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Wind farms a pain for residents

NEW ROSS – Nance Ackerman says the change in pressure hit her like a truck when she stepped out of her car.

She said she was about 1,100 metres from the nearest wind turbine at Pubnico Point Wind Farm, where she went last June to interview two women for a film she was making on wind power.

“My chest suddenly hurt,” Ackerman told a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board appeal hearing Thursday into the Municipality of Chester’s approval of a wind farm in the New Ross area.

Ackerman said her heart pounded hard, she couldn’t swallow and she got a migraine as the patio doors on the house pulsated in time with the turbines. She said all her symptoms disappeared by the time she was eight kilometres away.

Ackerman spoke on the first day of a scheduled eight-day hearing.

The $200-million wind farm has been approved by both Chester and the provincial Environment Department. It would be the largest in the province, with 34 turbines between Vaughan and New Ross.

The Friends of South Canoe Lake and local landowner Homburg Land Bank appealed council’s decision, saying the municipality did not properly investigate the potential health hazards of wind farms before approving the development.

Ackerman’s mother, Pam Ackerman, said her family has lived in the area for three generations. Her house is on Lewis Lake in New Russell, and would be 1,616 metres from the nearest proposed wind turbine.

Pam Ackerman told the hearing that it is a “stunningly beautiful, wonderful country place.”

She said she does not believe councillors did a proper job of researching wind farms and potential health hazards before approving the project.

“I don’t think they represent the public, and that’s their job.”

She said nobody has proven that turbines don’t pose a health hazard.

“If you can’t prove something’s safe, then you don’t do it.”

Emery Peters represented Friends of South Canoe Lake at the hearing. He said the group is not against wind turbines but wants to ensure the municipality looked at all the evidence and properly investigated wind power before making its decision.

“We’re not trying to prove that everybody’s ears are going to fall off once these turbines start rolling,” Peters told the hearing, presided over by Wayne Cochrane.

“What we’re trying to show is that these turbines have a very high potential that there’s going to be some impacts, and that those impacts need to be investigated properly.”

Cochrane said his role is not to rehear the concerns of residents already expressed at public hearings. He said his mandate is to decide whether municipal council’s decision to enter into a development agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc., Minas Basin Pulp and Power Ltd. and Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. reasonably carries out the intent of the municipal planning strategy.

“I have to ask myself whether or not council’s decision reasonably fits council’s own rule book. If it does, then I have to approve it. If it doesn’t reasonably fit the intent of the (strategy), then I reverse it.”

Wayne Edgar testified that he and his wife live in Tatamagouche, midway between a turbine for the Nuttby Mountain Wind Farm and a turbine in the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field. Each turbine is 2.5 kilometres from their home.

He said the noise is “very loud and intrusive,” to the point it wakes him up at night even when the windows are closed.

Edgar said he hears “thumping and whooshing in the house” and feels air pressure changes in his chest, experiences that he said affect him both physically and psychologically.

“The sound was more of an issue than I ever expected it to be,” said his wife, Pam Swainson.

She said she gets a thrumming sensation in her ears that is “quite painful” and that can go on for days.

They initially liked the idea of wind farms because they support alternate forms of energy, but Edgar said they were naive.

“I don’t like it when the little person is being walked on, and I feel that’s what’s going on here,” testified an emotional Bob Merrick, who owns a cottage in New Ross that would be 3,405 metres from the closest turbine.

He said residents were not informed of the project in advance and suggested council could at least have put information about the proposal in tax bills.

“Council has to consider the citizen,” Merrick said. “They’re all after the dollar bill. They don’t care about us.”

The appeal continues Friday in New Ross and is scheduled to sit through next Thursday, with two more days set aside in late June.