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Wind turbine impacts revealed at community meeting

BOULEVARD – A standing-room-only crowd got an earful on the property and health impacts of industrial wind turbines last Wednesday, when experts flew in from Illinois and Canada to speak at an informational meeting held at the Boulevard Fire Station.

Speakers included appraisal consultant Mike McCann, of Chicago, Ill., Carmen Krogh, of Ontario, Canada, Bill Powers, of Powers Engineering, Dave Elliott, of Boulevard, and Donna Tisdale, also of Boulevard.

McCann – whose resume includes real estate zoning evaluations, property value impact studies, analysis of wind turbine generating facilities and evaluation of eminent domain real estate acquisitions – advised residents bluntly that no permits should be issued on any wind generation project without a property value guarantee for residents in the turbine area of influence.

The impact zone of a wind farm is two to five miles, he said. In addition to 20 to 40 percent value loss of homes in that area, there are increased costs of health care, costs to try to retrofit homes to block noise or the strobe light affect of the turbine shadows, and the complete losses of people who are forced to walk away from their homes.

Krogh, a retired pharmacist who networks with health professionals worldwide to track and document wind turbine health affects, said the impacts of both audible and inaudible sound cannot be mitigated: “The only mitigation is to remove the people from the environment they are in,” she said.

Mental and physical afflictions include sleep deprivation, headaches, heart palpitations, vertigo, tinnitus, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety and cognitive impairments, she said.

Matching results are documented in the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Japan, Canada and the United States – every country that has industrial turbines have health complaints.

Both McCann and Krogh said that a number of turbine neighbors had walked away from their homes, because they could not live with the impacts and no one would buy their homes. Others must find someplace away from the turbines to sleep and many have had to send their children to live with relatives to clear up various illnesses.

Adequate research on the long-term affects of turbine noise on growing children has not been done, Krogh said. However, according to Arline Bronzaft, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., who spoke at the Oct. 30 International Symposium on Adverse Health Effects from Wind Turbines, many other studies have demonstrated that intrusive noises, such as passing traffic or overhead aircraft, adversely affect children’s cardiovascular systems, memory, language development and ability to learn.

The title of Bronzaft’s presentation was “Children: The Canaries in the Coal Mine.”

In the Boulevard planning are alone, 392 turbines are wending their way through the permitting process, according to Tisdale. Hundreds more are planned in Ocotillo and Jacume, Mexico, immediately south of Jacumba. The current San Diego County wind ordinance makes no provision for property value guarantees.

“I’m calling for a moratorium pending studies of health impacts,” said Tisdale, who recently attended an international symposium of doctors, researchers and other health professionals who have documented wind turbine health effects worldwide.

She said she will be asking that the county permitting process make provision for property value guarantees, relocation of impacted residents, evidence-supported setbacks and protections in the noise ordinance to include low-frequency and infrasound effects. Neither is currently addressed in the county’s noise ordinance.

Krogh brought filmed interviews with wind turbine neighbors from Norway, Canada and Japan. The sound levels from their homes, in some cases, drowned out their voices and the nature of the sound was so distressing that audience members asked that it be turned down.

Krogh is a member of Society for Wind Vigilance, an international federation of physicians, acousticians and other professionals who seek to quantify heath risks and ensure that permitting authorities and wind turbine operators acknowledge and remedy those risks.

So far, she said, there has been great resistance from governments, who seek to provide “green” alternatives and who receive tax money from wind farm profits.

Asked what local clinics might do to mitigate health problems that could develop from proposed area wind farms, Krogh said there literally are none, though local health professionals help by gathering information: “A clinic can assist by documenting impacts to its patients.”

Industrial wind farm operators in the United States and Canada, most of whom receive taxpayer supported benefits and highly favorable permit conditions, resist revelations of adverse effects by requiring property owners from whom they lease lands to sign non-disclosure agreements, McCann said.

The few off-site residents that have received buy-out offers from wind companies are required to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of the buy-out.

McCann added that property value losses are not offset by local jobs or by lease payments to property owners. The leases are often predicated on the power the turbine produces and few of them actually work at maximum capacity. Hence, “They (landowners) aren’t getting what they were promised,” he said.

“Always have a lawyer look at the lease document before you sign it,” he advised.

Among the small print items to be aware of is what it going to happen to the turbine when it is taken out of service. The I-10 in Nevada is littered with the carcasses of turbines that are no longer useful, but they have never been removed, he said.

Large companies further “defuse their liability” by creating smaller limited liability companies to actually own and operate the wind farms, McCann said.

Elliott, a member of the Manzanita Band of Mission Indians, monitors, and tries to mitigate, the cultural impacts of the Sunrise Powerlink and the wind projects. He said that Indian burial sites and other cultural sites in both private and public lands are being destroyed by these projects, with very little effort to protect them.

“This project is all about big business … it’s about trillions of dollars,” Elliott said. “As Native Americans, we’re last on the totem pole.” Elliott said he has encountered hostility from homeowners, who may be mistaking his efforts to identify cultural sites as further intrusion by SDG&E.

“I support the landowners’ efforts to protect their lands,” he said. “I hope the landowners will support our efforts too.”

Several meeting attendees, one who lives as far as two miles from the existing wind farm on Campo Reservation, commented that they can hear the turbines clearly, even inside their homes. McCann said that wind turbine noise can travel up to nine miles in mountain terrain.

Property value impacts start to show up as soon as even the possibility of a project becomes known, according to McCann. The phenomenon even has a name among appraisal professionals: wind farm anticipation stigma.

In a comment paper on the Brucci MET tower on La Posta Road, he asserted that the construction of a meteorological testing tower “serves as constructive notice to existing neighboring property owners and any potential buyers” that wind turbines may come in later – and that is enough to drive homebuyers elsewhere.

According to nolo.com, a law information website, California sellers must disclose any and every natural and manmade hazard that might affect the value of the property. This includes everything from neighborhood nuisances, such as a dog that barks every night, to major hazards like floods, earthquakes, fires, environmental hazards, and other problems. Failure to make the required disclosures not only costs the seller in a lawsuit, but can also carry criminal penalties.

So what is a homeowner to do if his home is untenable and no one else wants it either? “It’s really sad to talk to these people who put their life savings into their homes and then have to walk away from them,” McCann said.

The mass erection of wind turbines near people’s homes is a form of taking from the property owner and giving to the wind developers, he added: “It’s not OK to rob from Peter to pay Paul.”

The county’s wind ordinance calls for permitting requirements to state noise limitations at the property line, but makes no provisions for property value protections or mitigation of health impacts, according to Planning Manager Joe Farace of San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use.

That’s a different realm from what we do,” Farace said. State and federal environmental and planning laws don’t require that these impacts be quantified or mitigated, though the county could, if it wished, explore going beyond those minimums.

“This is so new,” he said. “We’d have to work with county counsel to see what we could do.”

Farace said there are no plans, currently, to pursue such a discussion.