Dr. Robert McMurtry’s medical credentials are impeccable, but his motivations were questioned during an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Chatham on Wednesday.
McMurtry, who is Professor (Emeritus) of Surgery at the University of Western Ontario as well as former Dean of Medicine at UWO, was the final expert witness called for the appellants – Katie Erickson and Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. – who are challenging the approval of the Kent Breeze Wind Farm, the first under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, on the basis noise from the yet-to-be built facility will cause harm to nearby residents.
The tribunal accepted McMurtry’s expert witness status as a physician and surgeon with experience in the delivery of health-care policy and health-care.
However, lawyers for Suncor Energy, which is building the Thamesville-area wind farm, and the Ministry of Environment, questioned his expertise about wind farms and raised concerns he was acting more as an anti-wind farm advocate.
McMurtry, who is a member the Society for Wind Vigilance and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, which have both opposed large scale industrial wind turbine projects, told the tribunal he was appearing as a health advocate.
Suncor lawyer Rodney Northey questioned McMurtry about how in earlier affidavits and deputations his wording has gone from being concerned about the potential health impacts of wind turbines in January 2010 to stating wind turbines cause the adverse health effects in May 2010.
“What is it that led you to that change?” Northey asked.
McMurtry pointed to information presented at a symposium he helped organize last fall to making it clear to him that many people living near industrial wind turbines have suffered similar adverse health effects.
Northey questioned McMurtry about statements in his report to the tribunal that the Kent Breeze Wind Farm will cause people to suffer harm.
McMurtry replied that it will more likely than not cause some people harm, based on studies another appellant witness, acoustician Rick James, did on the sound energy around three other wind farms, where other people have complained of suffering adverse health effects.
Northey pointed out there is no systematic epidemiological field study that proves wind turbines cause people harm.
McMurtry acknowledged the evidence is not yet definitive, but noted there are several reports of people suffering adverse health effects from the devices.
While he admits to not being “completely neutral” on this issue, McMurtry said he’s “trying to draw the government’s attention to the fact there are concerns.”
McMurtry, who has served in several advisory capacities at the national level on health matters, suggested a RFP for a research project, much like what has been done on hospital wait times.
“I would be very happy to see a similar process carried out in regards to adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines,” he said.
The tribunal continues March 2 in Toronto.