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Wind turbine health study highlights calls for a moratorium

By Tyson Leonard

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A new Health Canada study is researching into the possible health effects the noise from wind turbines can have on people living nearby.

A Health Canada study researching into the possible health effects of wind turbines has highlighted calls for a moratorium on wind turbines in Prince Edward County.

Todd Smith, MPP for Hastings and Prince Edward County, said this is the perfect time to place a moratorium on wind turbines.

“There are all kinds of different reasons why this is the perfect opportunity for the Dalton McGuinty government to hit the pause button, and put a moratorium on all new future wind turbine projects until this health study is completed by the federal government,” said Smith.

“I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions that exist when it comes to these wind turbines.”

The study will examine the ongoing health of people from 2000 households living near eight to 12 different Canadian wind farms.

“The objective is essentially to explore the relationship between wind turbine noise levels and the extent of health effects reported by those living near those wind turbines,” said Gary Holub, a spokesperson for Health Canada, a federal department.

Holub said the study is expected to be done and available to the public sometime during 2014. It is projected to cost $1.8 million.

Participants in the study will answer questionnaires and have their health monitored for possible effects from the noise of wind turbines.

Prince Edward County is a proposed area for multiple wind-farm projects. They include a nine-turbine project at Ostrander Point and a 29-turbine project near Milford.

Currently the closest wind-farm to Prince Edward County is an 86-turbine project on Wolfe Island near Kingston.

Smith ran on a platform in the 2011 Ontario provincial election against the development of wind turbines in Prince Edward County.

“It’s been very clear since I started my election campaign last summer that I wasn’t supporting wind turbines in Prince Edward County for a host of different reasons. One of them is the potential health effects that they have on humans,” said Smith.

Smith said the residents and municipal councils of the areas where wind turbine projects are proposed should have more say in whether the projects go ahead.

“I’m all in favour of having a referendum,” said Smith.

Don Ross, a resident of Milford, has been a supporter of wind turbines in Prince Edward County for 12 years and said the Health Canada study is a waste of time.

“After 12 years of discussion here in Prince Edward County we don’t have one single commercial scale wind turbine in the ground, so I think to talk for another 2,4,6,12 years is the goal of the opponents, and I don’t think that helps my grandchildren one little bit,” said Ross.

“I can see why people want to have more and more discussion and talk. It’s a strategy of endless delay, but the studies have been done all around the world where windmills have been for decades and now we’re going to spend a couple million dollars of taxpayer money to determine the same thing.”

As for a moratorium on wind turbines Ross said it would be a big mistake.

“(A moratorium would be) absolutely non-productive. It doesn’t get us any further down the path towards alleviating some of the problems associated with climate change,” said Ross.

Ross said the decision to have Health Canada go ahead with the study is highly political.

“If the Conservative government in charge of Canada was really concerned about the environment they’d be spending those $2 million on studying the health effects to the people around the tar sands, and nuclear plants, and the effects of the coal-fire generation that still exists in Alberta,” said Ross.

“To me it is a method of deflecting some of the attention away from all the negative press they’ve been getting about fossil fuel development.”

Duncan Fischer is a member of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy. The group is a coalition of various organizations that are opposed to wind turbine development in Prince Edward County.

The coalition is fully supportive of the Health Canada study.

Fischer said a moratorium on wind turbines is necessary for Prince Edward County.

“Any additional turbines should be stopped until that health study is completed,” said Fischer.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association sees the study as repetitive and any calls for a moratorium as unnecessary.

“The balance of scientific and medical info to date clearly concludes the sound from wind turbines does not adversely impact human health,” said Chris Forrest, VP of communications with the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Forrest would not speculate on how the Health Canada study might affect wind turbine development.

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