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Meaford residents band together to fight wind turbine proposals

Nicholas Schaut says he moved his family to Meaford last year to escape the turbine-covered landscape of Melancthon Township.

A plan for a small, locally-run wind farm north of Shelburne quickly evolved into a 133-tower development that surrounded his home, workplace and the area’s countryside, he said.

“For us, it was an enormous nuisance,” said the organic vegetable farmer.

He said the swooshing, “cyclical humming” sound of the massive turbines disturbed his family’s sleep and caused his young children to wake up in the night. A red beacon light atop the turbines flashes all night, he said, creating a “disco” effect.

Schaut said he now fears the rural Meaford landscape will soon become similarly overrun with industrial wind turbines.

Two wind farm proposals have been made public in Meaford. AIM PowerGen Corp. has proposed to build 24 towers on 1,200 acres, while Invenergy has held a public meeting on a plan to build 40 turbines.

Meaford Coun. Cynthia Lemon said property owners north of Highway 26, between the 2nd and 6th Concessions, are being approached by wind energy firms to sign lease agree-m e nt s. Some have already signed. At least one wind testing tower is set up in the former Sydenham Township near Balaclava.

In response to the wind farm proposals, Schaut and Meaford resident Jim Brunow have formed Wind Concerns Meaford, part of Wind Concerns Ontario, to speak out against industrial turbine projects.

“Our mandate is to educate people as to the true impacts of industrial wind power and other forms of renewable energy on health, the environment, the economy, scenic landscapes, electricity prices and people’s quality of life,” Brunow said.

The group held its first public meeting last week. About 150 people attended. Fourteen people signed membership forms, while 72 others signed up to receive information. The group will next set up an executive and develop a strategy, Brunow said.

People who live near industrial wind turbines have reported negative health effects, such as sleep deprivation, headaches, ringing in the ears, anxiety, muscle and joint aches, earaches and wounds that won’t heal.

Wind farm companies and the provincial government say there is no link between turbines and ill health.

More than 700 wind turbines are operating in Ontario. More are planned. The Liberal government’s Green Energy Act was created to streamline the approval process for wind farms. Municipalities can no longer reject turbine projects or establish setbacks.

The minimum required setback in Ontario is 550 metres “to ensure noise levels do not exceed 40 decibels at the receptor. Forty decibels is approximately the noise level experienced in a quiet office or library,” a government of Ontario website says.

“The applicable setbacks would rise with the number of turbines and the sound level rating of selected turbines.” Sound and vibration monitoring is required.

In January, Coun. Cynthia Lemon presented a motion to Meaford council that requests the senior levels of government conduct more research into the possible negative health effects associated with wind turbines. It also asked for the development of improved policies for locating turbines.

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