DEMORESTVILLE – Monica Elmes insists some of her quality of life has gone with the wind since a large wind turbine farm started tapping wind energy near her Ridgetown, Ont. farm three years ago.
Elmes made the statements before the long-awaited human health phase of the Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) appeal at Sophiasburgh town hall in Demorestville in Prince Edward County Thursday.
The appeal panel – which was slated to be held both Wednesday and Thursday, but saw the first day of hearings cancelled – heard Elmes’ testimony on what opponents in the County term “serious harm to human health” that may be caused by Gilead Power’s potential wind project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.
“The ERT hearing focuses on the serious health effects that nine wind turbines will inflict on residents living within two kilometres,” said Eric Gillespie, lawyer who represents members of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).
APPEC’s appeal aims to show harm to specific “receptors,” or residents who live near wind farms.
Thursday’s hearing was aimed at presenting the latest acoustical, epidemiological and medical research, as well as hearing the testimonies of three Ontario wind power “victims” like Elmes on their experience of being “forced” to live in or near currently-operating wind energy projects.
However, lengthy pauses due to both legal and technical discussions between Gillespie, representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and Gilead Power’s legal team throughout the day brought the tribunal to re-schedule the remaining two testimonies to Tuesday, when the panel meets again in Toronto.
Additional and similar hearings are scheduled to take place until the end of the month (but not each week day) in both Demorestville and Toronto, where up to 17 “wind victims” are expected to testify.
Three expert witnesses, as they are billed by the opponents – Dr. Robert McMurtry, Robert Thorne and Dr. Sarah Laurie – will also provide supporting testimonies in the weeks ahead.
ERT hearings are expected to conclude on or shortly after June 6 with closing statements for both natural environment and health phases.
The tribunal is expected to release its final decision on whether or not allowing Gilead Power to build their Ostrander Point wind project July 3.
In 2011, claims APPEC, the Chatham-Kent ERT panel acknowledged that wind turbines can cause harm when sited too close to homes.
“It also noted that chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, had failed to research indirect health effects in her 2010 review of scientific literature,” stated the group of about 40 Prince Edward County residents opposed to the erection of a wind farm in the area.
“Considering the fate of numerous Ontario victims, it is outrageous that both the wind power industry and the Ontario government continue to deny the adverse health effects arising from noise annoyance, low-frequency sound, and infrasound,” added APPEC members.
Gillespie said wind turbine related symptoms include sleep disturbance, nausea, migraine, vertigo, loss of cognitive function, high blood pressure and cardiac events.
In an emotional appearance, Elmes told the panel how the-more-than 45 wind turbines erected near her 65-acre farm in Ridgetown in 2010 have “significantly impacted” her quality of life, mostly due to noise issues.
“At first when I saw this map (of the Talbot farm project back in 2009-10) I was relieved, almost, as the turbines seemed to be a quite distance from our home and I thought ‘Great, noise is not going to be an issue for our family’,” she said.
But Elmes “quickly” witnessed, she noted, the adverse affects caused by wind turbines being erected more than two kilometres from her farm.
“The first thing you can’t miss is that it is a huge visual intrusion, even before they start turning,” she said.
Depending on the season, Elmes, her husband and her son can see between 17 to 20 turbines of the whole project (almost 50 in total) from her home.
“On top of that, once the project became functional, we were shocked because the noise was pretty obvious,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“It impacts when you are in and outside the home, especially during the summer as we don’t have air conditioning and need the windows open. And the audible noise is disruptive at night. There are things we used to do while enjoying our property, which we don’t do anymore because of the turbines. And some people have said they would not come to my home anymore.”
After the hearing and on breaks in the proceedings, several APPEC members were asked for comment, but refused to speak with The Intelligencer, accusing the newspaper of not having covered the hearings more regularly.
APPEC members are seeking funds to help pay their legal bills.
To that end, a yard sale will be held Saturday beside Prince Edward Animal Hospital (14011 Loyalist Parkway) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to support APPEC’s legal expenses for the ERT, which are estimated around $80,000.
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