Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette
Opponents of industrial wind turbines are holding out hope a new study will lead the Liberals to take a second look at their alternative energy plans for Ontario.
Health Canada announced last week it will conduct an in-depth scientific study into the supposed relationship between wind turbine noise and the health effects that have been reported by people living near turbine developments.
The study is being designed with support from external experts who specialize in areas including noise, health assessment, clinical medicine and epidemiology.
The federally-run department says it has expertise in measuring noise and assessing the health impacts of noise because of its role in administering the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, which defines noise as a form of radiation.
“This study will contribute to an area of ongoing global research,” states Health Canada. “Currently there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not there is a relationship between exposure to the noise from wind turbines and adverse human health effects, although community annoyance and other concerns have been reported to Health Canada and in the scientific literature.”
West and East Perth Against Turbines released a statement on Monday welcoming the concept of a study.
“The array of problems and issue of people negatively impacted by industrial wind turbines can no longer be trivialized, marginalized and minimized as mere annoyances or nuisances,” says the group. “The health and welfare of Canadians can no longer be ignored.”
But the group has concerns with the study, including the sample size being proposed.
The study will focus on an initial sample size of 2,000 dwellings selected from eight to 12 wind turbine facilities in Canada. In addition to taking physical measurements from participants, such as blood pressure, investigators will conduct interviews and take noise measurements inside and outside of some homes.
“Results obtained from a fractional amount of subjects may not be truly representative of the overall problems that exists,” says the group.
Also, a significant number of people severely impacted by wind turbine developments have already had to leave or abandon their home and will no longer be living in the proposed study areas, the group adds.
Last week’s announcement has reinvigorated calls from Progressive Conservatives at Queen’s Park for the Liberals to place an immediate moratorium on new wind turbines.
Randy Pettapiece, MPP for Perth-Wellington, says he is optimistic the study will bring some clarity to the issue, and adds if the study does produce evidence of a link between turbine noise and health effects, the McGuinty government will have no choice but to alter its energy plans and policies, or face the consequences.
“The Ontario government is certainly going to have to act,” he adds. “They’ll be opening themselves up to a big mess if they don’t.”
The first-time MPP calls the study long overdue, adding provincial leaders have continued to ignore the upwards of 200 complaints from people across Ontario who believe their health has been negatively affected by wind turbines.
“I’m very pleased that the federal government has stepped up to the plate on this one. (The PC caucus has) been asking this government to do that for quite a while.
“I’m disappointed in the Ontario government for not doing it.”
Conservative Gary Schellenberger has also expressed the need for a moratorium on turbine development until after the results of the health study have been released.
In a letter to Premier McGuinty, the Perth-Wellington MP says it would be “cavalier and irresponsible” to move ahead with construction on new wind turbines when human health cannot be guaranteed.
“A significant number of my constituents, from across the riding, share this view,” he adds.
Perth County and area has been one of the communities at the centre of the wind turbine debate in Ontario in recent years. A wind farm with as many as 20 turbines has been proposed in the St. Columban area and larger development consisting of up to 27 towers is in the works for North Perth and Perth East.
Pettapiece says he has made Premier McGuinty aware of a recent survey by a community group in North Perth that found 96 per cent of residents affected by the turbine proposal from developer Invenergy are opposed to the project.
“Invenergy has been saying all along there is widespread support for the project. This is proof that there isn’t.”
Pettapiece says it is because the Liberals have stripped local planning powers away from municipalities that a developer is able to come into a community against its residents’ wishes.
He’s hopeful that will change down the road.
“Let’s get this study done and then proceed from there.”
The study results are expected to be published in 2014.