A Glanbrook grassroots group is urging the City of Hamilton to oppose construction of wind turbines in West Lincoln until proper health studies are completed to determine if they are harmful to nearby residents.
During a community information meeting at the Binbrook Agriculture Hall last week, Deb Murphy of the recently formed Glanbrook Wind Action Group, told the estimated 300 people who turned out for the three-hour event, the organization was formed when some residents discovered a private company was proposing to build at least five, and possibly 10, wind turbines in West Lincoln, near the boundary to the city of Hamilton. A few of the 100-meter turbines, which Vineland Power Inc. is planning to build next spring, will be within range of Westbrook Road, and GWAG officials say could impact Glanbrook residents.
“This is not a bashing party,” said Murphy. “This is not a pro-coal meeting. Nor is this an anti-wind turbine meeting. If (the turbines are built) far enough away from people they can be a viable energy resource.”
But, she argued, there are too many examples of residents living near industrial turbines in Shelburne, Long Point and other Ontario areas where they have become sick.
“We don’t want to get sick,” said Murphy.
Niagara rural residents have become more attuned to the impacts of wind turbines over the last few months after discovering wind turbines are being planned for West Lincoln and Wainfleet. The proposed HAF Wind Energy Project is located south of Tweedside, west of the Smithville, and east of Woodburn. The project bounds Regional Road 20 and south along Westbrook Road to Regional Road 65.
The West Lincoln Wind Action Group was formed a few months ago to inform their residents about the impact wind turbines have had on other Ontario residents. About 350 residents turned out in November to a public information meeting at Caister Centre school. Opponents of wind power argue there is a link between low level noise from the turbine and homeowners who live near the turbines.
Stephana Johnston, an 80-year-old retired school teacher, told Glanbrook residents she can’t sleep in her Long Point home any more.
Surrounded by 18 industrial turbines, Johnston described a “buzzing” in her head, and she is forced to lean on friends and family for a place to sleep.
David Colling, a Ripley-area farmer, who has conducted tests on what he describes as “dirty electricity”, which includes low level frequency noise, says he has documented the effects wind turbines and the electricity it generates on nearby residents. He says residents have experienced dizziness, numbness and constant fatigue.
“It’s long-term health effects that nobody understands,” he says.
He urged rural landowners and farmers that if approached by wind power companies looking to use their land for their turbines, to solicit a corporate lawyer first to examine the contract. Colling said, for example, once a contract ends, it is the landowner that must find a way to dispose of the100-meter wind turbine and not the developer.
Organizers also pointed out that even though it has been believed that wind power has had a smooth ride in European countries, in reality, most residents in have raised issues about the health effects of installing more wind farms near residential areas.
“Europe has shown there are problems,” said Murphy.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said the umbrella organization for the rural groups, has witnessed the growth of local rural groups searching for answers about wind power. Since 2006 over 50 groups have formed in 32 counties in Ontario, he said.
Their fear, he said, is that wind turbines, “placed too close to people does affect human health.”
The provincial government, said Laforet, under its Green Energy Act, has taken power out of the hands of local municipalities allowing these alternative energy projects to be approved by the provincial government, by-passing local authorities.
“You have bureaucrats in downtown Toronto making planning decisions in Glanbrook,” said Laforet. “It’s undemocratic.”
Progressive Conservative leader and Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak, who represents the area, has met with Laforet, and has stated a Tory government would “restore local decisions-making power back to municipalities” when it comes to alternative energy. He has also criticized the Green Energy Act for allowing subsidies given to solar and wind power projects as too costly for taxpayers to afford.
Laforet, along with the GWAG, urged the provincial government to establish a moratorium on wind turbines until a health study has been completed. Laforet rejected a recent report by the Ontario medical officer of health that suggested the health effects of wind turbines were minimal.
“All (the medical officer of health) basically did was a book report,” said Laforet. “It is not based on the human experience. It is not a scientific study.”
Murphy encouraged residents to sign a petition asking the Ontario government to establish a moratorium on building wind turbines. The Glanbrook group is also scheduled to appear before Hamilton council in January to ask the municipality to support their cause.
“The province is not paying attention to the rural councils that have joined,” said Murphy. “If Hamilton agreed, it will be a half million people. That number would be really important.”