PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – On Sunday opponents of wind turbine development in the County took to the streets to show that their concerns over a proposed wind energy project are about more than just a lot of air.
Hundreds of sign-waving and chanting residents marched down Main Street Picton shortly after the noon hour to kick off an anti-wind rally.
Upon reaching The Regent Theatre, marchers doffed their signs and settled in for the nearly three-hour town hall meeting to begin.
While people took their seats a video montage of anti-wind messages written by County residents in black marker on a stark white scroll of paper played on the big screen, followed by aerial drone footage of levelled and torn up fields. Over the montage played the melodic version of Dee Snider’s We’re Not Going to Take It.
Sunday’s town hall was in regards to the ongoing wpd Canada’s White Pines Wind Project which initially called for the erection of 29 wind turbines in the County.
The County has declared itself an unwilling host to industrial wind turbine projects that disrupt the lives and livelihoods of County residents and destroy the County’s historic landscapes while causing irreparable harm to the County’s wildlife and natural environment.
Because of challenges by local government and groups the initial plan of 29 turbines has been scaled back to nine – to be built near the south shore of Milford.
On stage activists sat beside entrepreneurs, doctors and local politicians. Their reasons for opposing the project was as varied as their backgrounds.
Dr Robert McMurtry, former Dean of Medicine at Western University and a member of the Order of Canada, spoke about the health impact turbines can have when placed too close to residential homes.
“We’re all asked to pretend the emperor has clothes,” said McMurtry to rumble of laughter from the crowd. “What has been said is there aren’t really any adverse health effects, it hasn’t been defined.
“This argument is carried on at great cost by highly paid legal counsel and it’s done all over the world.”
McMurtry said the facts of the matter are is that are adverse effects and everybody knows it.
“Everybody knows, including animals. Including horses with deformed feet, cattle with deformed heads, premature births… chickens don’t develop normally, they can be born without eyes.
“If we had those sorts of effects from a drug for example, it wouldn’t last two moments, but there isn’t a system of reporting it.”
McMurtry points to infrasound – a low frequency pulsing sound emitted by running turbines which can cause stress and sleep disturbances – as just one of the issues caused by wind turbines.
He cited lack of proper regulation as a main issue within the wind energy industry.
“The regulations are set by the industry,” said McMurtry.
Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson pointed out the provincial government has a poor track record when it comes to responding to complaints of noise or vibration from wind turbines.
Wilson said her group procured 3,200 reports of turbine noise, vibration and other effects from 2006 to 2014 under a Freedom Of Information request.
“Here’s what we learned about what the government does to respond,” said Wilson. “It does nothing.”
Of the 3,200 reports that were turned over to them, more than 50 per cent received no response at all from the government. Another 31 per cent received a planned response.
“Which is pretty much the same as nothing at all,” she added.
Another 14 per cent were listed in the documents as receiving a ”deferred response”.
“Only one per cent of these thousands of reports got a priority response when people called the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for help.”
Health concerns weren’t the only issue brought up by the panel.
Winemaker Norman Hardie talked about the impact wind turbines can have on the agri-tourism sector which has helped brand the County as a vacation destination while Cheryl Anderson of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and rally logistics coordinator Les Stansfield spoke about the potential damage to local endangered wildlife and the water supply.
The last member of the panel to speak was Mayor Robert Quaiff.
“We have to be 100 per cent successful. Nothing else will do. Out of 29, it went down to 27. Out of 27, on your efforts and your hard work, it went down to nine.
“That’s still not acceptable. They need to be cancelled.”
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