SAGINAW – T-Boone Pickens says they’re the wave of the future.
But a wind turbine meant to save one Saginaw family on electricity has instead sparked a huge headache for their neighbors.
“It makes a terrible air raid noise,” says Debbie Behrens, about the high-pitched whine made by the turbine. “It’s driving me crazy.”
What’s worse, is that Debbie and her son Lance both say that high-pitched hum is now causing them problems, physically.
“You occasionally have the dizziness,” explains Lance, “The ringing in the ears, I’ve never experienced the ringing in the ears.”
It turns out, there is a documented health condition associated with the noise generated by some windmills called: Wind turbine Syndrome.
Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and ringing in the ears – known as tinnitus.
Dr. Lee Wilson of the Callier Center says the noise from most turbines isn’t loud enough to cause actual loss, but constant sound can cause other problems.
“Any kind of thing like that has the potential to affect those kinds of feelings,” says Dr. Wilson. “And they’re real. I mean you’re really sick, nauseated, but it may be a result of some anxiety that’s related to what you’re hearing rather than the actual sound.”
Because there aren’t many windmills around, Dr. Wilson hasn’t yet seen any cases.
And, not every turbine makes that whine.
For example, the giant mills near Sweetwater make a quiet thump, as they spin.
Doctors say some people are more sensitive to constant sound than others.
The people who put the small, residential turbine in Saginaw aren’t bothered at all.
But the Behrens believe without attention and potentially regulation, wind turbine noise could become a major problem in neighborhoods, as the country switches to more eco-friendly energy sources. Some science shows turbines should be at least a mile away from homes.
The turbine that stands 50-years out the Behren’s back door, is loud enough to make them want to move.
“My life savings is in this house,” said Debbie, “But, I would not live with that going here for the rest of my life, no.”
By Janet St. James
28 July 2008
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