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Amherst seeks wind farm slowdown

Amherst town council has asked the premier to delay wind turbine project announcements near its borders until human health studies are completed.

The town has also sent a letter to the Municipality of the County of Cumberland asking to discuss the effects of turbines on property values and human health.

While Amherst has no wind turbine developments, other than an inoperable unit at the RCMP detachment, 15 large turbines are on the nearby Tantramar Marshes.

The wind field is on county land. There are also proposals for more developments, including one from Sprott Power, owner of the existing field, that would have at least 15 more turbines.

Developers are scheduled to hear Thursday whether their projects have been approved by the provincial renewable electricity administrator.

The public won’t learn which projects have approved until early August. Proponents would still have to receive environmental and construction-permitting approval.

“We’ve received a number of calls, emails and presentations expressing concerns about the effects on health and property values,” Robert Small, the town’s mayor, said Tuesday.

“These points of view deserve to be investigated. All the reports we’ve seen so far come from industry itself and not an independent body.”

The town’s letter references a Health Canada study released on July 10 into the effects of wind turbines on human health.

A 2010 study by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, found no adverse effects on human health.

“While some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects,” said the report.

“The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct adverse health effects. However, some people might find it annoying.”

A Nova Scotia Association of Realtors spokeswoman said Tuesday that it has not been collecting data on the effects of wind turbines on property values.

Cumberland County has a mandatory setback for wind turbines of 600 metres from homes. It has embraced wind development as a new source of revenue, although it is primarily Amherst residents who live close to the proposed developments on the marshland.

“There’s lots of wind turbines in Europe and I haven’t been aware of adverse health effects raised there,” said Keith Hunter, the county’s warden.

“I would not mind a wind turbine near my house. I would have no qualms whatsoever and no worry of danger to me or my family.”

For the economically depressed county, the existing Sprott field means about $150,000 in annual tax revenue.

“There are 19 proposals for large-scale developments before the province and 31.7 per cent of them are from Cumberland County,” said Hunter.

“This is good, clean energy and a tax source for our municipality that means we don’t have to go after residents for more money.”