For Sarah Capelle, the decision was made when her four-month-old kept waking up in the middle of the night, screaming.
The boy’s agony, coupled with migraines and muscle spasms she was experiencing, convinced Capelle and her husband they needed to move away from the industrial wind turbine that towered over their Glenmore home.
“It got to the point where I could barely function,” said Capelle, whose family surrendered their home to the bank in order to move away from the turbines. “If this was a disease raging through the community, (you) would be all over it immediately. We can’t wait any longer for solutions!”
She was among the crowd of more than 60 people who jammed a meeting room – some spilling into a hallway – seeking solutions from the county’s Human Services Committee to health problems they are convinced were caused by low-frequency sound from the eight turbines of the Shirley Wind Farm. Affected residents pressed lawmakers to take action, and criticized Health Director Chua Xiong for her December decision that insufficient scientific evidence exists to blame the turbines for health problems.
Almost a dozen wore brightly colored shirts and held signs saying “I am the evidence” of people whose health has been affected.
But while the committee was sympathetic, they could not offer a solution after residents and Xiong spoke for almost three hours combined. Lawmakers suggested forming a task force, increasing pressure on the state to fund a study, and even suing the wind farm’s operator, but they ended their discussion without agreeing on a recommendation to take to the full board next month.
They also directed their frustration at the state Legislature, which removed $250,000 that Gov. Scott Walker had placed in his biennial budget to fund a study of possible links between turbines and ill health.
“If we’ve got to be upset with somebody,” said Supervisor Dan Robinson of De Pere, “we need to be upset with the state.”
Several residents, though, focused their frustrations on Xiong. Though the health director insisted she had used “a rigorous, scientific process” to reach her conclusion about turbines and health, a couple of people who live near the wind farm said she ignored some available scientific evidence.
In a comment that brought a rebuke from Robinson, Barbara Vanden Boogart accused Xiong of failing to protect citizens of the county.
“I expect her to stand and do what’s right. I expect her to protect these people,” said Vanden Boogart, an official of the group Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. “There are children being harmed at this very minute! You should be outraged that these people will go home tonight and not sleep … and no one has the guts to do anything about it.”
The county’s next move is unclear. Executive Troy Streckenbach last week asked supervisors for support in asking the state to fund a study, but there’s no guarantee the state will do so.
Duke Energy Renewables, a North-Carolina company that operates Shirley Wind, has said repeatedly that sounds produced by the turbines cannot be linked to health problems. Electricity produced at the site can power about 6,000 homes and is sold to Wisconsin Public Service Co.