On a still night, when most of the world is asleep, Larry Swart is not.
The Lambton Shores man doesn’t want to be awake but his sleep is interrupted by high-pitched sounds similar to a siren. No one else can hear the squealing but it keeps Swart from sleeping. “On a still night, I just wake up,” he says.
And it started when a wind turbine was built one kilometer from his 73 acre farm.
Swart is like many people who have complained to the province about the health effects of the giant power makers; he has been given few answers and very little sympathy. So when Lambton Shores Council decided to ask for a moratorium on wind farm projects recently, Swart was pleased.
“They (the province) don’t really look at the victims of this …they just ram it through. I think that’s where they need to stop and do the health study, before they put up any more of theses,” says Swart.
Lambton Shores, which includes the communities of Forest and Grand Bend, endorsed a moratorium which calls for the province to stop all projects until there is an independent health study on the effects of the turbines.
Marcelle Brooks, a local wind power opponent, whose home will be near one of the large projects which has already been given provincial approval, asked for the moratorium. She is pleased Lambton Shores Council has taken the step before the skyline is filled with the giant propellers.
“The 250 is just the beginning, I think the sheer number is a concern,” she says of the health effects some people may face.
And Brooks says a proliferation of wind farms in Lambton Shores could damage one of the areas biggest industries – tourism. “Our community here is associated with tourism; we attract of retired people to our community; do they want to come and look at 250 wind turbines? I don’t think so.”
While council is worried about the health effects of wind turbines and the potential to damage the tourism industry, members are also angry with how the projects are being approved. The Green Energy Act took all zoning approval power away from municipalities. The theory was many projects would not move forward because municipal governments would cave in to pressure from people who simply didn’t want to live next to them.
“This is another symptom of a government that doesn’t listen,” says Councilor Doug Bonesteel. “They’re not about local input. This (the approval of wind farms) is out of control; if we don’t put a moratorium on this, if we don’t force the government to listen to people – I think we’d be very foolish.”
Councilor John Russell agreed saying he told the minister of energy recently he needed to listen to the health concerns of rural residents living beside the turbines. Russell says the Liberal government “got rid of the ones in the lake because they’re not pretty” while ignoring health concerns. “What theses people are worried about is important.”
Swart isn’t as interested in the political battle over zoning approval as he is in the health of his neighbours. His argument is simple; more wind turbines, more people with health problems.
“I think you’ll see more and more victims complaining to the MOE (Ministry of the Environment)and that’s where I have the problem, complaining to the MOE. They really don’t know how to handle these complaints coming in.”
On the very day Lambton Shores endorsed the moratorium, Premier Dalton McGuinty was in Tillsonburg visiting a new wind turbine plant. He defended the province’s Green Energy Act and told reporters Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health had found nothing that concluded wind energy cause health problems.
Brooks knows the Liberals are practically immovable on the issue of an independent health study so the Lambton Shores motion may not help. But she says the chorus of concern grows, the government will have to at least take notice.
“It’s like anybody writing a letter, does one letter impact? No. Do 300,000 make an impact – absolutely. All you can do is your one thing … we can’t just not do anything.”
Brooks says ultimately a change in government during the Oct. 6 election may be the only way to change the province’s wind power policies.
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