Two months after its health officer ruled she could not blame people’s health problems on a controversial wind farm in Shirley, county lawmakers are taking another tack to assist residents who blame wind turbines for a range of illnesses.
Under pressure from a citizens’ group representing residents of the Glenmore and Morrison areas, the County Board will consider forming a task force in an effort to address residents’ concerns.
Erik Hoyer, a Green Bay supervisor, on Wednesday proposed creating a group of “scientists, physicians, citizens and supervisors” to tackle an issue that has vexed the county since shortly after the Shirley Wind farm began operating in 2010. Dozens of residents have complained of sleep problems, vertigo and other health issues they blame on low-frequency noise from the windmills. A handful have abandoned their homes.
Hoyer’s proposal goes to a committee next month for study.
County residents living near the eight wind turbines continue to beseech the county for help.
One accused the county of “malpractice” in its handling of the issue, saying Wednesday the Health Department has a formal, professional process for dealing with complaints about odors and other nuisances, but has unfairly set the bar higher for people who claim wind-related health problems.
“Are residents submitting odor complaints forced to submit scientific evidence … Have any of them abandoned their homes?,” asked Steve Deslauriers of Hollandtown. “I can’t call this anything other than a discriminatory process.”
The county’s Board of Health in 2014 declared the turbines emit low-frequency noise that can endanger health. But Health Director Chua Xiong ruled in December 2015 that insufficient scientific evidence exists to say that the wind farm definitely caused people’s health issues.
Duke Energy Renewables, which operates the site, has said repeatedly that sounds produced by the turbines cannot be linked to health problems. North Carolina-based Duke, which operates more than 1,000 turbines around the country, purchased Shirley Wind in 2011.
Wind-farm operators, in response, point to studies saying there is no clear link between turbines and health issues claimed by people who live near them. Studies in Massachusetts and Canada do not connect turbines to illnesses reported by people living near them, though one southeastern Massachusetts community began shutting turbines off at night after neighbors complained of sleep problems.
Operators also point out that wind produces energy without directly burning fossil fuels or using expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear material.
Electricity produced at Shirley, which can power about 6,000 homes, is sold to Wisconsin Public Service Co.
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