If ever a couple have come full circle in their view of wind farms, it would have to be David and Alida Mortimer.
The couple, from the picturesque Millicent area in south-eastern South Australia, well remember how they were approached in 1996 to have two wind turbines sited on their properties.
‘‘We actually didn’t realise we were going to get paid for it at the time,’’ Mr Mortimer said.
‘‘We consulted with our neighbours and encouraged them to sign up. We had seen (turbines) in Holland and they seemed so benign. We thought it would be a nice little adjunct to our income.’’
The company that they signed up with was Babcock and Brown, later to evolve into Infigen, operators of the Lake Bonney wind farm. Infigen is also the company behind the proposed Cherry Tree project.
By 2005 the turbines had been constructed about 750 m from their farmhouse. And that was when they say the trouble began.
Due to the noise being created by those turbines and others, they decided to bring forward the building of a new home on another property 5 km away, on the northern edge of the wind farm.
‘‘Within 18 months of the turbines starting up, that’s when the problems started to arise,’’ Mr Mortimer said.
‘‘I got all sorts of problems, sleep related and heart related, tinnitus, I was getting a pulsing sensation in my head. I’m not getting any younger (he is 64) and the doctor said the tinnitus was probably from my Navy days.
‘‘He checked my heart, I had an ECG and my heart was perfectly normal. I thought it must be just ageing or hereditary.’’
In 2009, the problems spread to Mrs Mortimer, who started getting dizzy spells as well as pulsing and pressure sensations.
The couple say they still had no idea what was causing their problems until they went to a meeting in Mt Gambier about a proposed wind farm nearby.
‘‘At that meeting a chap from Portland listed off a set of medical conditions he had been suffering from due to the turbines there,’’ Mr Mortimer said.
‘‘As he started doing this I ticked off my mental list in alarm because they were the things I was suffering from. I wondered what can I do about checking this.’’
A friend told him about Sarah Laurie, a former practising general practitioner who is the chief executive of the anti-wind farm Waubra Foundation.
‘‘I had no idea who she was or what the Waubra Foundation was or wind turbine syndrome,’’ Mr Mortimer said.
‘‘She said what I had was what was consistent with what others were suffering. This is not the Nocebo effect (when people become sick due to believing something is making them sick). I had this for years before I knew what it was.’’
Mr Mortimer presented some analysis by an acoustic expert at the VCAT Cherry Tree hearing which showed the levels of infrasound (inaudible low-frequency sound) that the couple believes are the main cause of their problems, along with air pressure variations caused by turbine blades.
Mrs Mortimer said there was a simple solution to getting rid of their symptoms.
‘‘You can break it by going away from home,’’ she said.
‘‘We go away for a few hours just to break that continuous pounding. I’ve had days when I was hugging the walls, I’ve got to hold on to make sure I don’t fall over.
‘‘But leaving home just disrupts the condition, as soon as you’re home it’s back on again. It’s only if you’re away from home for a length of time (when they were in Seymour, Mrs Mortimer had been away from home for about eight weeks) that it takes a few days to start again.’’
The Mortimers now face the prospect of more turbines nearby.
‘‘It galls us that the wind farm industry wants to put them there,’’ Mr Mortimer said.
‘‘We’re in a bind too. We don’t want to lose the income that the wind farm is making us but if we get the turbines shut down no-one (neighbours) is going to like me.’’
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