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Experts weigh in on turbine noise

In a case that’s put Ontario’s Green Energy Act on trial drawing expert witnesses from around the world, a prominent Canadian physician testified Wednesday that construction of new wind turbines should be put on hold until appropriate medical studies are done to ensure the safety of nearby residents.

“The province ought not to proceed with the development of industrial wind turbines any further,” said Dr. Robert McMurtry, a past dean of the medical school at the University of Western Ontario and a former assistant deputy minister of health for the federal government.

“There is a lot of suffering,” McMurtry said. “We need to understand why.” McMurtry was a witness for Chatham-Kent residents trying to overturn ministry of environment approval for Suncor’s proposed Kent Breeze windfarm.

Using audio and video teleconferencing, expert witnesses from England, New Zealand and the U.S. have already weighed in on the complex science of industrial noise and how humans perceive and react to it.

Suncor and environment ministry lawyers have a long list of experts of their own to call in the weeks ahead.

Final arguments to the twomember Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal panel aren’t expected to be made until April.

Considered the key witness for sceptics of the safety of turbines as currently regulated in Ontario, McMurty spoke of his experiences talking to more than 40 people who have lived close to the 120-metre high towers and whirling blades. They complain of prolonged sleep deprivation, stress, headaches, extreme fatigue and high blood pressure, he said.

Leaving their homes to stay with relatives or in motels provides relief from the symptoms, McMurtry said. “The only cure is to move.”

McMurtry was critical of both Ontario’s noise standard for wind turbines and the 550-metre setback from turbine locations to homes in the regulations to the 2009 Green Energy Act.

“I do not have confidence in those guidelines.”