Unintended consequence: Wind turbines are impacting the health of Ontarians

by M.Gaudin, North Stormont

There is a real possibility of a future with hundreds of Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) surrounding the greater Ottawa area. Quite a picture. Let me tell you a story.

I live in the small community of North Stormont, just south of Ottawa. I have lived and worked in the Ottawa area for 25 years. The call of a rural life was strong when I bought our home in this peaceful community. I had hoped to retire here. I loved it here.

But the joy is gone. I keep my windows closed to try to eliminate the unearthly noise from the turbines. The insidious infra-sound makes me queasy like seasickness and feel off-balance if I go outside.

In 2015, an international wind company came into our area and signed wind leases with a bunch of property owners to build an industrial wind project. Knowing what we all learned from years of peer-reviewed research since the Green Energy Act of 2009, many were opposed to the project so close to our homes.

During this time, people continued to object. Noise and health incident reports have been continuously filed with both Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. The turbines erected are prototype Enercon E138s, too big and too clustered by the homes in this high-density rural area with schools and seniors' residences. We also learned about the situation in other Ontario wind projects; none of it was protective of the people's health. The people in North Stormont are experiencing what so many in every other Ontario wind turbine project are experiencing with no help from any government agency. The Ministry of Health (MOH) states that the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) has authority over the project; MECP refers people back to the MOH.

I continue to write to the Minister of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) to fix it while a stream of civil servants and Ontario ministers send the same boilerplate responses month after month, delay after delay of action, and meanwhile, people of all ages are harmed daily from the turbine emissions. At no point does any ministry take responsibility for helping the people. How is this possible in Canada?

The formal incident reports sent to the government are of cardiac events, sleep disturbance, high annoyance levels, vertigo, dizziness, migraine, and ringing in the ears. It’s just some of the noise nuisance issues reported. And it started happening in my community as soon as the project began operating.

Sure, industry types and government civil servants state that wind turbines aren’t the cause. That’s to protect the billion-dollar global wind industry. People who receive financial benefits for leasing their land may also be harmed, but their lips are sealed under a gag order from the wind company.

Also concerning is how government-paid regional Medical Officers of Health live in the same communities, hearing the same concerns saying there is ‘no evidence’ of health problems from wind turbines. But there is evidence. The people are the evidence, and it’s serious.

They are not NIMBYs, just ordinary everyday people in rural Ontario. In my community, too many health incidents occur almost simultaneously. So what should one think when the only new addition to our small, tight community was the giant 29 -turbine wind project? Evidence!

We knew that one older woman Stephana Johnston in the Clear Creek Ontario wind project, had said: “All the advice I have been given by everyone who has learned about the physical health effects which started …when the last six of the group of 18 IWT's surrounding my home within a 3 km radius were put into action is that I SHOULD NOT LIVE any longer in the home I had built in 2004….”

But no remedy was ever provided because of the decades-old promulgation of the notion that the projects are safe and benign on the Ontario landscape. Yes, some people love wind turbines. They say they are graceful and majestic and the answer to climate change. But they do not have them as neighbours.

So, part of your freshly minted Energy Evolution Strategy vision is to transform Ottawa into a thriving city powered by clean, renewable energy. The modelling draft document indicates that the minimum results required to meet the 100% scenario for the electricity sector shows wind generation reaching 3,218 MW by 2050. “That is approximately 710 large scale turbines”… in the Ottawa area, according to advocacy organization Wind Concerns Ontario.  How do the non-urban outer reaches of Ottawa feel about that?

Let’s look at the big picture here. As far back as the early 2000s, politicians have been lobbied, enticed, persuaded, or paid to promote “green energy.” Virtually every lawmaker in every major jurisdiction in the western world decreed they’d be the ‘leader in green energy’ production, mainly by Industrial Wind Turbines [IWT].

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, with the advantage of a majority government; newly formed environmental organizations; wind industry investors; oil and gas companies, and supportive media outlets, grabbed this trend by the tail, cheering the creation of the Green Energy Act (GEA). Hundreds of millions of incentive dollars went to Liberal Party executive insiders to get the ball rolling.  Finally, in September 2009, McGuinty passed the industry-led law with much fanfare but also much concern.

Concern, you ask? Prior to the approval of the GEA, there were rural Ontarians already exposed to pre-GEA IWT projects sponsored by the Governments of Canada and Ontario, heavily influenced by lobby groups.

ABOVE: A wind turbine located roughly 0.5 miles from a rural Ontario home. (PHOTO: Bonny McKeough)

In 2009 those rural Ontarians bravely came forward to disclose what industrial wind had done to their health, homes, and livelihoods. Many were farmers. Some lost their livestock to strange and horrible health problems not seen before. Others residents were affected by massive pressure pulses emitted from the giant turbine blades near their homes. For some, sleep became such an impossibility that many abandoned their homes to survive. That doesn’t sound too environmentally friendly now, does it? That was 13 years ago.

Fast forward to today, where the outer Ottawa area will become part of the solution to the Energy Evolution Strategy. Here is the scenario: wind energy proponents will knock on your door and ask to lease your land for their turbines. If you lease property to ‘be green or make green,’ you will sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing you from declaring any medical issues that, more likely than not, will arise. If you complain to the proponent or the Ministry of Environment in charge, you will get no resolution of your problems. They will advise you to see a doctor, though. If you become ill and complain, you will be described as a NIMBY or anti-environment.

Recently Australian courts have sided with residents surrounded by a wind project who described their ongoing health symptoms and were believed.

On March 25, 2022, the Australia Supreme Court from Victoria issued a precedent-setting decision which held that operational noise from the Bald Hills Wind Farm was causing a nuisance to two local residents at night time and ordered the operator of the Bald Hills Wind Farm to: “…pay a total of AU$260,000 in damages to the two residents.”

“The Court applied established principles at common law to determine that operational noise from the wind turbines at night amounted to a private nuisance because it caused a substantial interference with the two residents' use and enjoyment of their land.”

So, this is no time to cheer if you live anywhere near where the gigantic turbines are to be located. Adverse health effects, including heart palpitations, vertigo, nausea, and chronic sleep disturbance, were reported to the government over ten years ago and are still a serious health scourge today as wind turbines in Ontario are still operating.

In Ontario today, over 6000 incident reports have been submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Environment. This calls for a remedy to the agonizing problem of wind turbines. So beware, Ottawa. The Australian Supreme Court also held that: The public interest in the operation of the wind farm did not outweigh the need to abate the nuisance.

History will show that if you do not pay attention to the details surrounding socially ‘acceptable’ solutions such as industrial wind projects, those green dreams will likely become a nightmare.

For more information on industrial wind farming, visit https://www.windconcernsontario.ca or https://www.wind-watch.org

Photo: iStock