At Bluewater’s April 2 meeting, councillors passed a motion to ask the Huron County Health Unit to undertake an independent health study on industrial wind turbines.
In a phone interview last week, Councillor John Gillespie said the request would take the form of a letter to the Health Unit, which will be made public after municipal staff draft it.
“We’ll wait and see what comes from the Health Unit,” he said adding, the organization’s mandate says it will investigate concerns of the community through research studies, but ultimately it will be up to the organization to decide if it is something they can do.
“It was an idea I had in relation to the role of what the Health Unit might be able to do in relation to industrial wind turbines,” explained Gillespie.
“With the mounting evidence locally and in southwestern Ontario with residents living close to wind turbines having issues like sleep deprivation because of low frequency noise and shadow flicker, I thought it would be good to examine the issue on a broader scale,” he said.
Bluewater has three wind turbine developments proposed for the municipality, which are at various stages in the Ministry of the Environment’s renewable energy approval process.
“It was appropriate to ask under the circumstances,” he added.
While council was fully supportive of the notice of motion brought up last month, Gillespie said the motion was not passed unanimously because of concern about the cost for undertaking such a major study.
With other municipalities and research institutions looking into the effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on residents’ health, Gillespie felt it would be important for the area to have a local study of their own residents.
“This continues to be a big issue and we need more information,” he said.
Dr. Nancy Cameron, from the Huron County Health Unit, said they have received the request from Bluewater and they will be putting together a report to go before their board at the May 9 meeting because the request is outside the scope of their day-to-day work.
“It would require additional staff and funding. We are a very small health unit and we’re not a research centre,” she said in a phone interview.
The Health Unit’s position has been to support the work of Dr. Arlene King, Chief Medical Officer of Health Ontario, who has found through her review no evidence of a link between turbines and adverse health affects. Studies like the one Bluewater is asking for are usually done by provincial health organizations because they have the research capabilities, Cameron explained.
President of Bluewater Against Turbines, Dave Griffiths, applauded the move by Bluewater council, especially because he and his members are losing faith in the outcome of the federal health study that was announced last summer to be completed in 2104.
“That study is a joke. We don’t know where they are going with the questions and people are really upset,” he said.
While some wind turbine opponents felt the health study was a step in the right direction, that sentiment has quickly dried up.
“We all thought ‘Oh this is great,’ but now it’s like who cares.”
Griffiths said he has no idea why some questions are part of the survey, including questions about body image.
While Griffiths said he isn’t holding his breath about the federal study, he does feel local studies are extremely important for the anti-turbine movement because they are independent.
A separate University of Waterloo study on the health effects of turbines is circulating in the mailboxes of Huron County residents. That study will contact 5,000 people by mail and includes two parts. The first is a 30-page survey and the second part is a physical assessment that may include “providing a small hair sample, keeping a sleep diary and symptom journal for a week, collecting saliva samples for three days, completing a similar survey to this one, and allowing a research assistant to measure the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of your home.”
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