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Rural residents react to planned wind turbine study

People living in rural areas are applauding the federal government’s decision to study the impact of wind turbines on human health.

Health Canada announced Tuesday it would spend $2 million to examine the health of the residents of 2,000 homes near wind turbines and talk about their experiences.

A team of 25 experts in acoustics and health assessment as well as international advisors will visit the areas where wind farms are located.

Many rural residents say they are relieved that the federal government seems to be listening when the provincial government isn’t.

Janet Vallery, president of the Oppose Belwood Wind Turbines Group, says “There are many people in Ontario that have been forced from their houses, that have suffered from sleeplessness, from vertigo, palpitations and headaches. They refer to it as wind turbine syndrome.”

Nonetheless, Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley says the province is on firm scientific ground when it says there is no health risk.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), which represents the wind turbine industry, says in a statement it will look at the results of the study.

“Health Canada’s proposed new study will contribute to the scientific literature and our knowledge base. We look forward to undertaking such a review and providing our feedback…

CanWEA notes that the balance of scientific evidence to date clearly demonstrates that wind turbines do not have an impact on human health and that this perspective has been confirmed by numerous independent reviews of the scientific literature.”

Currently, there are nearly 60 wind turbines proposed or ready for approval surrounding the Village of Belwood.

But opponents say they have a list of 400 people who are opposed to them and have raised $150,000 to begin a legal fight.

Heather Johnston lives in the Belwood area. She says she was in favour of wind turbines until she did her own research.

She now supports a call from a Progessive Conservative MPP for a moratorium on more wind turbines until the study is complete.

“[Premier] Dalton McGuinty is okay listening to people who don’t like gas plants, but he has nothing to offer people in the rural communities regarding wind turbines.”

The study will look at areas mostly in Ontario and Quebec where there are clusters of eight to 12 wind turbines, far fewer than those proposed near Belwood.

The results of the study are expected to be ready in about two years.