ZURICH – About 200 people attended a community meeting in Zurich Friday night aimed at conveying information about industrial wind turbines.
The meeting, organized by the group Bluewater Against Turbines (BAT), featured a speech by John Laforet, president of the advocacy group Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO).
According to its website, WCO is a coalition of over 50 grassroots citizens groups from 34 counties and districts in Ontario, including BAT.
The Zurich meeting was a stop on WCO’s so-called “Truth About Turbines Tour,” which aims to visit 36 communities in 44 days.
WCO is seeking a moratorium on wind developments until the completion of an independent, third-party epidemiological study on the health effects of wind turbines.
In an interview, Laforet also raised concern about alleged environmental and economic impacts of wind turbines.
“When you put the whole thing together, it doesn’t make economic sense, it’s not good news from a health perspective or an environmental perspective,” he said.
Last year Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, issued a report saying available scientific evidence to date “does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.
“The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct health effects, although some people may find it annoying,” the report states.
Laforet criticized the report in an interview, saying it’s a “study of literature reviews of computer models.
“No real people reporting real symptoms were interviewed or examined by the chief medical officer of health to find her faulty conclusions,” he said.
The report lists research studies, review articles, reports, presentations and websites among the material reviewed.
“In general, published papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and reviews by recognized health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) carry more weight in the assessment of health risks than case studies and anecdotal reports,” the report states.
Laforet said in every continent where there are turbines, “doctors are exploring the negative health effects.
“All we’re saying is that we need to stop until we’ve done a third-party, independent assessment, because every doctor that does the work on their own is accused of not being a credible witness,” he added.
“And on our end we’re saying literature reviews don’t count, so the simple thing to do would be, if those with concerns and those who have no concerns agreed on how to get to the bottom of it.”
Asked about the environmental effects of turbines, Laforet pointed to alleged impacts on birds, bats and other animals.
“Birds and bats are a really important feature in agriculture,” he said. “Bats save billions of dollars in pesticides because they eat so many insects. Birds are critical as well.
“We change the migratory flight paths when we install wind turbines in the middle of them, and the west coast of Ontario is critical for migration.”
Laforet also said the cost of electricity will rise $310 a year, a prediction the C.D. Howe Institute made last month.
“It’s a huge expense that Ontarians are being asked to take on, with limited environmental benefits, a lot of environmental consequences, negative human health impacts, decreased property values, and increased bills,” Laforet said.
Also at the meeting was Stephana Johnston, a Norfolk County resident and member of the WCO board of directors who claims she suffers health effects of wind turbines.
In a separate interview, Johnston likened the health effects of turbines to a group of people on a boat, some of whom get seasick and some who don’t.
“The majority of the people on the boat would be having a great time … and a lot of people in our area say they’re not affected,” Johnston said.
“However, for those of us who are affected, we’re not kidding. We’re not making it up. It’s not in our heads. We have genuine, physical reactions to the wind turbines.”
Johnston alleged the effects of turbines are “not like getting measles, where everybody … gets a fever and spots.
“We’re all different depending on our genetic makeup, our health history over the years,” she said. “We have different symptoms but they’re very real symptoms and we need to have someone study this.”
Asked in a separate interview for his main concern about wind turbines, BAT chairperson Dave Griffiths, pointed to the effect he believes they’ll have on the cost of electricity.
“I’ve read all the studies throughout Europe, Denmark,” he said. “There’s a reason a lot of those countries are now calling themselves electrical poverty countries. It’s because they can’t afford to turn the lights on, and we don’t need that.”
Griffiths said BAT intends to continue having meetings and hopefully join Laforet and WCO at a rally at Queen’s Park before this fall’s provincial election.
Laforet told the audience in Zurich Queen’s Park is likely out as a location, but WCO is thinking of a Toronto rally sometime in August.
In the interview Laforet said the provincial election will be a “big focus” for WCO.
“We’re going to support candidates who believe we need to have independent science, and we need to have a moratorium in place,” he said.
“We want to see an end to the feed-in tariff program, and we want to make sure that local democracy is restored. We hope the Liberals will recognize it’s time that they abandon the industrial wind lobby … and it’s time that they stand up for citizens.
“We’re going to work with Progressive Conservatives and other parties where they come out and support our positions.”
During a question-and-answer session with the audience in Zurich, Laforet was asked when WCO became a front for the Ontario PC Party.
Laforet told the audience his organization is not a front for any political party and said in an interview it has no formal alliance with the PC Party.
“The basic point is that we’re going to organize in communities to back the best candidate for our issues, and right now the PCs are the only party that’s come out on this issue,” he said.
“There’s still time for the Greens and the NDP candidates to come out, and if they did we would be interested in reviewing what they’re proposing.”