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Nation Rise Wind Farm opponents aren’t blowing away

NORTH STORMONT – A group of North Stormont residents said they will continue opposing EDP Renewables’ Nation Wind Rise Farm, which they deem harmful to their community.

The project will see the completion of 29 wind turbines in the northern section of the township. Its timeline has been marred with controversy, opponents to the project slowed down its approval as much as they could, then appealed it to the Environmental Review Tribunal, then asked Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek to kill the approval when they lost their appeal.

Construction came to a grinding halt in December, Yurek’s decision to revoke its Renewable Energy Approval (REA), citing concerns for the safety of local bat populations. EDP Renewables appealed the minister’s decision in April to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, who reinstated the project’s approval in its decision in early May.

The minister’s office as well as the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS), an organization that had been the lead opponent of the project since its inception, both announced they would not be appealing the court’s decision. Part of that announcement included an agreement between CCNS and EDP.

Ruby Mekker, a North Stormont resident, told the Standard-Freeholder on Friday that a sizable group of residents in the township are still against the project, despite the Ontario court’s decision and CCNS’ decision to abandon any further appeals.

“There is definitely a big group,” she said. “We’re not surprised to what happened to CCNS. Margaret Benke deserves full credit because she was the one that made people aware of industrial wind turbines. She fought the good fight legally.”

In order to oppose the continuation of the project, Mekker, along with other residents, sent a Notice of Non-Consent to the Government of Ontario’s attorney general, premier, and Yurek, outlining they did not consent to the project. A similar notice had been sent in 2019.

Mekker said her opposition to the project was based on a multitude of factors, including long-term health issues she said windmills create for residents living near them. In addition, she said the cluster of wind turbines being erected exposes North Stormont residents to infrasound, low-frequency noise, vibration, and shadow flicker.

“The low frequency noise is making people sick elsewhere,” she said. “It also causes cancer.”

Low frequency noise is created when wind turbulence makes contact with the blade of the turbine and is often associated with residential noise annoyance. The matter of the impact of the noise is hotly debated.

According to Mekker, residents in some other areas of the province have been forced to move away from their homes due to health issues associated, she claimed, to windmills. She said she believes the effects of the low frequency noise produced by the wind turbines usually take several years before manifesting themselves.

According to Déja vu and Wind Turbines: A Review of Lived Experiences after Appeals of Ontario Industrial-Scale Wind Power Facilities, during an appeal into the Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh turbines, who lived near to industrial-scale wind turbines were asked to testify under oath.

“One witness, who lived within 800 metres of a turbine, reported several health effects that the witness connected to operation of the wind turbine, specifically sleep deprivation, ringing in the ears, increased blood pressure and heart rate,” claimed the document.

Mekker also spoke of the project having a negative impact on private wells in the township as well as the watershed. A map from the South Nation Conservation showed that a significant watershed does travel through the North Stormont Township. EDP agreed to a condition to monitor groundwater supplies and quality throughout the construction phase as a result of these concerns.

According to a report published in 2010 by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, about three per cent of people with epilepsy are photosensitive, generally to flicker frequencies between 5-30Hz. The report stated however, that most industrial turbines rotate at a speed below these flicker frequencies.

“The people of North Stormont did not consent to be exposed to this,” said Mekker.

Despite this continued opposition, with no other legal barriers to resuming construction, EDP has started resuscitating its work. A community liaison committee meeting, part of its ongoing communications with those in the area, is scheduled to take place online on Wednesday, July 8, starting at 6 p.m.