TORONTO – A day after a local wind farm showcased its facility to the community, a family hit its parent company with a $1.5-million lawsuit.
The Michaud family claims that living near Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm, west of Thamesville, led to adverse health effects almost immediately after it started operating in the spring.
The Chatham Daily News spoke with family members Wednesday after a press conference in Toronto announcing the lawsuit.
The Michauds, who include parents Michel and Lisa and their two adult children, Elisha, 25, and Joshua, 20, say the symptoms they have felt include vertigo, nausea and sleep disruption that has resulted in emergency hospital visits and being prescribed medication.
“Nobody’s been sleeping for months,” said Lisa Michaud, 46.
She said she was the first to not feel well, noting, “I couldn’t even stand or walk.”
Then Michel, 53, started not feeling well, which he blames on the lack of sleep he’s been experiencing.
Michel, who operates his own construction business, said his son Josh began noticing something wrong with him because he was miserable and had been making mistakes.
He said he recently injured his thumb with a power nailer.
“I’ve been better,” he said. “I’m not happy.”
Lisa Michaud said her son can’t concentrate or play his musical instruments like he normally does. She added Elisha, 25, recently had two menstrual cycles in a month, which has never happened before.
“It’s been a real struggle,” Lisa Michaud said.
They built their dream home on Dew Drop Line after obtaining the property in 2005.
“We put our heart and soul in that place,” she said.
Michaud said they asked the company to either turn off the wind turbines or buy them another house so they can move.
The Daily News contacted Suncor Energy for comment, but little was forthcoming.
Jennifer Lomas, company spokesperson said, “because the statement of claim has been filed and it’s now a matter before the courts, I can’t talk about specifics or comment on our perspective.”
When asked if there is a concern this issue could snowball, she declined to speculate, noting the claim is being reviewed by Suncor’s legal team.
Suncor has five operating wind power facilities, including two in Ontario, two in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan.
Lomas said, “This is the only claim we’ve had.”
The Kent Breeze Wind Farm, the first project approved under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, was the subject of an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing last spring, which included testimony by two dozen experts.
Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for the Michaud family, said “the government and Suncor’s own experts said these kinds of effects would likely occur. They still went ahead.”
He added, “the claim is based on what appears to be obvious negligence.”
Gillespie noted the tribunal’s ruling stated for legal reasons, the test it applies it wouldn’t be able to do anything on this particular file, but did acknowledge wind turbines “can cause harm to human health.”
He added experts on all sides of the debate, all agree “if you go and talk to everybody in the community it’s not going to be everybody (who suffers symptoms).
“Unfortunately, in this case it happens to be the Michauds,” Gillespie said.
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