Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s acting Medical Officer of Health, was ready to talk wind at Huron County’s May 4 session.
But first, a number of county councillors – James Ginn (Central Huron), Ben Van Diepenbeek (Ashfield Colborne Wawanosh), Neil Rintoul (ACW), Bernie MacLellan (Huron East) and Bill Dowson (Bluewater) – had to declare a conflict on the issue.
In a nod to the county’s stipulated 10-minute presentation limit for delegations, Colby says his material is designed to be an “educational presentation.”
Starting on the issue of Low Frequency Noise, something the county has a vested interested in given its recent formation of a county-led LFN committee, Colby says available data suggests while that wind turbine-related noise can be “annoying,” it is not harmful to one’s health.
Pointing to a book, Wind Turbine Syndrome, which he says kicked off the wave of concern related to noise issues, Colby says the methodology in it is flawed given it contains the “unverified” reports of 38 people in 10 families.
Alleging the author used “extreme selection bias,” Colby says U.S.-based Dr. Nina Pierpoint, “admitted she picked the world people she could ever find.”
In addressing the many complaints associated with wind turbines – sleep disturbances, vertigo, irritability and panic episodes – Colby says such things are so common that it is unwise to connect them to any one cause.
“Councillors, I’ve got (these problems), except I don’t live near any wind turbines,” he said.
Colby claims Pierpoint’s book raises alarm bells where none need be.
Though Colby does not dismiss noise complaints related to wind, he concludes, “there may be people that are abnormally sensitive to sound,” and he estimates that number sits at around 2 per cent of the population.
Further, suggests Colby while quoting the findings of another doctor, “sick and annoyed are not the same thing.”
In short, says Colby, promoting the notion that sickness will result from wind turbines is a dangerous thing.
“If you tell people they will get sick, they will,” he says.
Ultimately, he says, the only perceptible sensory impact from turbines is a “very low hum.”
“No one has ever died of wind-turbine noise,” he adds.
During a question-and-answer session, Coun. Bill Siemon (Huron East) took exception to the notion turbines are safe because there are no studies proving otherwise.
“The onus is on testing before they go up, not after,” says Siemon.
Turbine sounds, argues Colby, “do not make you sick …that is a scientific fact.”
And, says Colby, the province need not worry about infringing on its obligations with regard to the precautionary principle of preventing harm because “there is no reasonable expectation of harm.”
Coun. Paul Klopp (Bluewater) says given all of the information available, he is baffled as to why wind turbines are not being erected in urban centres where energy is most needed and there seems to be the least amount of resistance to them.
“I have no idea,” offers Colby.
In wrapping up his presentation, Colby says wind is a “healthy and safe way to generate power.”
Given Colby’s information, Coun. Joe Steffler (Huron East) wondered why the provincial government agreed to a moratorium on offshore wind turbines if there is no data to back up the possibility that wind farms are harmful.
Colby says it is seems the provincial government’s moratorium is a political move.
County Warden Neil Vincent (North Huron) also asked Colby at whose behest he was making the presentation to council and whether Colby is a qualified wind expert.
Colby says he has participated in many forums, including a recent one in Rome.
“This is very much a public health issue and within my area of expertise,” says Colby. “I have become to my great chagrin, sir … one of the top two experts in this area in Canada.”
Colby also said it was his understanding that the County Council asked him to address councillors. However, Vincent notes such is not the case.
According to county administration, Colby’s delegation was requested via an ACW resident. As per county protocol, delegations can appear before councillors as long as the guidelines are met, including a provision that a presentation is presented to the county 10 days prior to the meeting so councillors and staff are prepared to field questions.
Colby was out of the country and could not be reached for further comment as of press time.
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