By Shaun Gregory, Huron Expositor
It was a full community conference with almost every chair filled in the council chambers joined by the HEAT group, Veresen Inc., Huron East council members and a few locals. For all those who came, coffee, donuts and a fruit tray were available free of charge. The voice of the HEAT, Jeanne Melady and Gerry Ryan were front-row ready with pens and paper. The two have been present at three out of the last four Huron East council meeting. They expressed their needs to the political gang numerous times, a primary concern was that HEAT did not know who to call. Today was the day to move forward and be heard by the wind turbine company. At a previous council meeting, Huron East was optimistic and sure several questions would be answered at this function.
Dennis Mueller, a representative for the community liaison committee started the two-hour session by directing questions and complaints from members of 14 households that live near these wind turbines. These inquiries were aimed at Veresen Inc. and the senior engineer. Mueller put all these objections on a screen so the public could view these alleged accusations.
“Personally I was appalled when these reports began to come in as I knew there were health problems but had no idea to this severity,” said Mueller.
“The fact that there are also children being affected by this project, I have a huge problem with that as a parent.”
In the prepared document by Mueller, he pointed at all the specific complaints by the residents. They were presented at the meeting as property numbers from 1-14 with no specific names attached to them. Their main concerns and questions were as followed:
“I would like to know why my bed trembles or lightly vibrates. The nights of the storm were particularly noticeable. I always sleep with my bedroom window open but can’t anymore.”
“Noise from turbines were very loud last night (Oct.31) but have got to the point that no one will follow up. We run a fan all night to drown out the noise. As soon as my head touches the pillow I can hear the noise and feel the vibration.”
“Our concerns are noise-night time mainly. Going to sleep we hear a constant swoosh. The instances where the weather, temperature, & wind are in a perfect combo causes them to be very loud-enough to wake you from a sleep.”
“I have called the proponent three times now regarding turbine noise and have not been called back once. I have also called the MOECC at least three times and nothing has changed with regard to noise, nor has anyone came out to my home.”
“On the morning of Sept 25, two kids were affected, one could not think properly and follow basic duties without constant confusion & the other woke up with a very bad headache – the turbine is the closest to the room these two children sleep in.”
“I suffer from sleeplessness from the turbines and find them very loud. It was particularly bad September 25-27. If the turbines are loud and I can hear them from inside the house, my cat now will refuse to go outside the door. That was never a problem before.”
“We hear them every day. We have two adults and two children living in our home. Noise affects us both during the day and at night. Shadow flicker from the blades as well as the blinking red lights at night are a problem for us. We can always hear them whether it is windy or calm.”
“We definitely hear the turbines and they have interrupted our sleep especially during the summer months as we do not have air conditioning and could not sleep with the windows open. Both occupants of the house are experiencing sleeplessness.”
“It sounds like there’s a train behind our barn. We’re not able to sleep when the window is open, especially during the summer months.”
“We are experiencing noise both day and night from the turbines, literally seven days a week. Shadow flicker, nausea, headaches & ringing of the ears are problems we have experienced. The lights are a distraction at night and make us nauseous. Obviously the noise is worse if it is windy.”
“We have two adults and three children living in our house. Warm, windy nights seem to be the worst. We experience: sleep disturbance, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, vibration on chest during the night, shadow flicker, headaches and nausea.”
“Depending on wind direction, we are affected most early morning (around 3 a.m.). It is loud enough to wake us up, making it very difficult to get a good night's rest.”
“Four to five nights a week our sleep is interrupted. We experience nausea and headaches as well. That was never a problem before.”
“Since they began spinning we have had problems ongoing. There are a total of six people living in our home of two adults and four children.”
Ian Bonsma, is one of senior engineers for the turbines that are stationed in St. Columban. He told the public that these issues have been a common occurrence for most of the wind projects throughout the province.
“Every project has complaints, my sort of reasoning or philosophy is turbines that are going into rural areas typically don’t have background levels of 40 decibels. They often have 30 decibels. So you’re going to hear them,” explained Bonsma.
“In 2004 and 2006 there were a number of projects where the consultant said you’ll never hear them, (that’s a) lie.”
The crowd in the seats shouted out an uproar after these comments by Bonsma, the meeting became a back and forth questionnaire between the community and the ones involved with the wind turbines. The inquiries also began to shift towards the people in the crowd. Ryan noticed that Jose Menendez, St. Columban Energy LP's vice-president was present. The devoted HEAT member turned towards Menendez and asked him why there were noise issues, because Ryan alleged that he said prior to the development of the wind turbines that they would not generate noise.
“I suggest you direct your questions at them,” responded Menendez.
“Why are you here tonight then sir,” Ryan said in a stern tone.
“I’m curious what’s happening in the community,” replied Menendez who was about four chairs away from Ryan.
David Hayles, the operations coordinator for the St. Columban Wind Project clarified to everybody in attendance that these concerns will be reviewed case by case. He said the Ministry of Environment has approved the sound levels, which can only reach a maximum of 40 decibels. If the decibel level goes above those requirements, certain steps will be implemented to either fix the problem or shut the turbines off. To date none have been shut off due to complaints. Last week a sound test was implemented and to the wind company’s knowledge, the levels complied with the legal legislation.
“I want to do my job the best I can, I can’t commit to turning turbines off, that’s way above my pay level, but if there is an issue with a turbine, it’s my job to turn them off,” said Hayles.
This meeting was meant to engage with the community about their concerns pertaining the wind turbines. Hayles said he will bring these findings to his manager’s attention at the next company seminar. The next community liaison meeting is set for the spring of 2016.