Waubra area, Victoria. Carl and Samantha Stepnell submitted their story as evidence before the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. The Committee took testimony as it investigated the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms. Carl and Samantha Stepnell live in the Waubra area of Victoria. Ms. Stepnell's testimony is provided below along with a letter from Dr. Scott Taylor, a medical doctor who treated the Stepnells.
Testimony of Samantha Stepnell
My health concerns regarding living so close to the Waubra wind turbines; Our family home is about 800m to 900m from five turbines that are closely clustered together. Our farm is also surrounded by turbines. My bedroom is the closest room to the four turbines. The health impact from living so close to the wind turbines began the day they began operation near our home are:
• Chronic sleep deprivation from repeated disturbance during the night from the noise the turbines make.
When the noise of the turbines wake me up, I find it very difficult to go back to sleep. This can happen a number of times a night. When I wake in the morning, I feel as if I have had no sleep at all.
I also feel very tired all the time and have no energy and very lethargic.
Prior to the turbines being built, I was able to sleep peacefully with our window open (in the summer and wake up feeling like I have had a great sleep, and ready for the day ahead.
• Feeling of uneasiness
• Suffer from pressure in my ears and head. Some days the noise is that bad, the pressure is unbearable.
The only way I can explain how I feel, it is like being in a plane with that pressure in the cabin from flying. Except it does not go away.
Our farm is 4200 acres and it is our business, my husband and I work on the farm so we are frequently outside. The noise from the turbines in certain conditions is unbearable and makes our workplace on the farm very hard to put up with, I find it very upsetting and stressful.
I feel very depressed and some days I could just curl up and cry.
All these symptoms; headaches, ear pressure and sleep disruption have only occurred since the turbines began operation and they only occur when the turbines are operating. This has made our working and home life very difficult. It has added an enormous stress which is affecting our health and well-being. It is also affecting our quality of life.
I feel the longer I am around the wind turbines, it is affecting my health even more. I feel it is taking me longer to get over the health problems that I am suffering from.
For example; My family and I just returned from a week's holiday. I slept all night and when I woke up, I felt like I had a good night sleep. I woke up from my night's sleep with lots of energy. This is the way I should feel all the time. There was no pressure in my ears and head. I felt like I was back to my old self. The day I returned from holidays, I began to feel all the symptoms that I have explained, they had returned.
I am finding living in our home very difficult and t he turbines have added and enormous amount of stress to my health and living. This is purely because we are located to close to the wind turbines.
They have destroyed my quality of life living in my own home with my husband and our three children. I feel and know that the only thing for us to do is to leave our family home and move away from the turbines.
We had no choice but to leave our family home we built nine years ago on our farm. Our health was really suffering, we could no longer live in our home. We have moved to into Ballarat, and we travel out to the farm to work each day (Ballarat is 45 kilometres away from Waubra).
The day the furniture removals came (4/11/10) was an extremely sad day for my family and I, to pack up our belongings and leave our family home we built. It was our family home, we bought our three kids home from hospital and we were going to live there forever. But we have been forced to move away from our home because of t he Acciona Wind Farm. We thought t hat we would grow old together in our home on the farm and watch our children grow up and move on with their lives. No, that is not the case, we have been forced out of our home because of the Acciona Wind Farm.
We have nothing against wind farm s. I am all for the environment, we plant thousands of trees for our farm each year. The planning of a wind farm has to be in a better location and not so close to residential areas. The Waubra Wind Farm has destroyed our life and we have been forced out of our home. We've had to purchase a house in Ballarat, it has put huge financial pressure on us, but we had no choice but to leave. Our health is number one and it was really suffering, living so close to the wind turbines.
The first night we slept in our new home was the first time we have had a full night sleep in 18 months. I am fine when I am away from the turbines and as soon as I return to the farm, the symptoms return. I find it very difficult to enjoy a day's work on the farm because of the health effects caused by wind turbines.
We have a part-time worker and a shearing team throughout the year, we are very concerned about where we stand with work safe issues. Because of the health effects people are suffering working so close to wind turbines? As our whole farm is surrounded with wind turbines?
If you care for the health and well-being of my family and I, could you please take the matter of the health effects from living so close to the Waubra Wind Turbines very seriously.
You are more than welcome to come and experience what it is like to be so close to the wind turbines, as no letter will ever express exactly what we are feeling. There are no words to describe these feelings and how t he turbines are effecting our health. Feel free to cont act me with the above information.
Thank you for your time and please take this letter seriously.
Yours sincerely, Samantha Stepnell
Letter of Dr. Scott Taylor
30 September 2010
re: Carl and Samantha Stepnell
I saw this couple on 29 September 2010 regarding health problems related to wind turbines which are located nearby in Waubra. They have a 4500 acre farm on which they run sheep and grown grain. The farm is surrounded by wind turbines but the ones that they feel are contributing to their current symptoms relate to five turbines, located within 900 metres of their home.
These turbines have been in operation for the last fourteen months, as I understand, and Carl and Samantha acknowledge they have been aware of a constant sound while the turbines are in operation since this period of time. However, in the last six months the Stepnell's have had increasing problems including increased feeling of pressure in their head and ears, a feeling of uneasiness and frequent waking at night. This has led to increased lethargy and inevitably a lowered mood.
Last May, Carl and Samantha noticed when the turbines were not in operation for two weeks that their symptoms significantly improved, but worsened again when the turbines came back on line. Carl and Samantha have also noticed that they have significantly less problems when away on holidays. Samantha Stepnell notices that her symptoms are more persistent and severe as she spends more time in the house closest to these five turbines. Her husband, Carl, is also constantly affected but is able to move around the farm doing his usual work and therefore at times, is further away from the turbines. Their three children spend most of the day away from the farm , and as such, have minimal symptoms. The couple has not had a past history of these symptoms, nor has there been a past history of depression, stress or anxiety. They feel that they can accept the visual impact of the turbines and the red flashing lights at night, but !'t is the noise from the turbines that are causing their symptoms.
I also confirm that I have one other patient who lives at Waubra on a 10 acre farm who is distraught with exactly the same symptoms as the Stepnells. I believe from the circumstantial evidence that there is a strong correlation between their symptoms and the operation of the wind turbines nearby.
I hope therefore that you can take this into consideration in your discussions with Carl and Samantha Stepnell to try and come to an outcome that will resolve these symptoms.
M.B.B .S.Dip. R.A C.O.G.D.A.R.C.A.