GREEN BAY – The Shirley Wind Farm will retain its designation as a human health hazard, at least for now.
But what, if anything, that means for people in Glenmore and Morrison who say the turbines are causing them health problems remains to be seen.
New Brown County Board of Health member Jim Crawford couldn’t garner enough support Tuesday to overturn the panel’s 2014 ruling that low-frequency noise from the turbines at Shirley Wind can endanger health. A vote to suspend that ruling failed, 4-2, with Crawford and Karen Sanchez in the minority.
Crawford, of New Denmark, has indicated a belief that some of the symptoms being reported are psychological and can be addressed via counseling. But the majority of the board said the people complaining of nausea, vertigo and sleep problems deserve to have their complaints taken seriously.
“I see the hurt in people,” said board member Harold Pfotenhauer. “You’re not sick, your children aren’t sick, because you’re imagining something.”
He joined Richard Schadewald, Susan Paulus-Smith and Chairman Jay Tibbetts in opposing Crawford’s proposal. Schadewald said the ruling needed to remain in place if the county is to have any chance of landing a scientific study of the Shirley turbines and their potential impacts on residents.
Board members agree a study is needed. But they also agree that one won’t happen without funding. The county so far has been unable or unwilling to fund such a study, nor has it been able to determine exactly how much a study would cost. State legislators have not granted the county’s January request for funding.
Brown County’s 2016 budget does not fund a study, and a wind-study task force proposal this winter was quickly abandoned. The state legislature this winter removed $250,000 in potential study funding from Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal.
People who say the turbines make them sick are left in limbo. Several have abandoned homes near Shirley Wind; others say they have taken measures such as sleeping in the basement, saying that helps reduce some of the symptoms they report.
“We’re sitting here with a home that’s been empty for five years,” said Susan Ashley, one of a half dozen Shirley-area residents to oppose Crawford’s proposal Tuesday. “There isn’t a middle ground on this. It’s either safe, or it’s not safe.”
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.
Health Director Chua Xiong ruled in December that insufficient evidence exists to link wind turbines to illnesses suffered by people who live near them; she resigned in March and has yet to be replaced. Tuesday’s vote has no effect on her ruling.
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