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Penn Forest Township wind turbine project hearing continues with testimony from retired medical doctor, bird expert

PENN FOREST TWP., Pa. – Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, Zoning Hearing Board was told Thursday evening by a retired medical doctor the wind turbine project proposed by Iberdrole Renewable would adversely affect the health of those who live near the proposed project.

The Penn Forest Township Volunteer Fire Co. #1 was again filled with area residents as the zoning hearing continued regarding the project that proposes 40 wind turbines.

The hearing began with the testimony of retired medical internist Dr. Wayne C. Spiggle, MD, of Mineral County, W.Va. His testimony was offered on the effects of industrial wind turbines on residents living nearby.

Spiggle, who practiced medicine for 53 years, said he was providing testimony as a physician, and more specifically, “To be aware of and advocate for the public health, and the impact of industrial development on public health.”

He said he is known in his community as an environmentalist and activist. Spiggle also served as a county commissioner for nine years.

According to Spiggle, as a county commissioner he took the health and welfare of the constituents very seriously.

When asked how he got involved in researching the wind turbine industry, he said there was a proposal presented while he served as a county commissioner similar to the proposal presented to Penn Forest Township.

“I knew, just common sense, that it would probably impact the people who live nearby,” he said.

According to Spiggle, the health of Penn Forest residents living near the proposed wind turbine project would be impacted.

“I believe it is more than just a high probability,” he said. “I think there is an inevitability that some of your constituents [3,000-4,000] will have their health adversely impacted by this project.”

Citing peer review journal articles, he said those living within 6,500 feet found an overall diminished quality of life when exposed to wind turbines and those living within 5,000 feet judged their environment with lower sleep quality due to the wind turbines and the noise such farms emit.

Spiggle added, “The lack of sleep causes harm.”

Short term affects of lack of sleep, he said, affect mood, the ability to judge, ability to learn and the risk of serious accidents and injuries. Long term affects from chronic sleep deprivation include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even mortality.

Spiggle has interviewed about 30 residents who live near wind turbines in West Virginia.

“There’s a repeated pattern of what they want to say, and it usually begins with “We can’t live here … We can’t sleep,” he said of those interviewed.

He added, those living near such turbines, feel trapped and unable to leave.

Spiggle emphasized Penn Forest residents who live near the project will suffer.

“It’s inevitable, inevitable, that if you allow this project to go forward that your constituents, many of them, will suffer those [health] consequences,” he added.

Mineral County, he noted, does not have zoning laws and ordinances like in Pennsylvania. Spiggle said if Mineral County did have such laws and ordinances, the county wouldn’t have turbines.

Kim Van Fleet, visiting instructor at Dicknson College, also provided testimony as a witness with expertise in biology and ecology, with a specialization in ornithology.

She told the board the wind turbine project will have a direct and indirect impact on the habitat and species of animals and organisms living in the immediate area. Wind turbines, she added, also increase the risk of collisions for bird species.

Overall, Fleet said, the living area of bird species will be disturbed, causing such species to abandon the site.

Opponents of the wind turbine project have argued the turbines will adversely affect property values, create noise beyond the acceptable decibel limits allowed by the township ordinance and destroy the natural habitat, which includes an older forest home to animals such as birds, deer and black beer.

Those supporting the project claim it will provide for a clean, natural resource, consumes no water, does not use fossil fuels and provides additional electrical energy to the grid.

Iberdrole Renewable, which does business locally as Atlantic Wind , is looking to build the 525 foot high wind turbines on a 10,000 acre area of land leased from the Bethlehem Authority. The site is located on 903 and Towamensing Township.

As previously reported, the city will receive three percent of the gross revenue the company earns from selling electricity produced by the turbines.

Thursday evening’s zoning hearing board concluded at 9:30 p.m. The board will continue the hearing 6 p.m. Sept.20 at the fire company complex.