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Wind turbine noise debate now one of degree

I applaud the announcement by Health Canada to conduct a study of health effects of industrial wind turbines (CJ, July 11). On July 18, 2011, after testimony from experts around the world, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal stated: “This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.”

The Ontario Ministry of Environment’s website states, “Our setback of 550 m. for wind projects is the most stringent in North America and is based on the most up-to-date science.”

Section 47.3 (1) Ontario Environmental Protection Act states a very different set of setback distances. The act states 550 metres is considered the absolute minimum setback for a very small wind farm – five turbines or less and a noise output level of 102 decibels. This section also shows when a 107-decibel level is reached or the number of turbines in a wind farm increases, the setbacks must be increased quite dramatically to 950-1,500 metres to provide protection to the people living near the turbines. There are also many jurisdictions all over the world that consider a 1,500-metre setback inadequate. Setbacks of 2,000-3,000 metres or more are required in places such as Oregon, where a setback in various areas is 3,219 metres (two miles) to a rural home. Various areas of Maine see setbacks of 1,200-2,400 metres. Parts of Austria and Australia – 2,000 metres. France – 4,900 metres.

We know that the size of the new turbines has increased significantly. They now approach 500 feet (the size of the Nor’Wester Mountains themselves) and some newer models being developed are over 800 feet. Is it such a stretch that this could be a factor contributing to the increased illness reports all over the world?

Interesting to note also is that the computer noise modelling the Industry uses is for flat terrain and doesn’t take into consideration how much farther noise will travel on an 600-foot escarpment surrounded by rock face. We hope the study design will consider not only setback distances but also turbine type, size and the typography of the land.

I can only hope Health Canada’s study is independent of the wind industry and governments. One must question the motives of anyone willing to outright dismiss or deny any and all health effects. Those living close to industrial wind turbines – mainly our rural, farming-type folk – would never have considered abandoning their homes, and their complaints should be dealt with compassionately.

We never want to get to the situation of our neighbours: The Brown County Board of Health (Wisconsin) “ . . . formally requests temporary emergency financial relocation assistance from the State of Wisconsin for those Brown County families that are suffering adverse health effects and undue hardships caused by the irresponsible placement of industrial wind turbines around their homes and property. The State of Wisconsin emergency financial assistance is requested until the conditions that have caused these undue hardships are studied and resolved, allowing these families to once again return safely to their homes and property.”

Irene Bond
Thunder Bay