Group wants turbine buffer applied in Port Rowan

SIMCOE REFORMER: Monte Sonnenberg - May 6, 2009

A group of residents in the countryside west of Port Rowan is looking for help now that the McGuinty government has conceded that wind turbines and people don't mix very well.

The McGuinty government proposed last month that new wind turbines in Ontario be at least 550 metres away from the nearest residential dwelling. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources are fielding input on the suggestion until July 24.

Now that the province has acknowledged that proximity may be an issue, a group of 15 have written a letter to Norfolk council and senior officials at Queen's Park and Ottawa asking what they propose to do for those who live next door to wind turbines. The group shares its neighbourhood with the AIM PowerGen wind farm in southwest Norfolk, which features 66 1.5-megawatt turbines.

"Moving from west to east in Norfolk, as each phase of the turbines was activated, people started to experience unexplainable and unique ill health symptoms," the letter says.

Stephana Johnston of Port Rowan, the Green Party candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk in the last federal election, is the group's spokesperson.

Johnston, 78, can see 18 turbines from the end of her driveway. She's suffered insomnia since they arrived, as well as mysterious aches and pains, mild confusion and impaired hearing. The group decided to act after the McGuinty government invited responses to its proposed setback.

"That's exactly what we're saying in our letter," Johnston said yesterday. "Where are the health studies to show that the kind of arrangement they've allowed in this part of Norfolk will not have adverse health impacts?"

Others in the neighbourhood of Norfolk Road 42 complain of a continuous sound similar to a jetliner flying overhead. Others liken the drone to the sound of an idling transport truck. Some residents have developed mysterious twitches while others complain of constant headaches. There have also been complaints about the towers' aircraft warning lights.

"The strobe effect of red lights blinking 1,000 times is likened to being hit with a hammer 1,000 times," the letter says. "The other strobe effect mentioned is that of blades turning between a home and the sun, either morning or evening, bringing on feelings of anxiety, lack of concentration and loss of short-term memory."

Port Rowan Coun. John Hunt says Norfolk council must rely on the opinions of health care professionals when making planning decisions. Neither the Ministry of Health nor Health Canada have issued warnings that turbines are a potential threat to public health.

Despite that, Hunt has misgivings about wind turbines and regrets that so many were approved in his ward.

"Maybe we're not thinking far enough into the future when it come to wind power," Hunt said. "It is five times more expensive than coal power. And solar power is 10 times more expensive. As for 'green energy,' I don't think there really is anything that can be called pure green power. Everything leaves a footprint."

At this point, the best Hunt can do is help his constituents register their complaints with the appropriate authorities. He will be doing that in the days ahead.

Article ID# 1643102