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Opponents host meeting

Barb Ashbee has no doubt that the deluge of health problems she and her husband experienced were caused by the wind turbines that surround her home.
Before the towers went up they lived happy, active lives, rarely had to see a doctor and took no medication. But, “in a span of about seven months after the turbines started up, we became so ill we had to leave our home,” Ashbee told a standing-room-only crowd at the Sebringville community centre on Aug. 9.
She said most of their symptoms, which ranged from tightness in the chest, nausea and dizziness to skin rashes, bleeding from the nose and even a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, disappeared without treatment within days or months of leaving their Shelburne area home.
There are people across the province with similar experiences, she added, yet the province continues to ignore what she and many others see as an obvious link between wind turbines and adverse health effects. She noted her numerous requests to meet with Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson have gone ignored, while the office of Health Minister Deb Matthews told her the minister can’t fit her into her schedule.
“It is unconscionable for this government to stand away from us and not address what is happening,” Ashbee said.
Laurie Gillis of Wind Voice, a group that collects feedback from people across Ontario about their experiences with wind turbines, said people like Ashbee “don’t want to be guinea pigs anymore,” and that they feel betrayed.
In February, the group released its latest survey results, which found 136 people reporting health problems due to turbines, a number she believes is “the tip of the iceberg.” She added as many as 25 families have had to abandon their homes as well.
Such figures should be raising a red flag with the province, Gillis noted, but they aren’t. “The government is well aware of the fact that there are health problems. They have received the evidence many times.”
Ashbee and Gillis were among a series of speakers at last week’s information meeting hosted by West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT), a grassroots group of citizens calling on the province to put a moratorium on industrial wind turbine developments until a third-party health study on their impacts can be conducted. Signs that read “Stop the Wind Turbines” and “Tourists: Build them and they won’t come!” peppered the community hall, where over 300 people packed inside to hear the speakers’ views on the impact of wind turbines and to hear the latest about the proposed Zorra Festival wind project slated for just north of Sebringville.
The 10-megawatt project would include five turbines and is presently awaiting approval for connection to the province’s power grid.
Jeanne Melady of Huron East Against Turbines said more leases have likely been signed in the area but that, due to the secret nature in which the wind developers work, there is no easy way of knowing just how many turbines could be sprouting up in the future.
“Some of you may not know that there’s a lease signed right next to you. Nobody talks about it. We need to have more transparency,” she added.
Melady said Ontario needs an energy policy that is safe, reliable, and sustainable – none of which she feels the Green Energy Act is, with its current regulations.
She noted the province has no way of testing for the low-frequency noise that turbines send out – something many believe is the cause for health problems – and no protocol for enforcing its 40-decibel noise limit.
Melady warned anyone considering a lease that the contract they are asked to sign will allow the company to skirt Ontario’s mandatory 550-metre setback distance.
She also noted that many turbines are producing as low as 20 per cent of the power that wind companies promise, and questioned whether the province could afford to invest in turbines when there’s such little return.
Grey County realtor Mike McMurray spoke about the impact wind turbines have on a property’s re-sale value. While some farmers will appreciate the extra income generated by a turbine on their property, he said a turbine can be detrimental when trying to sell to urban buyers in particular, who come to rural areas like Perth County for their natural beauty, unobstructed views, peace and quiet,
“People from urban areas do not want to buy a place in the country where their country view is a sea of wind turbines during the daytime and flashing lights at night.”
From his experience, McMurray said a property with a turbine loses between 25-40 per cent of its value. That negative impact on properties can stretch as far as two miles from the turbine, he added.
Under normal circumstances, a property owner would be protected by local bylaws against any action taken by a neighbour that would have a negative effect on their property, he said. But with the province calling the shots on new projects, no such protection exists.
“We have an irresponsible provincial government that has shown amazing lack of concern for rural residences,” said McMurray.