North Gower residents and politicians are joining forces to put a nearby wind farm proposal on hold until a new health study on human impacts is complete.
On Tuesday, July 10 Health Canada and Statistics Canada announced plans for a comprehensive national study of health impacts from wind turbines, with the aim of recommending appropriate setbacks from residential areas to limit health impacts.
In light of the impending study, Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre and his provincial counterpart Lisa MacLeod gathered with about 25 residents on Wallingford Way in North Gower on Thursday, July 12 to ask for a moratorium on its development.
Carrying signs that read “Health studies before wind farms” and “Turbines make bad neighbours,” the group gathered just a stone’s throw away from the farmer’s fields where about eight turbines as tall as 120 metres could potentially pop up.
As part of his support for Health Canada’s new study, Poilievre has sent an open letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty asking him to put the North Gower project on hold until the study is complete and current regulations can be revisited.
The Prowind project application with Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program for renewable energy sources, along with all other applicants that were not approved before October 2011, is already ‘on hold’ with the province while the FIT rules are updated.
Currently, provincial setbacks for wind turbines in Ontario is 550 metres, which Poilievre, MacLeod and many residents say is not nearly far enough.
Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson, who lives in North Gower, said she doubts the new federal study will support the current Ontario setback.
“The evidence around the world is conclusive. Australia just found that a minimum setback would have to be two kilometres, but health effects have been found at 10 km,” she said. “I can’t see how 550 metres is going to go through that at all.”
If the North Gower wind farm is approved, Wilson would live just under one kilometre from several of the proposed turbines, and about three kilometres from the rest.
According to a self-reported health survey called Wind Vigilance for Ontario Communities, 109 out of 135 respondents between April 2009 and February 2011living near wind turbines reported health effects ranging from sleep disturbance and excessive tiredness to dizziness, nausea and depression. The respondents’ average distance from a turbine was about 675 metres, but some reports came from as far as five kilometres away.
Poilievre said that’s enough to convince him that taking another look at Ontario’s regulation is necessary.
“If you have people reporting health problems living five kilometres away and you have this proposed site at Marlborough Wind Farm only 800 metres away (from residents), there is potential for a lot of trouble for residents in North Gower,” Poilievre said.
Last year, the Ontario government spearheaded a technical working group called the Working Group on Wind Turbine Noise, which brought provincial and federal staffers together to discuss national setback regulations. However the group could not find consensus on the issue and the group was eventually dissolved.
Poilievre said the new Health Canada study will create a definitive piece of scientific evidence that all provinces will be able to use to implement safe setbacks for wind projects.
“In Canada there’s not one unified accepted study that the whole nation can follow,” he said. “With the use of Statistics Canada and Health Canada we can pull together the best health and statistics experts to reach a definitive and proven recommendation for setback distances.”
Ontario’s Minister of Energy Chris Bentley stood by the province’s setbacks, and noted that the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, found in 2010 that there were no “direct causal links between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects” he said in an email.
He added that the 550 metre setback is one of the toughest standards in North America, and that the government is committed to continued study of the issue.
“We look forward to the federal government’s findings. As we continue to invest in clean, renewable energy for Ontarians, we are committed to funding research into the field to determine any future health impacts that may arise as a result,” he said.
But some residents are not happy with that.
Wilson thanked Health Canada for “finally listening to us” and taking on the new study.
“I’m not a scientist, I’m not a power expert. But I think this is an opportunity for innovation, instead of taking this technology from Europe and forcing it on Ontario,” she said. “Ontario is a pretty smart province and we should be able to come up with solutions that are safe for everyone.”
MacLeod also commended Health Canada for doing “what McGuinty should have done when he brought in the Green Energy and Green Economy Act” – study the health impacts first, before approving wind farm developments.
“It’s now up to McGuinty to place the moratorium on this project and others in Ontario until conclusive evidence has been made,” MacLeod said.
McGuinty was unavailable for comment.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding