldn’t act in advance of the impacts, Clark said, but there are now 270 turbines in the county, and another 50 “coming soon!” With the turbines up and running, health complaints from residents, di rect ly, and through the Facebook pages of health unit staff, have flooded in.
“It’s got to be exhausting,” said Clark. “Some of the emails I get come in two or three times a day.”
This has helped the health unit create a complaint tracking form that is the basis of the survey.
Clark spoke to Ontario Farmer after a presentation to the County’s Board of Health, by Jeanne Melady and Gerry Ryan. They reviewed health impact statements from residents from 26 properties, reporting negative effects ranging from sleeplessness, nausea and nose bleeds, to tinnitus, chest pain and vertigo. Melady herself used to live in St. Columban, but has since relocated to London. She noted there is little protection for residents from the Ministry of the Environment, which sets the regulations that turbines must meet.
The only place the Green Energy Act references health is the Environmental Review Tribunal, but this requires proof of impact before the turbines are built.
Melady also noted that the wind power lobby got rules regarding infrasound, which is outside the range of audible sound but may impact health, removed from regulations because they knew this was an issue.
So, the only recourse left is an appeal to the provincial Health Protection and Promotion Act which governs the Health Units and requires investigation of something that is harming human health.
About 60 residents crowded into the board meeting to support Melady’s presentation. Among them were Rosemary Pentland and three of the oldest of her seven children. They farm north of Nile – “at the start of the red light district” she says, wryly, referencing the blinking night lights that warn airplanes away from the airspace around the K2 project.
“I’ve told Huron County that they need to be held accountable,” she said.
“I have a wind turbine just past 550 feet away,” she told Ontario Farmer. “I have had an ear ache, and tinnitis ever since they first flicked the switch,” she said.
The children’s symptoms range from headaches to ear aches, and one of the youngest has had daily nosebleeds.
“I want to go where there’s no projects,” said Pentland, but it’s not so simple to move a farm.
One has to go a long way to get away from turbine impact warns Ruth Stauttener. She lives 10 km away from the nearest turbines but “is still subject to the sound of a dull motor,” even after she and her husband turned off every device in the house.
“Earplugs make it worse,” she said. “Atmospheric conditions have a lot to do with it…. It was worse in the fall.”
The intent of the health unit survey is to track the effect of turbines on human health over time, and seasons, as weather seems to have major effect.
The survey format is being streamlined. Residents wanting to participate will call the health unit to register their name, age, and location, and situation within the turbine complex, then will be given a personal code to attach this information to their ongoing reporting of sumptoms.
And, while individual’s information will be kept confidential, the information will be aggregated and Clark has committed to analyse it seasonally and publish the results. “It will be a public document,” she said.
“We’ll be looking at the pattern…. using the information from this first phase to inform the next steps.” ” A Medical Officer of Health has the authority to make orders to protect human health. No one has yet ordered wind turbines halted or adjusted to accommodate human health in Canada, Clark said. “Right now we don’t have evidence that will pass that test.”
“We need better information,” she said. “The survey is a key step.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO NOTE: Huron County residents interested in participating in the survey, this note is from the Health Unit: Registration for the investigation will be available on the Huron County Health Unit website, www.huronhealthunit.ca. We will not be contacting anyone about the investigation until after the online complaint tracking form is launched in May 2016. Huron County residents who do not have internet access will be able to register for the paper version of the survey by calling the Huron County Health Unit at 519-482-3416.
Please note that only Huron County residents will be able to participate in the wind turbine investigation.