Norma Schmidt spoke emotionally and haltingly Friday, Dec. 20, as she testified before the Environmental Review Tribunal which is hearing evidence at the appeal against the proposed Armow Wind development in Kincardine.
A resident of Underwood, in the Municipality of Kincardine, and surrounded by wind turbines with the Enbridge Ontario Wind project, she had a stack of information and documentation that she wanted to submit to the tribunal, outlining the health effects she has suffered since the Enbridge project went into operation in 2008-09.
However, Danielle Meuleman, counsel for the director of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), objected to any of the papers being submitted since they had to be done through a properly-qualified expert.
Tribunal chairperson Maureen Carter-Whitney agreed, saying the papers would not be entered into evidence. However, Schmidt would be able to refer to them in her testimony, to outline her concerns.
“I would rather be living in my quiet house and working in my chosen profession (as a registered nurse), but that has been taken away from me,” said Schmidt. “I have had to leave my home and abandon my career. This is my experience living close to, and surrounded by, industrial wind turbines.”
She said she hoped her story would help the tribunal understand how the Armow Wind project threatens the health and well-being of people living near the turbines.
“I was a relatively healthy individual before the industrial wind turbines entered my life,” said Schmidt. “We were told we would get used to them (wind turbines), but we didn’t.”
She outlined health effects ,such as sleeplessness and headaches, along with head, ear and chest pressure, vertigo, dizziness, and nausea. She suffered from cognitive impairment and depression; she began to have suicidal thoughts and was hospitalized.
“I now have an increased sensitivity to low-frequency noise,” she said. “In 2011, I left my home and cannot enter it for any significant time period without suffering from adverse health effects. My doctor and other specialists advised me to leave the area to avoid the effects.”
She quoted from several MOE reports in which she called the agency to complain about the noise coming from the Enbridge project, throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2010, and into 2011.
At one point, Carter-Whitney stopped Schmidt and noted she had only a half-hour to make her presentation and should continue on to further testimony beyond the MOE reports.
“It’s heinous what has gone on,” objected Schmidt. “I should be entitled to two hours to make my case, especially since my material has not been allowed into evidence.”
“The MOE response to complaints is outside the scope of this tribunal, and is not relevant,” said Alexandria Pike, counsel for the approval holder, Samsung Pattern Armow Wind Ontario GP Inc.
Asha James, counsel for the appellants, Ken and Sharon Kroeplin, said the MOE evidence goes to the charter challenge which is part of the notice of appeal against the Armow Wind project.
Meuleman noted that the Enbridge project, to which Schmidt is referring in her testimony, is not a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) project, but the Armow Wind project is. The Enbridge project was in operation prior to the implementation of the province’s Green Energy Act.
Frustrated with the failure of the process, Meuleman said she feels sorry for Schmidt but is unclear how any agreement for a two-hour presentation was established.
Schmidt said that Sarah Powell, counsel for Samsung Pattern during the preliminary hearing, had agreed that Schmidt could go over the time limit.
Pike said she would have to confer with Powell, regarding this issue.
Following a brief recess, Pike told the tribunal she was unable to reach Powell, but said the presentations are supposed to be a half-hour in length.
Other presenters agreed to give up their half-hour of time, allowing Schmidt to continue through to the lunch break.
As Schmidt outlined her concerns and referred to articles as evidence, Pike again objected, stating those articles are not in evidence.
“My concerns are relative to what is being said in these articles,” argued Schmidt.
Carter-Whitney reminded Schmidt that the publications are not entered into evidence.
“That’s what my concerns are,” said Schmidt. “The MOE knew what was happening and how people were suffering from symptoms.”
“We will consider this as your personal experience,” said Carter-Whitney.
As Schmidt began quoting an article about indirect health effects from wind turbines, Meuleman again objected, stating her concern is she cannot see what’s being quoted and not being quoted.
“We are taking it in as Mrs. Schmidt’s concerns,” said Carter-Whitney. “We are not accepting the material that has not been allowed into evidence.”
Schmidt said she has the charter right to life, liberty and the security of person. “I would like to see justice done. I am concerned that the MOE is putting through projects that cause severe harm.
“Why is it so difficult to understand that industrial wind turbines cause sleeplessness in some people? Being deprived of sleep right after night is torture. Do I need to be an expert in torture to understand this?”
She called on the tribunal to halt further industrial wind turbine projects until health studies are complete, regarding the adverse health effects of these projects.
Meuleman noted that Schmidt provided a witness statement for another wind development appeal but did not testify.
“I would like to have, but I was too ill to do so,” said Schmidt.
“Are you upset with the process of the MOE in dealing with industrial wind turbines?” asked Meuleman.
“I’m upset that the MOE is not protecting my environment,” said Schmidt. “I have had no resolution to my complaints even today. I left my home in 2011 but I still own it. I live with my daughter in the Town of Kincardine and at our cottage in Miller Lake, north of Lion’s Head.”
Meuleman noted that Schmidt has filed a lawsuit against Enbridge.
Schmidt agreed, noting that she has been too sick to deal with it. There has been no resolution, she said, but it has not moved forward.
Meuleman said medical information indicates that Schmidt had pre-existing conditions, before the industrial wind turbines were installed, including upper back, neck and shoulder pain and migraines.
“I suffered that prior to the industrial wind turbines,” agreed Schmidt.
“And lower back pain?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes,” said Schmidt.
“Seasonal affective disorder?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes,” said Schmidt.
“You are on various medications due to these conditions?” asked Meuleman.
“Yes,” said Schmidt, “also to prevent migraines.”
Pike asked Schmidt that if she moved out of her home in December, 2011, why does she still have medical reports indicating adverse health effects.
Schmidt said she and her husband were doing renovations on the house so she would go there to work on it. “I would stay for a few hours and then the migraines became so severe, I was too ill to drive, so I was forced to stay.”
She moved out of the house permanently in December, 2011, she said, “but I kept going back. I have lots of memories in that house, and put down deep roots. I always wanted to live in the country – in a quiet, peaceful environment. It was like tearing out my heart to leave my house.
“We go back to do chores and care for our pets. We are trying to finish the renovations.”
“Could someone live there?” asked Pike.
“Yes,” said Schmidt. “People stay there to experience the wind turbines. It’s an exceptionally quiet house – it was tested at 16 dBa (decibels).”
Testifying in the afternoon were Susan Stoeckli, Sheila Burr and Dennis and Dilsa Morris.
The Kroeplins’ appeal is against the Armow Wind Class 4 wind facility, a 92-turbine, 180-megawatt industrial wind farm in Kincardine. It received approval from the MOE director, through the REA process, Oct. 9.
The hearing continues Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at 10 a.m., in Kincardine.
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