An Op-Ed piece from the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail: Brad Taylor: Wind turbines cause health problems:
December 25, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Public Service Commission is failing to protect the people of West Virginia. By allowing wind turbine farms to locate near homes and neighborhoods, it is knowingly endangering the health and well-being of residents.
The PSC ignores the ample evidence on the turbine/bad-health connection and is choosing to turn a blind eye to the suffering caused by its siting decisions.
Wind turbines, as the PSC is aware, create noise, including penetrating low-frequency noise. This noise, in turn, creates health problems. According to the British physician Christopher Hanning, a renowned expert on the effects of noise on health, “There can be no doubt that groups of industrial wind turbines (wind farms) generate sufficient noise to … impair the health of those living nearby.” These negative health impacts might include fatigue, cognitive impairment, sleeplessness, depression, risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.
Wherever wind farms are located in the world, they generate noise complaints from nearby residents. Whether from Canada or England or Germany or the Netherlands or New Zealand, the complaints from people are always the same: their lives have been disrupted and their health negatively impacted by noisy turbines. Many people have been forced to vacate their homes to safeguard their health and that of their children. A woman from Ontario, Canada, described her heartbreak at having to leave her home: “What was once a beautiful place to live has been destroyed” by turbine noise. An Oregon community was assured by wind-farm developers that their newer turbines were quiet. After living near them, one local man characterized these assurances as a “crock.”
In Maine, two physicians who studied the noise problem at the Mars Hill wind farm have stated that “ill effects are likely when homes are placed within 3,500 feet of a ridgeline arrangement of turbines.” Many European governments with long experience with the bad effects from wind turbines commonly require a setback distance between 5,000 and 6,500 feet. In contrast, at the Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser, the PSC requires a paltry 627 feet between homes and turbines.
Unlike our PSC, many other government agencies have imposed rigorous requirements on turbine noise to protect the public’s health and welfare. In Shawano County, Wisconsin, for example, low-frequency noise is strictly regulated, and any wind turbine affecting the “habitability or use of any existing dwelling … shall be deemed unsafe and must be shut down immediately.” Some towns in Wisconsin, including Morrison and Rockland, totally prohibit the “pure tones” generated by wind turbines because of their deleterious impacts on health. In West Virginia, unfortunately, we have no such protections. Indeed, the PSC does not even employ an acoustic engineer who could properly evaluate the noise studies submitted by wind developers. According to many experts, these wind company studies are deeply flawed, and consistently underestimate the levels and impacts of turbine noise.
The choice is clear: either wind technologies must be improved so that they do not impact public health, or turbines must be placed at a sufficient distance from homes to ensure no harm is done to nearby residents. But since the Public Service Commission refuses to do its job, those who care about this issue will be obliged to use the federal courts. In the meantime, West Virginians will suffer.
Taylor lives in Keyser.