About 200 people gathered in Seaforth last week to protest the St. Columban Wind Project as part of a larger message to the McGuinty government to stop pursuing industrial wind projects across rural Ontario without further investigation.
The opposition rally was held outside the community centre as representatives from St. Columban Energy LP hosted an open house inside the building regarding the 15-turbine project.
Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) president Gerry Ryan told the crowd – which included members of Central Huron Against Turbines, Huron-Kinloss Against Lakeside Turbines, Huron East council, residents from St. Columban, Bluewater, Lambton Shores and Dufferin County, among others – that wind turbine development is destroying communities.
“Rural Ontario is under threat from the provincial government led by Premier Dalton McGuinty, Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson and our MPP, Minister of Agriculture Carol Mitchell,” Ryan said. “I say we are under threat because the government is in the process of turning our rural communities into industrial wind power generating plants. There will be a massive visual impact; there is potential for negative health impacts; and our quality of place will be diminished as long as the wind turbines are standing.”
Jose Menendez, St. Columban Energy LP’s vice-president of business development, said the public’s main concerns continue to be property devaluation, turbine decommissioning and possible negative health affects. The company provided information that addressed those concerns at the open house, he added.
“There is no connection between wind turbines and poor human health. There is no third-party independent study that says that,” he said. “There is no correlation and that’s the bottom line.”
HEAT would like to see a study commissioned that proves there are no negative health impacts.
Two years ago, Barbara Ashbee and her husband moved from their home that was located within the 133-turbine Melancthon-Amaranth wind farm in Dufferin County. While they lived near the turbines, Ashbee said she suffered from sleep deprivation, headaches, heart palpitations and cognitive problems that included trouble concentrating. Ashbee said the way the Ministry of Environment handled her family’s claims upset her most. While visiting the home, a ministry official told them they were the only ones within the community who had filed a health complaint regarding low frequency noise. Ashbee later attended a Dufferin County council meeting where she heard an Environment Ministry representative inform councillors that actually over 300 complaints had been filed.
“That’s what they do: they isolate you; they tell you that you’re the only one with a problem and that you have to get used to it,” Ashbee said at the rally. “The whole thing is so dirty and it’s not a good way of doing business.”
Others speakers included HEAT members Rob Tetu and Tom Melady, Dean Trentowsky of West and East Perth Against Turbines and Arran-Elderslie deputy mayor Mark Davis.
In a heated speech, Davis said it was “a sad state of affairs” that residents opposed to wind turbines had to gather for a rally.
“It makes my blood boil to think that our government wants to fill our night skies with red flashing lights like we’re in some kind of a war zone,” Davis said.
St. Columban Energy LP representatives were at the open house fielding questions related to human health, concerns about low frequency noise, the environment and property values. Menendez said all questions and concerns will be recorded and taken into consideration. The company will present its next set of documents related to the project to the Ontario Power Authority before the next open house, slated to be held sometime this fall.
“We’re following all the rules, we’re following all the regulations,” Menendez said. “It’s a project that’s encouraged by the province and that’s what we’re doing.”
But Tetu dismissed the format of the open house, arguing that “consultation should be a presentation of ideas, discussion and accommodation.”
“They’re going to get a rubber stamp after this meeting unless eventually something stops this. We want meaningful consultation, not a room full of placards,” Tetu said.
Asked to list some of the potential negative aspects of the project, Menendez admitted turbines will take “some” agricultural land out of production and residents will have to be patient during the construction period.
Asked how he felt about the project dividing rural communities, Menendez said it’s out of his company’s hands.
“I’m not saying that it’s not our problem, but I’m not sure there’s anything that we can do to mitigate that,” he said.