GREEN BAY – A citizens group called on the Brown County Board of Health Tuesday to reject a finding that health problems reported by some Glenmore-area residents can’t be linked to a nearby wind farm.
Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy said the board should reject a December report by former Health Director Chua Xiong that said “insufficient evidence exists” to link the Shirley Wind Farm to health complaints of some neighbors. The group’s president said Xiong, did not take into account significant scientific material he said ties illnesses to wind farms.
Xiong “failed the test of due diligence,” said BCCRWE President James Vanden Boogart. “Her conclusion was based on a very flawed process by which submitted evidence was selectively reviewed and inconsistently weighed … her conclusion should be dismissed.”
He presented the board with a report of more than 60 pages. The board did not act upon the request, but members may tackle the matter when the group meets again in mid-July, said Dr. Jay Tibbetts, the board’s president.
The request is the latest news in a saga that began not long after the eight wind turbines went on line in 2010. Some people living near the wind farm have complained of headaches, sleep disturbances and other health issues they blame on low-frequency noise from the turbines. The wind farm’s operator, Duke Energy Renewables, points to studies saying there is no clear link between turbines and the health issues claimed by people who live near them.
Efforts by the county to address neighbors’ concerns and potentially resolve the situation have been stuck in neutral lately.
Supervisor Erik Hoyer’s February proposal to launch a wind-farm task force was withdrawn within a week. Xiong resigned in March, as did Corporation Counsel Juliana Ruenzel, who was the board’s legal adviser.
Neither has been replaced, though the county could begin interviewing some of its 11 applicants for the health director’s job within the week, acting Director Deborah Armbruster said.
Meanwhile, the Board of Health will ask county lawmakers for money that could serve as seed money for a future study on the potential health impacts of Shirley Wind. Transfer of the money – an annual payment to the county of roughly $26,000 from Duke Energy – would have to be approved by the County Board.
Board member Richard Schadewald suggested the Duke money might help the county identify a vendor to conduct a study. Another Board of health member, James Crawford, suggested the cash could also be used to hire an electrician to investigate “stray voltage” complaints lodged by some wind-farm neighbors, or to hire an attorney to handle small claims stemming from the wind farm controversy.
Duke bought the wind farm in 2011. Electricity produced at Shirley, which can power an estimated 6,000 homes, is sold to Wisconsin Public Service Co.
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