VARNA – The Huron County Health Unit’s decision not to do a health impact study in relation to the proximity of wind turbines has rankled one Bluewater councillor.
In a report to the Health Board, Huron County Health Unit Epidemiologist Erica Clark concluded that “A research study, as requested by the Municipality of Bluewater, is beyond the capacity of the health unit. We do not have the required human resources or finances.”
Following the report the board decided at its May 16 meeting that the health unit is unable to conduct a study.
However, Hay West Coun. John Gillespie told Bluewater council the municipality is being “fed a bill of goods by the health unit.”
“The bottom line is they don’t want to do it,” he said June 3.
Gillespie, who made the original motion requesting the study, told council in his view the Health Unit is contravening a provincial act.
He cited a section from the Health Protection and Promotion Act stating when a complaint is made to a board of health the medical officer of health “shall investigate the complaint to determine whether the health hazard exists or does not exist.”
“To me the health unit is contravening that legislative requirement,” he said. “You will note that Bruce County under similar circumstances, in fact the health unit did do an analysis.”
But Clark told the Times-Advocate in her view the health unit has done their duty.
“We’re required to investigate,” she said. “A health hazard investigation can be very small or it can be quite large. The way it is phrased in the legislation is that it is only done as appropriate.
“So we don’t go to that level of investigation every time we get a health hazard complaint, only when it is deemed appropriate.”
Clark noted in the report there were four options the health unit could undertake: a literature review, a primary research study, surveillance and a knowledge translation.
The report indicated that a literature review would require one full-time employee for a year, in addition to other resources. It also noted the review would have a limited impact since similar studies have already been released.
Meanwhile, a primary research study would require extensive human and monetary resources and a possible minimum budget of $400,000.
Clark told the T-A primary research studies are often conducted by teams of professors at universities.
“We are the second-smallest health unit in Ontario,” she explained. “It would be difficult for the largest health unit in Ontario to undertake a good quality primary research study.”
Surveillance, the report found, would require the development of a system since there are none operating in Ontario specific to wind turbines. Thus, Clark’s report found there would likely be significant costs.
Finally, a knowledge translation would require a knowledgeable noise researcher to explain potential health impacts, which the report found is a feasible activity for the health unit.
Other council notes:
Leaving county structure?
In part due to the health unit’s decision not to conduct a wind turbine health study Gillespie told council he plans to suggest the municipality opt out of the county structure.
“That is typical of the county,” he said of the health unit’s decision. “And that’s why when we get to restructuring Bluewater I’m going to suggest two things. We consider opting out of the country structure and becoming our own single tier . . . and that our elected representatives representing Bluewater at county council be elected directly.”
In an email to the T-A, May Nazar of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said separating a municipality from an upper-tier municipality would require approval of the lower tier, the upper tier and the province.
Nazar noted “restructuring proposals that are developed and supported by local councils, demonstrate fiscal self-sustainability for each municipality and demonstrate property tax fairness for all residents would be duly considered by the Province.”
As well, any restructuring would require at least one public meeting to consult with residents prior to council voting on the issue.
Feds monitoring radar situation
Bluewater also received a letter from federal Environment Minister Peter Kent regarding the potential issue wind turbines, specifically the Grand Bend Wind Farm, could pose to the Exeter weather radar station.
The letter noted Environment Canada is aware of the interference wind turbines can cause weather radars.
It also said it is monitoring the matter “very seriously” and has been in active discussions with the province and wind proponents to ensure wind farms and weather radar can “co-exist without compromising the Meteorological Service of Canada’s ability to provide quality weather forecasts and warnings.”
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