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No action on wind farm by county health board

They met for 90 minutes behind closed doors with their attorney Tuesday, but members of the Brown County Board of Health were unable to agree on their next step regarding a wind farm they say poses a health threat to its neighbors.

Board members had hoped they might act on their October declaration that the turbines at the Shirley Wind Farm in southern Brown County emit low-frequency noise that poses health risks. They met with county Corporation Counsel Juliana Ruenzel, but the only concrete action they took was to draft a brief statement.

The board “is working on strategies to help the citizens of Glenmore,” said Dr. Jay Tibbetts, the panel’s medical adviser. “Period.”

Members then adjourned.

County officials in October said the board needed to take action to protect people living near the turbines from adverse health effects. But it remains unclear what action the board can take, and Tibbetts couldn’t say when they will act.

Duke Energy Renewables operates the farm. Company representatives weren’t at the meeting, but have said repeatedly that sounds produced by the turbines cannot be linked to health problems.

About 20 families have experienced health issues they blame on the turbines, which began operating in 2010. Three families abandoned their homes, citing health problems they link to the wind farm.

“There people weren’t interested in moving out of their communities,” said Barbara Vanden Boogart, vice president of the grassroots group Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. She said the families who left believed they had no other way to stay healthy.

Tibbetts said the health board is paying attention to two recent studies from Australia that found people living in three homes near a wind farm were suffering health issues linked to the sounds from the turbines. The board also has taken notice of a municipally owned wind farm in Massachusetts that has cut its hours of operation by more than half because of concerns that turbines are making neighbors ill.

“We continue to take (citizens’ concerns) seriously, and we are working on the problem,” Tibbetts said after Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re tackling a problem that a lot of communities have not.”

Learn more

Wind turbine page from the Brown County Board of Health: http://bit.ly/1CtatJH

Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy: http://www.bccrwe.com/

Duke Energy Renewables: http://www.duke-energy.com/commercial-renewables/