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Niagara Board of Health to hear from wind turbine foes

LOCKPORT – Opponents of a Somerset wind power project will get a chance to express their views to the Niagara County Board of Health in October.

But the Save Ontario Shores group will be limited to 20 minutes and must stick to scientific reasons for opposing the Apex Clean Energy project.

Apex proposes erecting as many as 70 wind turbines, each atop towers as tall as 600 feet, in Somerset and the adjoining Town of Yates in Orleans County. The exact locations are not yet known, but the company has leased more than 5,000 acres from local farmers.

Apex, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., will pay $15,000 per year for every turbine it places on a particular landowner’s property.

The Niagara County Legislature unanimously expressed opposition to the project. And the Somerset Town Board is looking for a legal angle to block the project.

Control over the approval of a location lies with a state siting board.

Dr. Elizabeth Micoli, a Lockport dentist, said she saw a previous SOS brochure and was not impressed by it.

“If it’s the same stuff that was in that brochure, I’m not interested to hear it,” said Micoli, a member of the Board of Health.

The opposition seemed more anecdotal than scientific, she said.

John Riggi of SOS said the opposition organization is looking forward to the Oct. 22 meeting.

“We’re meeting with the Niagara County Board of Health to get them up to speed on the risks to human health and quality of life as a result of the placement of industrial wind turbine emplacement projects. The meeting is informational in nature,” he said in an email.

Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said he and his counterpart for Orleans and Genesee counties met earlier this month with two SOS representatives.

“I told them we need to focus on health issues, not the economic development and loss-of-home-value issues,” he said.

Thomas A. Sy, another board member, said he has talked to a couple of SOS members about their objections to the Apex project.

“Do they have scientific evidence?” board president Susan DeLong asked.

“Define scientific,” Sy answered. “I think it’s evolving in terms of the science.”

Board member John Gotowko asked Paul A. Dicky, the county’s new environmental health director, to look into the issues.

Stapleton said his research has turned up studies on both sides of the question of whether wind turbines have an impact on human health.

“The majority of the studies say there is an impact,” he said.