Turbines spin without approval in West Lincoln; Ministry says company is ‘operating out of compliance’
WEST LINCOLN – They’ve only been running a few days and already residents living near wind turbines say they are feeling the effects.
“I don’t hear the refrigerator or anything anymore,” said Zlata Zoretic, seated at neighbour Wendy Veldman’s kitchen table Tuesday afternoon. “Just this low hum.”
Zoretic said she has felt pressure in her ears since the turbines in the HAF Wind Energy Project were turned on June 12. Her bedroom window gives her an uninterrupted view of the turbine that is just 640 metres from her home.
“Is it in my head? I don’t know,” she said. “It’s driving me crazy.”
The turbines were switched on without warning last week for a 24-hour and have not stopped turning since.
Project proponents, Vineland Power Inc. and Rankin Wind Energy, notified the Ministry of Environment last week that they intended to turn the turbines on for a 24-hour test period. The company had also indicated at the time that it was considering starting up operations, said a ministry spokesperson.
“The ministry has told the company not to operate while the amendment application is under review,” said Kim Groombridge, MOE district supervisor for Niagara. “They are operating out of compliance.”
The project was delayed after it was discovered that several of the turbines were built closer than the 95-metre property line setback. The West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group used a rangefinder to measure the distances between the towering turbines and neighbouring property lines. It found four of the five turbines infract the minimum setback – the height of the tower from base to hub, which in this case is 95 metres.
Property owner Anne Meinen said the location of the turbine impedes on her ability to farm her land – something she has been doing for more than 40 years. She said the location limits her aerial abilities for seeding and spraying her land as well as prohibits the use of new technology she has been looking into.
“I am very concerned that the presence of this turbine so close will not enable me to utilize these production tools and will therefore limit my ability to operate my farming business,” she wrote to the ministry. “I believe that begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission is a poor way to do business that should not be rewarded.”
Of the women in the room, Carole Kaufhold lives closest to the wind turbines. Her Sixteen Road home is just 553 metres from turbine No. 3 – just three metres over the provincial limit of 550.
Kaufhold has had a severe case of anxiety since the turbines went into operation.
“I became very anxious and irritated,” she said of returning home from work to find the blades swooping through the air. “My heart has been pounding, it’s hard to concentrate.”
Kaufhold said she feels nauseous every time she looks at the turbines.
All claim the turbines are much louder than the low hum – like that of a refrigerator – they were told about.
Anne Fairfield said she heard a low-pitched whine coming from the machine nearest her home around 3 a.m. on Sunday. Her partner, Ed Engel, can feel the vibrations in his bedroom which faces the turbine.
Fairfield and Engel along with Kaufhold and her husband participated in a pre-commissioning sleep study being conducted by a graduate student at the University of Waterloo. Though it was uncomfortable and awkward to sleep hooked up to a bunch of machines, all agree there is value in participating in a study which could show the impacts of industrial wind turbines on sleep. A total of 22 people are involved in the study and a second round of testing will be completed now that the turbines are in operation.
The residents hope the results prove that turbines do impact human health – a claim they have been making since they learned of the project in 2010.
“I’ve had PTSD – pre-turbine stress disorder – since Aug. 25, 2010,” said Fairfield, mentioning the date of the first public meeting held on the project. “It’s very stressful. All I do is worry and wonder.”
Fairfield is most concerned about a gas well near her home that is only five metres from a collector line for the project.
Though the turbines are now spinning near her country home, Veldman isn’t done fighting.
“I’m not going to stop calling until they take them down,” she said. “I’m not going to listen to the squealing and girding of the turbines. I’m used to agricultural noise, this isn’t agriculture. This is industrial noise.
“It has to stop,” she said. “I don’t want to see anymore.”
The ministry’s investigations and enforcement branch is investigating the matter, said Groombridge as the project is still under review by the ministry and has not been approved for operation.
The turbines were shut down as of 5 p.m. June 18.
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