Residents want Ont. to consider turbines' health risk
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 24, 2011 7:42PM EST
TORONTO - Ontario's energy minister may have failed to properly consider how industrial wind turbines affect health, a Toronto divisional court heard Monday.
Ian Hanna, 56, a resident of Prince Edward County, is claiming the province did not consult qualified medical experts before allowing the turbines to go up 550 metres from any home.
"The government simply is not looking at the medical implications on human health," Eric Gillespie, the lawyer representing Hanna, told a panel of three judges.
Gillespie said at the time the 550-metre rule was put in place, there was "scientific uncertainty" about the health effects of turbines.
The minister should have either halted development plans until there was concrete scientific evidence, or consulted medical professionals on what distance they would be comfortable with in light of the uncertainty.
Gillespie said that although the ministry did consult acoustical engineering experts and weighed a number of issues, there is no evidence that health implications were considered.
"You must have someone who is properly qualified to make that decision," he said.
The Society for Wind Vigilance says some people living near Ontario's 700 turbines report sleep problems, stress, headaches and difficulty concentrating due to the noise.
But a government lawyer argued that a World Health Organization study found no evidence that night noise below 40 decibels is harmful to health.
A turbine located 350 metres away produces 40 decibels of noise, said lawyer Sara Blake.
Blake said the conservative set-back distance of 550 metres was chosen as a precaution.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid has said Ontario's chief medical officer of health told him there is no credible evidence to suggest the turbines negatively affect health.
Duguid pointed to the proven health risks associated with burning coal to produce electricity.
Moving away from coal will significantly reduce respiratory illness, he added.
Hanna got involved in the case when a turbine was planned in his immediate area.
The project was cancelled, but Hanna said he has met too many people who are suffering to walk away now.
"There are a lot of people who are suffering serious ill effects from living too close to turbines," he said.
"We're asking the court to determine whether or not a proper precaution was taken when the regulation was created."
Hanna and his lawyer have asked the court to strike down the sections of the Green Energy Act that govern set-back distance.
This would make it impossible to issue renewable energy approvals until more research is done, said Hanna.
"Let's find out how close turbines can be before we start putting them up and making people sick."
At the end of Monday's hearing, the panel reserved its decision.