Eleven witnesses have explained how wind turbines have affected their lives while delivering testimony at the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). The hearings continue this week in Toronto and Demorestville.
The ERT is examining the decision to approve an industrial wind turbine project at Ostrander Point, Prince Edward County.
During March and April, ERT members Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright heard many hours of expert testimony from dozens of Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ (PECFN) case witnesses on how nine 500-foot turbines planted in concrete bases and with wing spans of a football field will impact plants and animals and the Important Bird Area on the shoreline of South Marysburgh.
The wind development company experts countered that there will be harm but not so great as to be irreversible.
This month, the hearing changed its focus to how turbines risk human health in a case brought forward by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC). Their appeal must prove serious harm to human health, though not necessarily irreversible harm.
The witnesses are current or former residents of the operating wind projects at Clear Creek, Kent-Breeze, Melancthon, Talbot, and Wolfe Island.
Most either were in favor of renewable energy, or were indifferent until wind turbines changed their lives.
The witnesses reported a variety of similar adverse symptoms – principally sleep disturbance, nausea, migraine, vertigo, cognitive impairment, high blood pressure, and cardiac events. They also report suffering from profound stress brought on by deteriorating health, community and even family divisions, severe financial loss, and abandoned, unsalable homes.
“These victims are the coincidental casualties of wind power development,” says Henri Garand, APPEC Chairman. “Despite numerous complaints to developers, municipal governments, the Ministry of Environment and two Ontario premiers, nothing has been done to relieve their situations or even acknowledge the real problems. The MOE not only has failed to enforce compliance with noise standards but has continued to approve wind power projects based on the same inadequate setback regulations.”
“The ongoing ERT appeal has now given legal recognition to the many abuses that have already occurred. Starting May 27 in Toronto, expert medical witnesses Dr. Robert McMurtry and Dr. Sarah Laurie will confirm and explain adverse health effects caused by wind turbines.
“This proof of serious harm to human health meets the requirements of the ERT in order to cancel the MOE’s approval of the Ostrander Point project,” said Garand. “It will also discredit the MOE’s regulatory process and standards for Renewable Energy Approvals. Then rural Ontarians will be protected from the consequences of unsafe wind power development.”
The following APPEC reports on ERT Appeal on Ostrander Point Witnesses from May 9 – May 24, 2013 were written by Henri Garand and Paula Peel.
May 9th ERT Hearing on the Human Health Appeal
By H. Garand
The first day of the Environmental Review Tribunal on the human health appeal consisted of the opening statement by APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie, disputes over admissibility of evidence, and testimony of the first witness.
APPEC Opening Statement: Eric Gillespie explained that the present appeal will build on a 2011 ERT decision. In the Erickson appeal in Chatham-Kent the ERT, after hearing from 25 expert witnesses, concluded the following:
1. Sleep disturbance, headache, ear pressure, vertigo, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, and panic episodes can all be symptoms of exposure to wind turbines.
2. The symptoms indicate “extreme annoyance” and are “serious” effects.
3. It is not necessary to demonstrate the mechanism causing the effects, whether noise, low-frequency sound, or infrasound.
4. Wind turbines can cause adverse effects “if placed too close to people. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.”
Consequently, APPEC will call 17 witnesses. Eleven of these live near the Melancthon I and II, Kruger, Clear Creek, Talbot, Wolfe Island, and Kent Breeze wind projects. They have two elements in common: similar health issues and residence within two km of a wind turbine.
Three witnesses live near the proposed Ostrander Point project and have pre-existing conditions that make them susceptible to wind turbine exposure.
Three expert witnesses will provide relevant background and opinion. Dr. Robert McMurtry and Robert Thorne, Ph.D. were qualified as medical witnesses in the Erickson appeal. Dr. Sarah Laurie has wide experience assessing patients living near wind projects.
In contrast, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) and Gilead Power are calling witnesses on acoustical engineering who will testify that the Ostrander Point project is the same as other projects in complying with the 550-m setback and 40-dbA noise level based on noise modelling irrespective of geography or demographics. APPEC will have little conflict with such evidence.
Other expert witnesses for MOE and Gilead will revisit the issue of causation. But as the Ericskon appeal demonstrated, the debate is over. APPEC accepts the ERT finding that turbines located beyond 550 m cause “annoyance.”
Ministry of Environment Statement: Lawyer Sylvia Davis made no opening statement except to dispute APPEC’s interpretation of the Erickson ruling. She identified six witnesses: Denton Miller, MOE Approvals; Brian Howe, HGG Engineering; and Drs. David Colby, Cornelia Barnes and Kieran Moore.
Gilead Power Statement: Lawyer Bryn Gray made no opening statement. He identified six witnesses: Shant Dakouzian, Helimax noise assessments; Al Lightstone, acoustical engineer; G. Leventhall and Werner Richards, on low-frequency sound and infrasound; and Chris Olsson, Ph.D. and Dr. Robert McCunney, both on health studies.
Ministry of Environment Background Witness: Coreen Schofield, senior program coordinator, MOE Approvals and Access, displayed a series of maps identifying where APPEC witnesses live in proximity to wind turbines. She explained that “receptor” refers to a building, structure, or vacant land used in the determination of setbacks. She said that Noise Assessment Reports are based on computer models and that complaints are handled by the MOE’s compliance branch.
All parties had previously agreed that Ms. Schofield would provide exclusively background information on witness locations. Mr. Gillespie therefore objected when Ms. Davis introduced a document that cited municipal populations, the number of project participants who are receptors, and the number of receptors closer than APPEC’s witnesses to turbines. To enable the hearing to carry on, the ERT Panel ruled that all the exhibits (maps and explanatory documents) would be accepted for identification purposes, but the parties would make submissions later on relevance.
Medical Records: A new Gilead Power lawyer, Daryl Cruz, questioned the status of the medical records provided by APPEC witnesses. He argued that they should be accepted as business records of medical services but not as records giving medical opinions. Such opinions constituted hearsay unless doctors were called to confirm the truth of the opinions or diagnoses.
Ms. Davis stated that medical records had also been submitted for witnesses’ family members. Witnesses could not testify on this hearsay evidence.
Mr. Gillespie argued that the records had been sought by MOE and Gilead and that their provision was supposed to avoid the need to call doctors. Though witnesses might not be able to cite diagnoses, they could testify to their own experience and their direct observations of family members.
Co-chair Robert Wright said the ERT Panel would defer a decision on medical records in order to give time for submissions. In the interim it would accept witnesses’ testimony, barring hearsay, and would weight the evidence.
Other Medical Information: Mr. Cruz questioned the admissibility of interrogatories (178-item questionnaires) and other forms completed by witnesses upon the request of MOE and Gilead. The ERT Panel directed all parties to discuss the problem. An agreement was reached to treat the interrogatories as preparatory material but to accept the forms as equivalent to witness statements and admit them as evidence subject to removal of hearsay.
Testimony of Monica Elmes
Monica Elmes, the first of APPEC’s witnesses, described the experience of living near the 20 wind turbines visible from her home. Her family had been approached about participating in the wind project, but research led to her questioning the impacts. As a result she has been ostracized by participating neighbours. She is presently the spokesperson for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group.
Though Ms. Elmes had expected protection from regulatory setbacks, the noise level was obvious when the turbines started operating. The noise affects enjoyment of her property and sound levels inside her house during the summer. Audible noise disrupts sleep in a house that relies on open windows for cooling.
Her own sleep is not affected during the winter, but her husband suffers from continuing sleep disturbance and has also had attacks of vertigo. He finds relief by sleeping away from home or in the unfinished basement, which requires his shutting down the furnace and thereby cutting off heat to the house.
Ms. Elmes also spoke about the overall impact on the quality of her life. She said she is distressed when some neighbours call late at night complaining to her about the turbines. On the other hand, friends from outside the area now decline to visit.
Before wind turbine operation Ms. Elmes said the ambient night-time noise levels in her house measured 25-27 dbA. Now the level is in the 40’s to low 50’s. So far she has made 180 complaints to the MOE’s “spills line” about the lack of compliance. MOE field officers came several times but not when the noise was as loud, and they brought no equipment to measure it. However, they advised her to keep filing complaints. She also asked for the wind company’s noise protocol and abatement policies, but she was told these would only be available through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Report on May 14th ERT Hearing on Health Appeal
By Paula Peel
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the continuing testimony of Monica Elmes and the full testimony of Mike Davey, both APPEC witnesses.
Examination of Monica Elmes (contd.)
APPEC Lawyer Eric Gillespie asked about pre-existing medical conditions in the Elmes family. Ms. Elmes said her health, as well as her husband’s and 11-year-old son’s, was excellent before the Talbot wind project began operations. Since then her husband Neil has suffered from sleep disturbance, fatigue, and vertigo leading to lower work productivity, less enjoyment of life, and less tolerance for stress at home and work. Her son’s asthma has returned after a four-year absence. The medical advice her family has received is to consider relocation and to take medication for high blood pressure and vertigo.
The Ministry of Environment (MOE) has responded to Ms. Elmes’ complaints by sending field officers without equipment for measuring compliance with noise limits, by scheduling visits during business hours despite reported night-time noise, and by advising her to continue to file complaints.
Ms. Elmes said she is aware of 22 other project residents who have also complained to MOE in spite of living outside 40-dbA noise-modeled contour lines. Some have sought relief by installing air conditioning, buying waterfalls that emit white noise, sleeping in their basements, or even abandoning their homes.
Cross-Examination of Ms. Elmes
Gilead Power Lawyer Bryn Gray confirmed that Ms. Elmes lives 1,776 m from the closest wind turbine, within 2 km of two other turbines, and within 2.5 km of two more. She dislikes the views from a house with turbines on three sides. As spokesperson for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group, Ms. Elmes has written on the harmful effects of wind development on wildlife, property values, and rural character. She believes that wind projects are a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money, wind turbines are inefficient generators of electricity, and wind development is a scam. She feels it is “criminal for the government to proceed with development in light of health effects.”
MOE lawyer Sylvia Davis confirmed that Ms. Elmes has not been given a written diagnosis that her own and her family’s symptoms are caused by wind turbines.
Re-examination of Ms. Elmes
Eric Gillespie asked Ms. Elmes why she has a record of only one medical appointment. She said she seldom sought medical care even for injuries like her current poison ivy rash and broken toe.
Examination of Mike Davey
Prior to wind project construction Mr. Davey had lost a kidney to cancer surgery, displayed diabetic symptoms, and developed chronic kidney disease from high blood pressure. But he was in recovery until two wind projects were constructed and started operating in 2009 and 2010. His health problems now consist of sleep disturbance, high blood pressure, tinnitus, memory and concentration loss, chest pressure and palpitations, muscle and bone pain, and recurrence of diabetes. Besides medication he seeks relief by sleeping in the basement, in his car, or outside, including on one occasion a ditch.
An August 2012 MOE study of noise at Mr. Davey’s home found an average sound of 44.3 dbA, though much higher levels were recorded between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. It concluded that the wind turbines are in compliance if other noises are factored out, but it recommended a follow-up study. Nine months later, no such study has taken place.
Mr. Davey has sought medical attention but has found doctors unwilling to acknowledge a connection between his symptoms and wind turbines. A sleep centre diagnosed sleep apnea, though he had not suffered from it while bedridden and recovering from cancer surgery. He was twice denied a cortisol test, a screening procedure that will be used in Health Canada’s study of wind turbine health effects.
Mr. Davey is not a member of the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group and has not written letters opposing wind development.
Cross-examination of Mr. Davey
Gilead Power lawyer Darrel Cruz led Mr. Davey through a long list of the medical procedures and medications he has received. Mr. Cruz pointed to discrepancies between the records and Mr. Davey’s statements, and suggested that Mr. Davey’s diabetes is related to his weight, chest pains are due to reduced blood flow to his heart, and muscle and bone pain are caused by osteoarthritis. Other conditions were not confirmed by medical reports.
MOE’s Ms. Davis asked why Mr. Davey had connected his symptoms with wind turbines. He said it was due to his own and a neighbour’s sleep disturbance after the turbines started. His subsequent research made him think that his other symptoms are related to low-frequency or infrasound.
When asked how he generally feels about wind turbines, Mr. Davey said he likes their appearance but is concerned about the value of his property and its salability because of health effects.
Re-examination of Mr. Davey
Mr. Gillespie confirmed that Mr. Davey lives 747 m from a wind turbine in the Talbot wind project (2010) and is 2.4 km away from the Boralex project (2009). He reviewed Mr. Davey’s medical history with respect to the start up of each project and established the coincidental chronology.
Report on May 15th ERT Hearing on Health Appeal
By H. Garand
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of Lisa Michaud, whose family resides near the Kent-Breeze wind project, the subject of the 2011 Chatham-Kent ERT appeal.
Examination of Lisa Michaud
The Michaud family’s self-built home is known as receptor 210 of the Kent-Breeze project, which was constructed and began operation while an ERT appeal was taking place.
The Michauds had little prior knowledge of the project. They first learned of it in a notice addressed to “Occupant” just before the developer’s final public meeting in September or October 2009. They attended the meeting and asked questions, but left with mixed feelings and no information on harmful effects. They did not know of the ERT appeal until the decision was released in July 2011.
Ms. Michaud has a number of pre-existing medical conditions: fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and back pain. Her husband has also suffered from high blood pressure and back pain, and her son has seasonal allergies.
Since wind turbines started operating in May 2011 she has experienced severe vertigo, sleep disturbance and breathing problems due to sound and vibrations, popping and buzzing in her ears, and distress due the effects on her family and home life. Both her husband and son have also been ill with vertigo, including vomiting. All these symptoms either are reduced or disappear when the family is away from home.
Family members have received medical attention for specific symptoms like vertigo. However, treatment has been complicated by their family doctor’s loss of license, substitute use of hospital emergency services, and finally, a new family doctor’s refusal to discuss wind-turbine effects or to provide related treatment after the family had launched a lawsuit.
Initially, Ms. Michaud contacted wind developer Suncor and the Ministry of Environment (MOE). Complaints to the MOE resulted in only one field officer’s visit, without any testing for compliance. Later, the Michauds were informed that the personal information they had provided had been stolen from an MOE vehicle. The Michauds eventually approached every level of government, including the Ontario ombudsman. Ms. Michaud also used social media like FaceBook to present her concerns. When no one gave any real assistance, the Michaud family filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Suncor.
Cross-Examination of Ms. Michaud
MOE lawyer Sylva Davis reviewed Ms. Michaud’s medical history, focusing on her pre-existing conditions and treatments. She asked whether Ms. Michaud was aware that some medications could have the side effects of headache, dizziness, nausea, and muscle and bone pain. She also asked whether Ms. Michaud had sought therapy, such as that received for PTSD. Ms. Michaud replied that she has lived with stress all her life and has not sought therapy for it. The PTSD -related therapy was specific to a single problem. She added that the symptoms she has experienced since the turbines began operation are different from the symptoms associated with her pre-existing conditions.
Ms. Davis explored Ms. Michaud’s feelings about wind development and was told that the Michaud family feels “abandoned by government” because they were not consulted at the outset, or even contacted personally by the developer, and had no say in the approval process, yet they are exposed to the risks. Ms. Michaud used to regard home as an “oasis from the stress of the world”; now it is “not a safe place.” Although only one wind turbine is visible from her house when leaves are off the intervening trees, she feels “nauseated and annoyed” when seeing wind projects in the area.
Gilead Power lawyer Bryn Gray confirmed that the Michauds live 1,110 m from the nearest turbine and that audible noise is worst when the house is downwind. He asked why medical records are incomplete and was told that either the records are not readily available or the family cannot afford to obtain them.
Re-examination of Ms. Michaud
APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie asked Ms. Michaud about the train traffic on a rail line 200 m from her house. She said the number of trains has not changed since the family moved to the property in 2005, and train noise does not disturb them. When asked to compare her new symptoms with those from pre-existing conditions, she said the new symptoms are experienced only in the house or elsewhere around wind turbines, and they started with turbine operation and have never left.
APPEC Report on May 16th ERT Hearing on Health Appeal
By Paula Peel
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of Helen Fraser, who used to live near the Melancthon project, and of a pre-turbine witness, County resident Dr. Karen Hatchard.
Examination of Helen Fraser
Mrs. Fraser identified receptor #134 on the Ministry of the Environment map as her former home of 31 years. She confirmed that turbines are located to the west, north and south in a “C” pattern, with the closest 423 m away.
Both Mrs. Fraser and her husband had pre-existing medical conditions. However, their symptoms noticeably increased after the project started up. Mrs. Fraser’s fibromyalgia worsened as did her chronic fatigue. She felt a constant tickling in her ear as though something were crawling around inside. A “strobing,” or flicker, effect coming into the home caused nausea and debilitating headaches. On calm nights, Mrs. Fraser could feel her heart beating to the pulse of the blades.
Mrs. Fraser noted that the turbines rotated according to wind direction and that the pain was at its worst when they displayed a side profile. They made a “horn” sort of noise and a popping sound that was disruptive.
Initially the Frasers had no idea why they were feeling so unwell. However, they began to notice that their symptoms disappeared whenever they left home, and returned when they came back. In 2006, on a trip to the east coast, they were symptom-free for 25 days. Within 24 hours of returning home the symptoms recurred.
Ms. Fraser described leading a normal life in the country until the turbines started up. Then their social life was dramatically altered. Noise made it impossible to use the deck outside. People asked how they could live with the noise. Mr. Fraser moved into a basement room without windows so he could get sleep.
A year or so after the project became operational the Frasers accepted a buy-out from Canadian Hydro, the project developer. They left their home in 2007. Mrs. Fraser said they never would have left otherwise—they were forced out of their home. Their choice was staying and being ill or moving and getting their health back. Moving away from the turbines was really their only course of action.
Cross-Examination of Helen Fraser
Sam Rogers, yet another lawyer for Gilead, spent a tedious few hours reviewing Mrs. Fraser’s medical records from 2001 to the present time. His questioning confirmed that Mrs. Fraser’s chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia dated from 1990. More than once, Mrs. Fraser said that symptoms were more severe when she lived near wind turbines.
Sylvia Davis, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment, noted that Mrs. Fraser could see only a few turbines from her house. Mrs. Fraser said that she could not avoid looking at them because they were so close.
Re-examination of Mrs. Fraser
Mr. Gillespie asked Mrs. Fraser about two people on her road and seven others in the area who have moved away. She also knows other people struggling with conditions from turbines who cannot afford to move.
Examination of Dr. Karen Hatchard
Dr. Hatchard, a chiropractor, said that because of her interest in health she began reading on the subject of turbines. She learned that people with motion sensitivity and vertigo seem to be affected more. Dr. Hatchard has been prone to vertigo since youth. When she visited Wolfe Island, flickering caused a vertigo effect and made her feel light-headed. She is concerned for her well-being and about her ability to continue working to support herself and her family.
Dr. Hatchard confirmed that she lives in the vicinity of Ostrander Point and she often walks near there.
Cross-Examination of Dr. Hatchard
Gilead lawyer Bryn Gray asked why concerns noted on Dr. Hatchard’s witness information form were not raised during her annual physical examination. Dr. Hatchard said she has learned to manage her health. She disagreed with Mr. Gray that hearing sensitivity and vertigo are two different things. She said that if her hearing is affected this can cause a vertigo attack.
Report on May 17th ERT Hearing on Health Appeal
By H. Garand
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of Nicole Horton, whose family resides near the Kruger wind project. The hearing concluded with arguments on the admissibility of medical records as evidence.
Examination of Nicole Horton
Nicole Horton and her family live between the Kruger and Invenergy wind power projects in Chatham-Kent. The two nearest wind turbines are 700 m southwest of the house. Depending on the direction Ms. Horton looks, 8-24 turbines are visible during the day; 120 red warning lights are visible at night on the approach to the house.
When the Kruger project started up in fall 2008, it caused noticeable vibrations in the walls of the Hortons’ house. Ms. Horton and her husband spent $80,000 on renovations (insulation, rounded siding, steel roof, and new windows) which have diminished but not eradicated the vibrations.
Noise has also been a problem. It is worst when the leaves are off the trees in the forest around their house. Kruger Energy paid for an acoustic study but did not release the complete report to the Hortons. They did receive a summary, however, that showed spikes of sound above 60 dbA. Kruger suggested Ontario Hydro equipment was responsible, but Hydro did not find any problems during a week’s testing.
Ms. Horton’s pre-existing conditions relate to PMS. She described herself as a “regular healthy person” before the wind project. Her family had no previous health problems.
When the turbines started, the whole family experienced acute nausea. Since then Ms. Horton has suffered from headaches, heart palpitations, internal body vibrations, fatigue, loss of concentration and memory, swollen and dry eyes, and body rashes that left permanent scaring. Her husband has had sleeplessness and periods of moodiness. Her two children have complained of headaches, back and joint pain, swollen eyes, and nausea.
The Hortons’ custom-built “dream home” is now a “nightmare.” Ms. Horton feels like “her old self again” when she is away for just a few days. This is true not only when she is on vacations but even when she has traveled to Alberta for a parent’s surgery and for a funeral. Her husband, a fireman, feels better when sleeping on long shifts at the fire hall.
The family doctor was at first skeptical of wind turbines as the overall cause but has not found any other explanations. Diagnoses have ranged from allergies to thyroid problems to mood disorder. Medical treatment has relieved specific symptoms. Counselling has provided no relief. She has been advised to renovate her home and/or relocate.
The Hortons are trying to sell their house but insist on full disclosure of the problems to every potential buyer. They have also filed a lawsuit against Kruger Energy.
Ironically, Ms. Horton liked the turbines when first installed and even took photos showing the family home with turbines nearby. Now she is depressed that no one in the Ministry of Environment or Kruger has done anything about the reported health problems. Some days she would just like to walk away from the whole situation.
Ms. Horton’s cross-examination will occur on a later date.
Medical Records Dispute
The admissibility of medical records, which the ERT panel had left unsettled on May 9, was addressed in formal submissions at the end of the hearing. The outcome of the dispute may have a considerable bearing on the ERT process because it could lead to more witnesses and more days of testimony.
Gilead lawyer Darrel Cruz elaborated on the arguments made earlier. The Evidence Act, said Mr. Cruz, distinguishes between business and technical records: the former are documents produced in the daily course of business; the latter deal with technical matters and opinions, and include medical records. Mr. Cruz said that Gilead is willing, however, to accept the medical records of APPEC’s witnesses as business records in as much as they identify dates of visits, prescriptions, etc. But Gilead is not willing to accept them as evidence stating the truth of the diagnoses or medical opinions expressed. Under the Evidence Act, a doctor or other expert must be called to verify the truth of opinions.
MOE lawyer Sylvia Davis agreed with Gilead’s position. She said the ERT may admit hearsay evidence but should exercise the best evidence rules. Clinical notes are often unclear whether the words are quotations, paraphrases, or aids to memory. She added that even when medical records have been admitted without verification by physicians, the ERT has put such little weight on the evidence that it might as well have been excluded.
APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie pointed out that the issue was not raised in February when Gilead and the MOE had insisted that witnesses produce their medical records. By referring to the Evidence Act and citing civil court case law, Mr. Cruz was attempting to import civil law into an administrative law proceeding. There is no relevant case law for Ontario tribunals because they have routinely admitted medical records without qualification. Drawing the distinction Mr. Cruz has made would set a new precedent. Moreover, Mr. Cruz’s solution created a double standard. Gilead would be able to use the records as the basis for cross-examination, but APPEC would have to call physicians to prove the truth of the medical opinions recorded.
Mr. Gillespie therefore left the panel with a clear choice: Either exclude all the medical records (as APPEC had argued in February) or admit them fully.
The ERT panel conferred for half an hour then postponed a decision until May 21.
Report on May 21st ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
By H. Garand
The Environmental Review Tribunal announced its ruling on medical records and heard the full testimony APPEC witness Douglas Desmond and the initial testimony of APPEC witness Stephana Johnston.
Decision on Medical Records
Co-chair Robert Wright said there is no statutory bar to medical records in the Statutory Procedures Act. The ERT will admit the records as evidence but not for the truth of their contents under the Evidence Act. Therefore, if parties wish to rely on the medical opinions expressed, they should call the appropriate experts.
Examination of Douglas Desmond
Douglas Desmond occupies Receptor No. 369 near the Talbot wind project in Chatham-Kent. He has lived in the house since 1978 on a farm owned by the Desmond family since 1795. Wind turbines surround the house, making it always downwind regardless of the wind’s direction. The closest turbine is at 1066 m, and ten others are within 1500 m.
Shadow flicker was Mr. Desmond’s initial health concern. But the house is shaded by large trees, and shrubs have been left to grow and block the view from the windows. When the turbines started operation in late October 2010, Mr. Desmond was surprised to feel immediately the effect of sleep disruption. Later, he began to suffer migraines. He has also experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, and arrhythmia.
Mr. Desmond, a sixty-three-year old lawyer, has no recent, relevant pre-existing medical conditions. He had a serious motor accident forty years ago, had migraines until his 30s, and has been treated for skin cancer during the last 20 years. The recent chest pain was initially diagnosed as due to reflux but has now led to a thyroid investigation.
The family doctor prescribed drugs for sleep and migraines, but these have not been helpful and, in fact, caused disabling dizziness. Common non-prescription drugs have not worked either. Mr. Desmond has not seen a sleep specialist. His symptoms disappear when he is away from home for a few days or when the turbine blades are turning slowly or stopped.
Mr. Desmond reported the noise problem numerous times to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) but received no effective response.
Cross-Examination of Mr. Desmond
Gilead lawyer Bryn Gray asked Mr. Desmond about his concerns regarding property values. Mr. Desmond said he is concerned about all the economic impacts on Chatham-Kent, such as the industrialization of rural areas, reduction of agricultural land, and limitations on residential development. He had planned to sever part of his farm for new house construction but discontinued the process when wind development rendered the property unbuildable. He also said that wind turbines, irrespective of their appearance, are obstructions in a view and, like other obstructions, therefore affect the value and salability of properties with viewscapes.
Though Mr. Desmond had challenged the Talbot project at the Ontario Municipal Board, it went ahead under the new regulations of the Green Energy Act.
Mr. Desmond had also requested the MOE to conduct a full environmental assessment of Chatham-Kent before approving wind projects. He was concerned about the effect on waterfowl after speaking with Dr. Scott Petrie of Bird Studies Canada. Tundra swans formerly used Lake Erie and fields near his house for staging in spring and fall; now they avoid the area.
In 2011 Mr. Desmond provided the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group with a legal trust account for funds. He also spoke at a conference where he was self-identified as a “vocal opponent of large-scale industrial wind projects.”
MOE lawyer Sylvia Davis inquired further into Mr. Desmond’s medical records, noting diagnoses of osteoarthritis and bursitis for back and hip-and-thigh pain, respectively. Mr. Desmond said he accepted such pains as related to aging. The noise from turbines, however, is disturbing because of its variability, and he said his sleep disruption might be caused by low-frequency sound because the use of white noise does not bring any relief.
Examination of Stephana Johnston
Stephana Johnston, an eighty-two-year-old former health educator, lives in her retirement home, Receptor No. 254 of the Clear Creek, Cultus-Frogmore wind projects in Norfolk County.
Her symptoms started upon operation of the wind turbines in December 2008. She has felt pressure in her ears and head, sleep deprivation, fatigue in the morning, trembling in her abdomen, and dizziness that led to an injurious fall.
Ms. Johnston’s pre-existing medical conditions have a long history. She was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid in 1980, diabetes in 1984, and intermittent high blood pressure in 2000.
For the recent symptoms Ms. Johnston has received medical attention from her family doctor, an audiologist, and two neurologists, one of whom suggested she leave her home. She has declined to use sleep medication because of side effects. She has obtained periodic relief by sleeping in an apartment 40 km away and in a trailer on her son’s property, also distant from wind turbines.
Her numerous complaints to the MOE have been without results. An agent did promise to measure turbine sound levels for compliance, but there has been no follow-up.
The wind developer and two levels of government have been similarly unresponsive. Ms. Johnson explained the problems directly to Mike Crawley, then president of AIM PowerGen, but had no further contact. She presented a petition signed by 70 project residents to Norfolk council and had the local MPP table the same petition in the Ontario legislature.
Ms. Johnston has tried to sell her house but has had no one come to view it. Recently, she filed a lawsuit against the owner of the wind project.
Report on May 22nd ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
By Paula Peel
APPEC witness Stephana Johnston completed her testimony of the day before. The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the full testimony of APPEC witness Ed Kenney.
Examination of Stephana Johnston (cont’d)
Ms. Johnston’s efforts to take care of her health have had some results. One doctor indicated that her problems since the turbines started up could be related to environmental exposure, and he recommended further study. In January this year a doctor with expertise in sleep apnea concluded that her sleep disturbance could not be attributed to apnea. After eliminating other possible causes the doctor noted similarities between Ms. Johnston’s symptoms and stories he has heard of disturbed sleep in others living in areas with wind turbines, and he suggested she leave the house permanently.
Cross-examination of Stephana Johnston
Mr. Bryn Gray, lawyer for Gilead Power, asked about Ms. Johnston’s home in relation to the wind project. Ms. Johnston said her home is surrounded: Eight wind turbines are within 2 km; 18 within a 3-km radius of her home. In all, 25 turbines can be seen from her property if those from the Erie Shores Wind Farm 4 km away are included.
Mr. Gray wanted to know why the first medical record specifically relating to wind farms was in June 2009 if Ms. Johnston’s problems began in December 2008. Ms. Johnston agreed that she did not inform her doctor about pressure in her head, ear problems and sleep problems during a January appointment. However, she did so in March 2009. The omission in the records does not mean it was not reported.
Sylvia Davis, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), asked about the MOE’s 2010 acoustic-monitoring study. She noted that it was inconclusive and that the MOE was to return for more measurements. As far as Ms. Johnston knows, no one from MOE ever came back.
Re-examination of Stephana Johnston
Mr. Wright, one of the panel co-chairs, asked Ms. Johnston what she meant by vibrations. Ms. Johnston said it is her understanding that some vibrations or sound patterns produced by wind turbines are audible and some are not. MOE’s monitoring equipment measures sound in the human audible range and is designed to filter out vibrations on the lower and top ends of the scale.
Ms. Johnston was never asked by Gilead Power or the MOE if she would consent to be examined medically in preparation for the hearing.
Examination of Ed Kenney
Mr. Kenney identified receptor 547 as his home on Wolfe Island. Since June 2009, when the turbines started up, he has suffered from ringing in the ears and disturbed sleep. Mr. Kenney noted the significant changes to what was once a tight-knit community. The wind project has created friction among friends, neighbours, and families. The property across the road from his house hosts three turbines. Mr. Kenney’s sister owns this property.
On numerous occasions after the project started up, the Kenneys contacted the MOE about noise. They were told of the protocol to report problems to the company. As far as Mr. Kenney knows, the MOE never investigated any of their complaints.
In early 2012 the MOE district office in Kingston told the Kenneys that the company planned to conduct sound tests on the closest turbines. The MOE wanted permission to erect equipment on the Kenney’s property in order to monitor the company’s results. The Kenneys did not give their permission. Mr. Kenney thought it doubtful that the MOE had the proper equipment to monitor noise.
In 2008, the same year turbines were erected, the Kenney’s property value assessment increased by 79%. The Kenneys appealed the assessment in a very stressful hearing. The Kenneys are unhappy with the decision and have filed a motion requesting another hearing.
Since the turbines came, Wolfe Island homes have been listed for sale for up to three or four years. Some homes have been taken off the market. Others sell for less than anticipated for well-kept waterfront homes. Mr. Kenney noted that their home was security for the future and there is stress in seeing lifesavings devalued and future plans no longer possible.
Mr. Kenney has a pre-existing medical condition of Type 2 diabetes, but it is under control.
Cross-examination of Ed Kenney
Bryn Gray asked about the proximity of wind turbines. Mr. Kenney said that 3 turbines are within a km, 14 turbines within 2 km, and 27 turbines within 3 km. Did Mr. Kenney not like the visual appearance? Mr. Kenney replied that the turbines did nothing to enhance his property.
Mr. Gray noted the Kenney’s property assessment appeal cited such factors as industrial noise, industrial lighting, industrial traffic, health, viewshed, and degradation of the natural environment. If the tribunal had a finding of harm to health, it would be helpful to Mr. Kenney’s request for an OMB review hearing. Mr. Gray added that Mr. Kenney stands to gain financially.
Sylvia Davis referred Mr. Kenney to the MOE’s 2012 offer to set up monitoring equipment. Mr. Kenney clarified that the MOE did not offer equipment in response to their complaints. To this day no one from the MOE has ever visited their property. The Kenneys have never been told the results of the company’s noise monitoring.
Re-examination of Ed Kenney
Mr. Gillespie asked Mr. Kenney to explain his decisions, as raised during cross-examination, not to take sleep medication or to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker. He said they could not tell him anything more than he already knew. As for noise, how could they change one’s mind on anything like that?
Mr. Kenney was never asked by Gilead Power or the MOE if he would consent to be examined medically in preparation for the hearing.
Report on May 23rd ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
By H. Garand
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of APPEC witnesses Tracey Whitworth and Richard Copple.
Examination of Tracey Whitworth
Tracey Whitworth used to live near the Clear Creek, Frogmore-Cultus wind projects, which began operation in November 2008. Wind turbines surround her house, Receptor 250. The closest turbine is 433 m away, a second nearby, and nine others within 2 km. Ms. Whitworth moved out of her house three years ago and has been unable to sell it.
Ms. Whitworth rarely saw a doctor before the turbines started to operate. Then she experienced a broad range of symptoms: sleep disturbance; hearing impairment with aching, buzzing, and plugged ears; headaches; aches in wrists, knees and feet; twitching of face and limbs; chest pain; skin inflammations; blurred vision; dizziness; palpitations; high blood pressure; lethargy; nausea; diarrhea and uterine bleeding; anemia; and cognitive impairment. Many symptoms disappeared when she left home but recurred within an hour of her return. Other symptoms have lingered.
To obtain relief, Ms. Whitworth, a high school teacher and department head, tried sleeping in her vehicle sometimes, remained at school after hours despite her fatigue, and spent weekends elsewhere. After a year and half, upon her son’s advice, she abandoned residence in her home.
Ms. Whitworth’s conditions, such as chest pain, have not been explained by conventional medicine. An audiology exam detected no physical abnormalities. An MRI scan revealed white foci in her brain, but these disappeared a year after her move. A complete blood transfusion was recommended by one doctor, but the need for the procedure was disputed by another. Blood thinners were prescribed for a blood clot until a second MRI indicated a brain aneurysm. Two sleep studies found she suffered from a high number of arousals during sleep, but these are not related to sleep apnea. Since leaving her home she requires sleep medication no more than twice a month.
However, one of Ms. Whitworth’s many doctors suggested that tissue damage has been caused by exposure to wind turbines. Dr. Nina Pierpont examined Ms. Whitworth in fall 2009 and diagnosed Wind Turbine Syndrome and vibro-acoustic disease.
Ms. Whitworth is under psychiatric care but was advised by her psychiatrist not to disclose these medical records because of privacy issues and their irrelevance to wind turbines.
Besides seeking medical care, Ms. Whitworth has complained to the developer and different government ministries. Once she met with Mike Crawley, president of AIM Power Gen (the project developer), but had no further contact. She repeatedly called the Ministry of Environment (MOE) but without results. She surveyed other project residents to learn of their similar reactions. She has given two newspaper interviews and spoken at a few public meetings so others will hear the news and get help.
Recently, she filed a lawsuit again the project company.
Cross-Examination of Ms. Whitworth
Gilead Power’s fourth lawyer, Eric Pellegrino, led Ms. Whitworth through her list of symptoms, questioning her medical records. He noted that the audiology report identified high-frequency hearing loss. There was no confirmation of bowel, cardiac, or neurological problems. Blood pressure tests did not register higher levels after wind turbines started up. She was treated for anxiety before the wind project was built. Anti-depressants have been prescribed, but their purpose cannot be determined without her psychiatric records.
Ms. Whitworth responded that she did not report every condition to her family doctor on its first occurrence but rather as the effects developed. She said that doctors did not associate her symptoms at the time with wind turbines because she was living in just the second Ontario wind project.
MOE Lawyer Sylvia Davis asked about Dr. Pierpont’s diagnosis. Ms. Whitworth said it is related to low-frequency sound. Dr. Sarah Laurie has also written several reply emails to her, but she does not regard either Dr. Pierpont or Dr. Laurie as treating physicians.
Re-examination of Ms. Whitworth
APPEC Lawyer Eric Gillespie confirmed that neither Gilead Power nor the MOE has asked for Ms. Whitworth’s psychiatric records or a medical exam prior to testifying.
Examination of Richard Copple
Richard Copple lives near Ostrander Point on a farm property with two historic barns. One barn serves as a residence for Mr. Copple and his wife, Dr. Karen Hatchard; the other is used for an import and repair business of luxury motor vehicles. Mr. Copple stressed that the repair work is very quiet: there are no impacts guns, hammering, or shouting.
Mr. Copple’s health concerns are sleep disturbance for the family, his own tinnitus, and his wife’s susceptibility to vertigo.
Although Mr. Copple’s education, training and experience are in mechanical and automotive engineering, he has been interested since childhood in noise reduction and filtering because his father rented lab space to Dr. Dolby of Dolby Systems. He said that the dbA scale used for measuring wind turbine noise is inappropriate because it does not give sufficient weight to low-frequency sound. The scale is therefore not suitable for recognizing effects on human health. He exhibited two charts showing the technical problems associated with turbine sounds.
Cross-examination of Richard Copple
Bryn Gray asked if Mr. Copple had plans for moving. Mr. Copple said he liked the peace and quiet of his present location and would prefer to stay there. He confirmed that he has hearing loss in the high-frequency range. His concern about the project is with low-frequency sound.
Mr. Copple also confirmed that his witness statement lists other concerns about the wind project: construction traffic and noise, and interference with emergency response service. The last is related to his volunteer work as a first responder.
Sylvia Davis asked whether Mr. Copple is concerned about property values. He said his residence is modest and a commercial property would not likely be affected.
Report on May 24th ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
By Paula Peel
APPEC witness Nicole Horton completed her testimony begun on May 17. The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the full testimony of APPEC’s final two post-turbine witnesses, Janet White and Roger Olivera.
Cross-examination of Nicole Horton
Sylvia Davis, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), referred Ms. Horton to specific complaints in her medical records in the years before the Kruger Energy wind project commenced operations and to complaints since then. After the turbines started in fall 2008 Ms. Horton has suffered headaches, heart palpitations, internal body vibrations, fatigue, loss of concentration and memory, swollen and dry eyes, and body rashes that left permanent scarring.
Ms. Davis noted that Ms. Horton’s second child, born in 2006, screamed for the first three months. If this child had been born in 2009, isn’t it fair to say that Ms. Horton would have blamed the wind turbines? Ms. Horton replied that the difference is that her son stopped screaming after three months. She criticized Ms. Davis for creating patterns where none exists.
Bryn Gray, lawyer for Gilead Power, asked about Ms. Horton’s home in relation to the turbines. Ms. Horton said that turbines are on both sides of her home: Two are less than 700 m away and two others not much farther. There are also four turbines in each of the next two concessions over.
Ms. Horton agreed with Mr. Gray that her doctor has never told her she has wind turbine syndrome. Mr. Gray asked Ms. Horton what her doctor has said. Ms. Horton noted a referral letter written by her doctor that makes reference to secondary vibration from wind turbine exposure. Ms. Horton told Mr. Gray that, as far as she can speak for her doctor, the doctor believes she is affected by the wind turbines.
Examination of Janet White
Ms. White, a resident of Wolfe Island, spoke about her inability to sleep at night. Before the wind turbines started up Ms. White was a sound sleeper. Now she awakes every night between 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. and remains awake. Ms. White has not enjoyed her life on Wolfe Island since 2008 when the noise of the turbines began disturbing her own and her entire family’s sleep.
Ms. White explained why she waited two years to make a complaint. She said that when other residents complained she saw no one was listening. But one day when she woke up, the windows of her home were rattling. She complained to the company. The reply she received months later from the company was full of inaccuracies and did nothing to remedy her complaint.
Cross-examination of Janet White
Ms. Davis referred Ms. White to various complaints she has made during her annual physical examinations since the wind project started up, including fatigue, back pain and swelling in her hands. Ms. Davis noted that there is no mention in the medical records of wind turbines. Ms. White said that she literally “got the finger” once when she mentioned wind turbines to a doctor at the Queen’s Family Medical Centre in Kingston. She has not raised the subject with a doctor since.
Ms. Davis referred Ms. White to an article called “Wrecking our Heaven” in the Kingston-Whig Standard, January 2012. Ms. White said she still believes that Wolfe Islanders are lab rats and no one cares about her children. She still believes some sort of land grab is going on. The Whites live on a 400-year-old property on prime Lake Ontario waterfront. The property should have been respected for its historic significance, but it wasn’t.
Re-examination of Janet White
Ms. White’s bedroom has brick walls with no windows. Nonetheless, she is awakened by the noise of the wind turbines every night. At times she and her husband and their two children are all awake at 3:30 a.m.
Examination of Roger Olivera
Mr. Olivera confirmed his former residence as receptor 232 of Phase II of the Melancthon wind facility. Mr. Olivera, a carpenter by trade, described his dream to build his own home. In 2001 he purchased the property and started construction. He moved into his new home in 2004.
Mr. Olivera was in good health until November 2008 when the wind turbines began operating. Mr. Olivera’s sleep was severely impacted to the point where he could no longer function properly. He could no longer think straight and felt a sense of hopelessness and despair that something like this could be happening. Sleeping pills prescribed by his doctor worked at first, but then he started awakening again at night. He sought help from social workers and went to a walk-in clinic. He was advised to get away from his home. This advice was extremely upsetting; he had built his home with his own hands and was now going to lose it. He left his home because there was nothing else he could do in order to feel better. Mr. Olivera sold his home in 2011 at a loss. He is getting proper sleep now and is feeling better overall.
Cross-examination of Roger Olivera
Mr. Olivera said that when he was driving home one day in 2005 he saw the Melancthon Phase I project. He had not received any notices and had not seen anything in the newspaper. When he went to the Township office for information he was referred to a website.
Ms. Davis said that on the map it does seem that turbines are everywhere around Mr. Olivera’s property and that whenever Mr. Olivera was outside his home, no matter where he looked, he was going to see turbines. Mr. Olivera agreed with the comments. He agreed that the wind project felt like an intrusion.
Ms. Davis went on to note that Mr. Olivera was not only seeing the turbines but hearing them. Mr. Olivera said he would be awakened in the middle of the night by the noise. Whenever he woke up, he could hear the turbines.
Ms. Davis asked Mr. Olivera if the noise hadn’t been turbines but had been a highway instead would it have bothered him. Mr. Olivera thought that a highway possibly might have. Ms. Davis asked whether it would have bothered him if the municipality had thought it a good idea to erect a huge condominium. Mr. Olivera said probably not because there would be no noise.
ERT Panel Questions: Heather Gibbs asked about the impact of the turbines on the property. Mr. Olivera said that the closest turbine was 481 m from his property. Ms. Davis interrupted to ask Mr. Olivera whether this is the distance to the property or to the centre of the residence. Mr. Olivera believed it to be to the corner of his property. He was not aware that the MOE measures to the centre of a residence.
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