CANTON – A scientist affiliated with the proposed North Ridge Wind Farm project told St. Lawrence County legislators Monday night that numerous studies show wind turbines do not cause adverse health impacts, but opponents dispute his claims.
Christopher Ollson, an environmental health scientist from the Toronto area, spoke during a presentation by Avangrid Renewables, the developer of a proposed industrial wind farm in the towns of Parishville and Hopkinton.
The controversial project has drawn opposition from some citizens who argue that the project will cause sleep problems and other health issues, decrease property values and ruin the rural aesthetics in the two towns.
Using graphs and charts, Mr. Ollson said several studies, including a 2014 study by National Health Canada, have not shown a link between health problems and the presence of wind turbines that have been properly sited.
“Based on the findings and scientific merit of the over 80 peer reviewed scientific studies, the weight of evidence is that properly sited wind turbines do not cause adverse health effects,” he said.
This includes concerns related to audible noise, low frequency noise, infrasound, shadow flicker, electromagnetic fields, ice throw and blade fragment throw.
He said alleged health issues such as wind turbine syndrome and vibroacoustic disease have been discredited.
“Over the past seven years these allegations have not been recognized by medical agencies, courts, tribunals or many scientists and physicians as valid,” Mr. Ollson said.
Also, he said studies show that shadow flicker caused by wind turbines do not induce seizures because the turbines don’t rotate fast enough.
Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, plans to construct 40 wind turbines up to 500 feet tall in the towns of Parishville and Hopkinton. The company has reportedly signed lease agreements with about 35 landowners who are supposed to receive money in exchange for allowing wind turbines on their property.
After the presentation, members of Concerned Citizens of Rural Preservation, disputed the studies cited by Mr. Ollson and questioned whether he has the expertise to speak on the issue.
“There a lot of other studies disproving what he said,” said Luke Martin, Parishville. “There are a lot of sick people as a result of wind projects.”
Lori Whitherell, also of Parishville, said Mr. Ollson should not be used as an expert on wind farm impacts because he’s not a medical doctor, an acoustician, an epidemiologist or a clinician.
“If the legislature truly wants to be informed on medical issues related to industrial wind, then they should seek the testimony of a medical doctor who has studied the effects of wind development on people first hand,” she said.
Avangrid Renewables also operates Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lowville. Scott L. McDonald, a senior business developer with the firm, said property values have not decreased in that area as a result of the wind farm which includes 195 wind turbines.
Mr. Ollson also said the risk of ice being thrown off a turbine blade is extremely low. The chance of ice throw hitting a house is one strike per 62,500 years, while the chance of hitting a vehicle is one vehicle strike per 100,000 years and the chance of hitting a person, one strike in 500 years.
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