EL PASO COUNTY - El Paso County Commissioners have heard about potential health impacts from industrial wind turbines since before the NextEra Energy wind farm in Calhan became operational. Now that the turbines are spinning, those complaints are getting louder.
Gavin Wince and his wife Millie told the commissioners about their symptoms during the public comments period of Tuesday's board meeting.
"We cannot be out on the property for more than two hours before we're suffering such severe sensations that we literally have to flee the property," Wince said.
Another resident named Joe Cobb read findings published by Dr. Nina Pierpont, MD Ph.D. describing what she calls "Wind Turbine Syndrome."
"Living too close to the turbines can cause heart disease, tinnitus, vertigo, panic attacks, migraines, sleep deprivation," he read.
The phenomenon most frequently blamed for these ailments is known as infrasound, ultra low frequency noise below the range of human hearing that some believe is emitted by the giant machines. Technically, such a complaint is a code enforcement issue and the duty to investigate falls on the Sheriff's Office. But as commissioner Amy Lathen explains, the deputies have a problem.
"The Sheriff's Office does not have equipment to measure infra-sound, it's a different kind of measuring," she said.
So, Lathen said the deputies are working with the wind company to get the equipment and scientists needed to measure infrasound levels in and around Calhan.
"The company may pay for that equipment," Lathen said. "We want to make sure the study is independent, is truly giving us the facts about infra-sound and so, however that equipment is obtained, we're gonna be watching closely."
But the idea of having the company pay for any part of the study didn't sit well with some residents at the Board of County Commissioners meeting.
"I will state boldly for the record that NextEra does not have a good track record for doing independent studies," resident Sandra Wolfe told commissioners. "They tend to be biased, but that is my personal opinion."
Cobb didn't see the point taking such measurements.
"It's already been proven, it's already been documented many, many times over," he said. "So, what's the purpose of going out and reproving all this and spending our money to do that when it's already done?"
Infra-sound is growing area of concern in the wind energy industry. The health department of Brown County, Wisconsin declared infra-sound from turbines to be a public health hazard last year. In September, local officials in Falmouth, Massachusetts voted to temporarily stop the turbines operations because of health concerns.