Cohocton Wind Watch: Politicians should heed health complaints blamed on wind turbines, medical officer of health says
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Friday, October 09, 2009

Politicians should heed health complaints blamed on wind turbines, medical officer of health says

Mounting questions about how wind turbines affect people’s health justify MPP Bill Murdoch’s new call for a provincial moratorium, the region’s top doctor said yesterday.

“To me this is a real welcome move,” said Dr. Hazel Lynn, the Grey Bruce medical officer of health. “When there’s as much upset as there is, I think the politicians should be paying attention to it.”

Murdoch, the Conservative MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, said late yesterday he will introduce a resolution Oct. 29 at Queen’s Park asking to put wind power projects on hold until Ontario’s chief medical officer states definitively whether turbines cause health problems for people who live near them.

Industry spokesman Chris Forrest said yesterday those questions have already been answered, and no scientific or medical evidence links turbines to ill health.

“I think it’s jumping the gun to suggest a moratorium,” said Forrest, who is the vice-president of communications for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “That would potentially throw thousands of people out of work and possibly drive away billions of dollars in investment at a time when Ontario is losing manufacturing jobs every day.”

Lynn and health unit staff recently held meetings in Owen Sound and Walkerton to hear health concerns related to turbines and to try and move the discussion from protest to some positive action, Lynn said.

She also told the Owen Sound meeting health officials have no jurisdiction over wind turbines and new controls would have to come from political action.

So Lynn welcomed Murdoch’s plan when he called to ask her about it.

“He asked me (Wednesday), and I said absolutely let’s see if we can’t get it stopped and we can collect some more information,” Lynn said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“At least there should be some investigation to ensure there isn’t a direct health link. If it’s stress related and outrage related, I’m not discounting that. People will get just as sick, and that’s where the policies have to come in,” she said. “We need different policies that protect people from feeling helpless and so on.”

Murdoch’s “weak resolution” isn’t likely to help, since it asks for an investigation by provincial officials who have already ruled wind power is safe, local wind energy opponent Lorrie Gillis said yesterday.

“He’s asking for a declaration from the people who have already put public wind energy ahead of the health of families, so I’m not so impressed,” said Gillis, who represents Wind Concerns Ontario.

Gillis is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m, Oct. 13, at the Flesherton Kinplex to discuss health concerns and industrial wind turbines. Instead of “more rhetoric” she said the government should fund a proper third-party, unbiased study of the people who say the turbines have made them sick.

“To me, the evidence that wind turbines hurt people is there.”

Lynn said there’s no disputing that some people living near the turbines are suffering with a variety of health issues, perhaps partly as a result of their outrage, annoyance and helplessness to be able to do anything about the turbines, she said.

But research so far, in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, has yet to firmly establish a direct health link to the turbines, she added.

“I can make anybody sick by disturbing them enough. You get a nasty neighbour that moves in next door, you’re not going to sleep real well, you’re not going to be able to concentrate and you’re going to get a headache and so on and so. That’s not direct but it certainly is affecting your health and and if you stay in that state long enough you’ll get sick.”

The Grey Bruce health board raised concerns with the provincial government in March after numerous complaints that people near turbines, especially in the Ripley area, were getting sick, but there was no response.

An informal health unit survey found that at least one person at 8% of the 72 homes within a kilometre of the Ripley wind project complained of some related health problems, Lynn said.

Even if those issues don’t relate directly to turbines, government policies should account for the concerns, she said.

“A community that’s divided and disrupted is not a healthy community. So I’m certainly concerned about that,” she said. “I think there are solutions. They’ve certainly found solutions in other places, but some of that has to be in the political will and the political policies.”

“I think they maybe should have looked to other areas and to what other countries have done and different pros and cons before they suddenly said all of our alternate energy is going to be in the wind turbines.”

Mark Davis, an Arran-Elderslie councillor opposed to wind turbines, said yesterday he welcomed Murdoch’s change of heart. Until this week, the MPP had been telling constituents the Green Energy Act is law and nothing can halt wind development now.

Murdoch said yesterday he believed there was nothing further to do about the Green Energy Act. But Wednesday, after a fellow MPP asked to switch the date he would be allowed his members privilege of introducing a motion, he realized that might reopen the discussion at Queen’s Park.

He doesn’t expect the moratorium to pass unless wind power opponents mount a vigorous lobby campaign with Liberal MPPs.

“I’ll be the first to admit it’s a long shot,” Murdoch said.

Davis was set to ask his council to put wind development on hold through an interim control bylaw. But he said a last-minute, unsigned fax from the Ontario government advised municipal councils “they added that to the list of things we can’t do.”

Ontario planning policies do not apply to wind development under the new Green Energy Act, Davis said. The government is “shoving down our throats something the majority of our people don’t want.”

“Personally, if I had my wishes, I don’t want any of them here. Some bought-off health report that minimizes people’s health concerns, I’m not a good listener on that,” he said.

“In this day and age to even consider something that might effect someone’s health is totally absurd,” he said. “Personally I’d ban them, but I don’t have that power nor does council. If the health issues are looked at in an honest and fair way, I think most of us know they won’t be allowed.”

CanWEA spokesman Forrest said at least two regional medical officers of health, in Niagara and in Chatham-Kent, have already released studies saying there is no negative health risk associated with wind turbines as long as all the environment ministry guidelines are followed.

“Based on all available scientific and medical information, it’s CanWEA’s position that infrasound from wind turbines have no direct harmful affect whatsoever on human health,” Forrest said.


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