Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks heard first-hand emotional accounts of health suffering from five Port Elgin residents living near the UNIFOR wind turbine at a private meeting at Saugeen Shores town hall Sept. 19.
Five residents who have filed the majority of 1,000-plus wind turbine operation complaints with the ministry, sat across from Yurek, who is no stranger to the controversial green energy issue. Yurek and others are named in a private prosecution filed by a Chatham-Kent woman who claims a turbine construction contaminated her well water.
Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz, founder of STOP/ Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy, said the medical harm the CAW wind turbine has caused local residents makes Port Elgin “the lab rat test case” for Ontario.
“They put a low-powered machine amongst 1,300 people living 1,000 metres (of the turbine) – you’ve got an experience that generated the highest number complaints about any wind turbine in Ontario – half which are about audible noise and the half are ‘I’m feeling sick’ complaints due to infrasound,” Schmalz said in a Sept. 24 telephone interview, adding the constant feeling of nausea by at least one local couple forced to them to sell their new Port Elgin home near the turbine.
Schmalz said after years of not so much as an email from ministry officials on turbine issue, he was “pinching myself” to believe he was actually in a room with the minister who was listening.
After the meeting Schmalz was confident they got more than lip service from Minister Yurek, who is on a turbine fact-finding tour of Ontario.
Schmalz hopes the first-hand testimonies and scientific data provided to the minister will lead to regulations prohibiting health harming ‘nauisogenic frequency range’ audio emissions that can’t be heard but are felt by the body.
“Part of the remedy, that I believe the PC government is examining, is how to create regulations that could address the measuring of very low frequency of sound inside people’s homes – the nauisogenic frequency range emissions,” Schmalz said, adding they presented the minister with their expert’s testing results and information uncovered after STOP filed a Freedom of Information request that showed the turbine was operating out of compliance with provincial rules.
Schmalz said they key message to the minister was they’ve done the science.
Noise and infrasound harms people and here’s the people that were harmed,” Schmalz said, adding after 10 years of opposition to the turbine, STOP wants to end the endless cycle of noise complaints to the ministry about the UNIFOR turbine and help finding a solution.
Provincial officials made a written commitment for annual emission testing of the UNIFOR turbine when it began operating in 2013, but that testing was not done.
Private testing by STOP and a Freedom of Information filing found the turbine had been operating out of compliance, and last spring a noise abatement plan, including reducing output to 300Kw from 500Kw, showed it was in compliance under those conditions.
Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau revealed details of the meeting after-the-fact, saying the minister wanted no advance notice to prevent “some big splashy thing where a lot of people – no offense media – show up,” Charbonneau said , adding the minister wanted the affected people to be the story, not his visit.
Charbonneau said two or three years ago, the very notion that the minister would come and speak to the affected people was impossible, so “just the very gesture means a lot to me and those folks who had a chance to speak to him the other say,” Charbonneau said after the Sept 23 council meeting.
Charbonneau said the minister listened, but did not say anything that would advance the issue.
“I hope and expect the government will make some decisions based on what they are hearing from the people,” on the minister’s fact-finding tour.
Charbonneau said Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, facilitated the meeting, and wrapped up the Sept. 19 meeting asking Minister Yurek to comment on what he’d heard.
Schmalz said Yurek replied that he’d take all of the information about the turbine that he’d heard into consideration during upcoming deliberations.
No one from UNIFOR was invited to the meeting.