Sheriff and NextEra to conduct infrasound study
Calhan residents attended the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners meeting again Nov. 3 to voice their concerns about potential health hazards related to the Golden West Wind Farm project. Joe Cobb, a resident who lives within the wind farm’s footprint, said he left the meeting as frustrated as when he went in.
“I take two days off of work to come to talk, and I get three lousy minutes,” Cobb said. “I am spending a lot of money just to be heard.”
In all, Cobb said he has spent $3,700 on his animals, which includes veterinary and farrier bills and extra hay because the animals won’t go out to pasture, since the wind turbines became active in September. His animals and his family are feeling the negative effects from the turbines.
“We’ve got a blind duck, four out of seven horses that can hardly walk because their feet hurt so badly, donkeys that will not go out to graze, two guinea fowls have died; our little dog has congestive heart failure and mastitis, and four of my son’s five neon tetra (fish) have died,” he said. “The fifth is blind in one eye. These animals all acted normally for the many, many years that we have lived here, and you put these turbines up and there are dramatic changes in my animals’ health and my family’s health.”
According to an article published online in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society Sept. 20, 2011, “The electromagnetic waves are generated by the conversion of wind energy to electricity. This conversion produces high-frequency transients and harmonics that result in poor power quality … . High-frequency transient spikes that contribute to poor power quality, also known as dirty electricity, can flow along wires, damage sensitive electronic equipment, and adversely affect human and animal health.”
Cobb said his other concern is the infrasound emitted by the turbines. Infrasound is acoustic energy or sound pressure felt as separate pressure pulsations, according to an article written by acoustic engineer Richard James, published on wiseenergy.org Feb. 20.
Dr. Nina Pierpont published a book in 2009 called “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment.” In it, she lists adverse effects of living near a wind farm, which include “sleep disturbance and deprivation, headache, tinnitus (ringing in ears), ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo (spinning dizziness), nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia (fast heart rate), irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic episodes associated with sensations of movement or quivering inside the body that arise while awake or asleep.”
People can find information to support claims for either side of the issue, said Dan Martindale, director of El Paso County Public Health. “In terms of infrasound, that is something that is very difficult to measure,” Martindale said. “It depends on who is studying it, the length of the study and so on. There is just no conclusive evidence of what the residents are claiming of the noise and infrasound projected by the turbines.”
Laura Wilson, another resident living within the wind farm’s footprint, said she pleaded with the BOCC to hold off approving the project in 2013 (when it first went to the board), until the county had a chance to further review all the available information about turbines.
“These very issues were brought to the commissioners’ attention before they approved the project on Dec. 19, 2013,” Wilson said. “There is no excuse for anyone to try to plead ignorance about any of this.”
Amy Lathen, BOCC member, said she has read literature that states wind turbine syndrome is a legitimate concern, and she has read other literature that states it is a placebo effect. Because of the conflicted literature, the BOCC has directed the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to work with NextEra Energy Resources, the company that owns the wind farm, to study the existence of infrasound on the wind farm, she said.
“Because it can be considered a noise ordinance issue, the sheriff’s office is responsible for investigating that,” Lathen said. “The sheriff’s office has already been out there testing prior to the Nov. 3 meeting because we had complaints about audible noise.”
Lathen said the county does not have the equipment to study inaudible noise or infrasound, so they are in discussions with NextEra to supply the equipment to conduct the study. The county will ensure that someone qualified to study inaudible or infrasound will help with the process and calibrate the equipment readings, she said. “We want to make sure we are doing this right.”
Lathen said she voted against the project in 2013 because she thinks the turbines have an impact on people, and some turbines have been built too close to some of the residences. “I do not like the federal mandates or the subsidies,” she said. “I have a problem with the whole wind power program and the mandates that exist there. I am just not a fan; I never have been. I am just trying to do my best dealing with these issues, but I lost the vote about whether or not to approve the wind farm.”
The BOCC only has authority when it comes to land use issues, Lathen said. Any health issues would need to be addressed through the board of health, she said.
Wilson said she has no faith that the board of health will take the issue seriously. “I feel that they have intentionally ignored all of the information we have given them,” she said.
EPC Public Health could easily do what the health department in Brown County did, but they have chosen not to do anything, Wilson said. “I truly believe that each and every one of them has the attitude that they are too big to be accountable to anybody, and that is a problem.”
According to the September issue of The New Falcon Herald, the Brown County Wisconsin Board of Health declared the Shirley Wind Farm Project a human health hazard.
Cobb said that with all the evidence the BOCC and EPC Public Health have received on the health hazards of the turbines, a similar declaration by the EPC Public Health board should be made.
Commissioner Dennis Hisey, who also sits on the EPC Public Health board, said he was not aware that the declaration handed down in Brown County was made by their board of health. “I did not read all of the information (presented to me),” he said.
Martindale said the situation in Brown County is different from the one in El Paso County. “The board of health here does not have the authority to determine what happens with the wind farm here,” he said. “The board of health and myself are very sympathetic to these individuals that have come to us with their requests and information regarding the wind farm. I truly believe that they are having these symptoms.”
The only recourse citizens have is the study, Lathen said. NextEra has to supply the equipment and coordinate with the sheriff's office to conduct a study of the infrasound within the wind farm's footprint.
“It is a very difficult balance, but it is the reality now, and we want to work within that reality,” she said. No date for the study has been set.