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Whittington turbine project draws public ire during open house

It’s a sentiment repeated throughout the evening: “I’m only here to figure out how to get this stopped.”

There was no shortage of public criticism and skepticism during an open house last Tuesday (Jan. 25) regarding plans for a three-turbine wind power project in Amaranth.

“It’s an industrial park, essentially, going up in the middle of our beautiful community,” Jason Wiesner, who lives about 1.5 km from one of the proposed turbines, said, referring to the existing turbines, operated by a different company, as “visual pollution.”

“I look out from the second floor, my daughter’s bedroom, and what used to be fireflies at night is now a huge sea of flashing red lights.”

Proposed by Mississauga-based wpd Canada, the Whittington Wind Project would see three 100-metre tall turbines installed on lands bordered by 20th Sideroad to the north, 15th Sideroad to the south, 2nd Line of Amaranth to the west and Mono-Amaranth Townline to the east.

“We’ve got a number of individuals from the community that still have questions, and that’s what we’re here for,” Kevin Surette, wpd’s manager of communications, said of the meeting. “A lot of the concerns are from what people are hearing from elsewhere, from other projects, and that’s concerning property values and health. It’s a common theme that we’ve heard.”

Some residents living near existing turbines have reported health issues including high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, nausea, severe headaches and more.

Government officials and the wind power industry, however, maintain there’s no conclusive link between the turbines and reported health problems.

“I’m just a concerned citizen,” said Shirley Bennett. “We’re not close to this in any way, but we’re still neighbours of these people. I’m just concerned about their health safety.”

“We also have an air strip that may be affected by that, because it is very close to us,” Carol-Anne Fisher added of the wpd project, noting the airstrip is designated as an emergency landing spot for passing aircraft.

“It’s far enough out of the flight path, but say in bad weather if the air traffic has to go lower for some reason further out, that could be a problem.”

Several of those in attendance were also critical of the Green Energy Act, which removed planning authority from municipal councils on renewable energy projects, and set a standard minimum setback distance of 550 metres for turbines.

“I think it’s an arbitrary number that seemed reasonable to a politician,” said Wiesner, who would like to see the issue of health effects studied thoroughly before more turbines are erected. “There’s a lot of extremism one way or the other here and I think somewhere in the middle there’s going to be some truths, but they didn’t look one side or the other.”

Earlier that day, Mono council approved a motion in the same vein. The motion states it would be “premature” for the town to comment on wind power projects until “independent, third-party clinical research” is conducted of the effects of low frequency noise.

“I’m in favour of alternative energy. I’m not necessarily in favour of the Green Energy Act,” commented Coun. Fred Nix, who put the motion forward. “There’s no research one way or the other that says whether there’s an issue with the low frequency noises that these turbines generate.”