The East Oxford Community Alliance feels it has the evidence to prove the Gunn’s Hill wind farm will cause serious harm to human health and plant and animal life.
The group is planning to make its case at the Environmental Review Tribunal that got underway Monday morning in Oxford Centre with the tribunal hearing the opening statements from the appellant and proponent. Several days have been set aside for the hearing, which was triggered when the Alliance appealed the renewable energy approval for the project.
As appellant, East Oxford Community Alliance (EOCA), is represented by Ian Flett, who said the group will have two types of witnesses.
“They’re going to lead six lay witnesses, who are non-experts but know the community better than anyone else and have gone to great lengths to get the information to understand this project, as well as what I refer to as ‘ground truth’ the project. How does what they’re hearing the developer’s experts say square with what they know to be true on the ground,” Flett said. “That’s the first part, and the conclusion that they arrive at is that this project will cause serious harm to human health and serious irreversible plant life, animal life and the national environment.
“Then we’ll also hear from an expert witness, Bill Palmer, who will provide his opinion,” he added, “arriving at the same conclusion, but in regard to public safety as it concerns wind turbines.”
Flett said the EOCA is appealing the wind farm project, and will have the onus of proving that the project is either a danger to human health or to plant life, animal life and the environment.
“We have to prove that,” he said. “And we can prove that by leading our evidence, which is what we’re going to do, and we can also do it in the cross-examination of the other side’s experts and evidence.”
The proponent is GHLP General Partner Inc., representing Prowind, the company that proposed the wind farm project.
Albert Engel, the counsel representative for GHLP, said in the proponent’s opinion, the evidence will show that there will be no harm to human, plant or animal health, as well as no irreversible harm to the environment.
Juan Anderson, vice-president of Prowind, said some of the concerns raised during Monday’s tribunal are consistent with concerns they’ve heard before.
“We made a change to quieter turbines during the development process,” Anderson said. “We left a buffer between the noise levels and what the limit is, that’s a gesture of good will. We’ve also taken measures to minimize the impact to agricultural land through the development process.”
The first witness to appear before the tribunal was director of EOCA and health professional Joan Morris, who raised concerns regarding the health of humans and livestock in the area of the proposed wind farm.
“There are adverse affects that are being experienced in numerous wind projects not only in Ontario but around the world,” Morris said. “There are a number of people who are no longer able to live in their homes because of the severity of effects that they experienced.
“Also, animals are affected by infrasound as well as, in some cases, stray voltage or poor electrical quality,” she added. “So those are some of the concerns.”
Morris added that the areas in which the EOCA are concerned are in regards to sound and inaudible sound, or infrasound.
“All of those are postulated to cause harm,” Morris said in regards to sound. “There is also the affect on the inner ear. There is research that has shown there is inner and outer ear hair cells in the ear and that there can sometimes be sensations that affect you physiologically, but aren’t even associated with your ability to hear something.
“So even without hearing wind turbines, you can still experience adverse health affects,” she added, saying that some adverse affects include palpitations, fullness in the ear and stress from the constant exposure to low-level noise.
During her cross-examination, it was pointed out by the proponent that Morris chose not to be an expert witness, although she has been researching this issue for seven years.
“I became interested in finding out more about the affects having heard some reports and knowing that this project would be coming to our area,” she said. “One of the reasons I couldn’t be qualified as an expert witness would have been because of a potential bias. Whether it be real or perceived.”
Morris lives in the area of the proposed wind farm as well, and has been director of the EOCA since its inception in 2010.
The final witness to appear in front of the tribunal on Monday was Carol Engberts, a member of the EOCA with her husband, who also lives in the area of the proposed wind farm.
Engberts’ concerns revolved around the stress of having a wind turbine project in the area, as well as disturbance to the environment and the loss of property value from the wind farm.
The first public meeting for the Gunn’s Hill wind farm was held in February 2010, to give notice of the proposal to start the renewable energy project consisting of 10 turbines co-owned by the government of Canada, Oxford Community Energy Co-operative and Six Nations of the Grand River.
The EOCA, which opposes the project, is a loosely affiliated community organization that dates back to 2008 with a number of concerned community members who formally incorporated in April 2010 as an organization.
The wind farm project was approved in mid-April of this year, and later in the month, the EOCA appealed the approval to the Environmental Review Tribunal on the grounds that, “engaging in the Project (sic) in accordance with the REA (Renewable Energy Approval) will cause serious harm to human health,” as well as, “engaging in the project in accordance with the REA will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.”
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