According to research underway by Doctor Sarah Laurie, wind turbines can have a detrimental affect on your health – but not everyone feels the same way.
In mid December a number of residents met at both Mt Bryan in the Mid North and at Waterloo near Saddleworth, to hear from Doctor Sarah Laurie about the health effects that she attributes to living near a wind farm.
The Hallett wind farm surrounds the township of Mount Bryan and around 15 local residents travelled into the town hall to hear what the Doctor had to say.
Doctor Sarah Laurie is a Mid North resident and is concerned about the possibility of wind farm developments near her property.
She is now the medical director of the Waubra foundation in Victoria, an organisation dedicated to looking at the health effects of wind farms.
“I have been providing information about the latest research findings of the adverse effects of wind turbines,” says Doctor Laurie.
But the President of the Australian Medical Association, Doctor Andrew Lavendar, says more medical studies need to be done in the Australian context.
“We are aware that people complain about health effects from living near wind farms. People complain about tinnitus which is buzzing the ears, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, these are very non-specific symptoms and they can be related to a number of things and stress and anxiety and depression can be manifest in that way…
“The fact that there is a wind farm nearby and maybe your neighbouring owners and benefitting financially and you’re not, those things can all have an impact, the visual impact is significant and all these can add to the stress that may be contributing to the problems rather than actually the operations of the wind farms itself themselves,” she says.
Doctor Lavendar says it is something that should be looked into further.
“I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered within the Australian context and we’d certainly support any studies within the Australian context.
“I think we also have to bear in my mind that the type of symptoms people complain about are very non specific and it is quite difficult to get studies that can really determine whether there is a cause effect relationship,” he says.
Mount Bryan resident Andy Thomas says there are six turbines within a one to two kilometre range of his house.
He says the noise keeps him awake and he only manages to get three to four hours sleep a night.
Mr Thomas says the noise depends on the weather and the wind but he often has a dull headache which he attributes to the noise from the turbines.
Eileen Quinn lives on the Mount Bryan East road and says she has 34 wind turbines facing her property.
She says she has suffered sleep disturbance, headaches and also has to monitor her blood pressure.
“I have found that in the morning, my blood pressure readings are higher than they should be,” she claims
This is consistent with Doctor Sarah Laurie’s newest research into blood pressure and wind turbines.
She has been asking people in Waubra to monitor their blood pressure and claims she claims to have found that for a number of people, their early morning blood pressure was higher than usual.
Doctor Laurie says that having high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks.
“It does appear that this is something that is happening in association with some turbine developments,” she claims.
“I am concerned for my grandchildren… and their health in the future and wonder what can be done, maybe they can turn them off at night,” says Mrs Quinn.
Others in the area see things differently.
Bill Gebhardt is a Mount Bryan landowner who has ten wind turbines on his property.
“I think they are good – I think it is a good way to go,” says Mr Gebhardt.
He says he has not experienced any of the health concerns mentioned at the meeting such as stress and loss of sleep and believes that the studies done so far are not convincing.
“I think you have to have more than eight or 14 people with an opinion, you have to have worldwide research,” he says.
Mr Gebhardt points out that while some people in the community have issues with the noise, others don’t.
“There is a cross sector – AGL has been particularly good to the community financially and to the other communities as well,” he says.
Many residents who have turbines on their properties do not want to comment as they have confidential financial agreements with the companies.
Thoughts from Waterloo
Waterloo is a small town in the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council areas and the 37 turbine development by Roaring 40’s is newer than the Hallett wind farms.
Around 18 people met at the Waterloo town hall to hear from Doctor Sarah Laurie.
Colin Schaefer from Robertstown says he has experienced the symptoms mentioned by Dr Sarah Laurie.
Turbines are proposed for his property and he says he wants to be one hundred per cent clear that his health will not be affected by wind turbines before they are approved.
“To me health is number one – I mean everyone likes to have lots of money but you can’t buy health,” he says.
“We have sort of signed into the first contract to allow monitors, but I just don’t know where we are going to go from here on in,” says Mr Schaefer.
Steve Symons is the managing director of Roaring 40’s, the company with the turbines at Waterloo.
He says he is quite happy with the community relations and has even had a couple of meetings with the Waterloo Concerned Residents Group.
“The concerns are around continued development and making sure that we are continuing to protect the areas- the environmental and the perceived noise issues.”
Mr Symons says the company has been working with the community on noise and also infrasound noise.
“We’d encourage any residents within the Waterloo region to come forward with any concerns they have on noise because we have been working with those people and trying to do noise measurements at the areas where there’s been perceived as being wind and noise issues.”
Michele Prince is the chairperson of the Clare Ranges protection group and says health is an important aspect on wind turbine developments.
“I think as information is getting out to people and people are starting to hear from neighbours and trusted friends – they are thinking about looking into it more and as they look into it more the snowball effect is happening and they are starting to see that it is not just a localised problem with a couple of people, but it is actually starting to spread across Australia,” claims Ms Prince.
Chris Mossey is a Waterloo resident who didn’t attend the meeting.
“I have ten turbines on my property and the whole substation area,” he explains.
He says he has no concerns with the wind turbines on his property and has had no health issues.
Mr Mossey says he can hear the turbines but it is no more than the noise of a car coming up the road.
“It started back in 2001 when they came through and erected monitoring towers… it took until 2009 for the final approval,” says Mr Mossey.
“People like the idea of a wind farm and like the idea of clean energy, but for some reason – don’t want to see it,” he says.
Mr Mossey says the turbines on his land have definitely made his paddock more profitable.
“When I grew up nuclear energy was a dirty word and now everyone’s changed on that.
“If we are not using the sun, not using the wave action, not using the wind, then I think we are crazy,” he adds.
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