Mary Morris is a reluctant poster girl in a bitter fight over industrial wind turbines that has split rural communities.
Her great grandfather, JW Armstrong, was a magistrate and community leader who helped pioneer South Australia’s Robertstown district in the 1870s.
Over four generations, Armstrong’s descendants have established the local RSL, sat on the board of Eudunda hospital and the regional board of health, and have taken an active interest in social justice, the church, sport, teaching, nursing, youth groups and local government.
Ms Morris said it was civic duty and a sense of justice that got her involved in the plight of Waterloo residents who claimed they had been forced to abandon their homes because of what they said was the noise impact of wind turbines.
Barrister Peter Quinn described Ms Morris as “Country Women’s Association with attitude”.
Her determination may finally have forced the South Australian Environmental Protection Authority to conduct what could be the most comprehensive noise testing of wind turbines in the world.
“As time goes on, more and more people are prepared to speak out as it becomes more a mainstream thing and not just whingers,” Ms Morris said.
“People want the testing to be done openly and transparently.”
South Australian EPA science and assessment director Peter Dolan said testing would start at Waterloo in April and would continue uninterrupted for two months.
The EPA will measure sounds down to 0.25 hertz and will ensure wind turbine operator TRUenergy turns the wind turbines off and on when requested to get an accurate measure of background noise.
The testing follows a joint study in Wisconsin in the US that found enough evidence to “classify low frequency noise and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the (wind) industry”.
The wind industry continues to deny there is a problem.
Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said multiple, thorough, peer-reviewed scientific studies on wind farm noise had found infrasound from wind farms was not an issue.
An earlier study commissioned by the EPA has been cited as evidence that infra-sound from wind turbines is not significant.
“The EPA’s report found that the level of infrasound from wind turbines is insignificant and no different to any other sources of noise, and that the worst contributors to household infrasound are airconditioners, traffic and noise generated by people,” Mr Marsh said.
He said the report provided some “much-needed clarity in a debate that has often been clouded by misinformation”.
Mr Dolan said the earlier report did not present a complete picture.
The testing will take place at Waterloo, where there have been a lot of complaints. It will include very low frequency noise, much lower than the earlier report, and will not screen out frequencies specific to wind turbines.
“The eyes of the world are going to be on the South Australian EPA on how they handle this,” Ms Morris said.
Read more on The Australian.
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