Barb Ashbee says she started getting sick as soon as the industrial wind turbines near her former Shelburne-area home started to spin.
It began with sleep deprivation, then stomach aches. Her husband fell ill too, she said.
“As time went on, we got sicker and sicker,” Ashbee said in an interview Tuesday aboard a coach bus filled with anti-turbine protesters.
Nausea, dizziness and memory problems soon joined the list of symptoms.
“I could hardly get a sentence out it was so bad,” she said. Her dog also became agitated.
She said the symptoms would persist until she left her house. Her workplace became a place of solace.
In 2009, after living at her rural home for only four years, Ashbee said she and her husband moved out of the wind farm.
“We were fine before the turbines were there and after they started, we were sick. When we moved, we got better,” she said.
Ashbee joined hundreds of people at a rally outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the provincial capital’s downtown core.
People from across Ontario participated in the protest, including a busload of people from Grey-Bruce. People came from Manitoulin Island, Thunder Bay, the Kingston area and the northern United States.
The province says wind energy is safe at Ontario’s regulated setback distance of 550 metres and turbine sound presents no direct health risk to people.
Paul Thompson of Amaranth Township said he has been unable to live in his rural home, which he built in the late 1980s, ever since a substation for wind turbine power was erected across the street and put online on Feb. 16, 2006.
Two 100-megawatt transformers are linked to 133 wind turbines, he said.
The self-employed farm equipment mechanic said he experienced headaches, ringing in his ears, heart palpitations, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of energy, even though he passed physical examinations at his doctor’s office and MRI scans at the hospital.
“It’s bad,” he said. “It’s really, really bad.”
Like Ashbee, Thompson said the symptoms all disappear when he leaves his home, which he still owns. He now sleeps in a rented room that is attached to a trailer on another property.
“At first, I blamed myself,” he said. “Now, I know what it is.”
Bob Baxter flew in from Thunder Bay to attend the protest. He said he is concerned about the multi-turbine development that is proposed for the Nor’Wester Mountain Range near his home.
Seventeen turbines are planned for the first of four phases. More than 2,000 homes are within two miles of the proposed wind farm, he said.
Baxter said he is concerned about the environmental toll of the turbines, which will be built near scenic hiking trails and natural water sources and “loom” over Thunder Bay.
“I don’t think many people realize the devastation that is being proposed for an untouched area,” he said.
James Virgin of Oppose Belwood Wind Farms spent most of the rally handing out flyers to people who walked by the protesters.
He said almost all of the “people in suits” refused to take a flyer.
“Toronto doesn’t understand it because they don’t have a direct impact,” the Fergus-area resident said.
They will eventually, he said, calling the wind energy movement a “disaster in slow motion.”
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