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Troubled wind?

As Maine preps for wind power, medical staff at Rumford Hospital say turbines may make people sick. Others beg to differ. The phrase "vibroacoustic syndrome" started him Googling. The worrisome set of symptoms - allegedly caused by exposure to low-frequency noise and linked by some to wind farms - sent him on a mission he didn't anticipate. This week Dr. Albert Aniel, an internist at Rumford Community Hospital, mailed a letter to Gov. John Baldacci. He visited the Mexico Board of Selectmen. He's contacting every town manager in the River Valley.

As Maine preps for wind power, medical staff at Rumford Hospital say turbines may make people sick. Others beg to differ.

The phrase "vibroacoustic syndrome" started him Googling.

The worrisome set of symptoms - allegedly caused by exposure to low-frequency noise and linked by some to wind farms - sent him on a mission he didn't anticipate.

This week Dr. Albert Aniel, an internist at Rumford Community Hospital, mailed a letter to Gov. John Baldacci. He visited the Mexico Board of Selectmen. He's contacting every town manager in the River Valley.

Aniel is not saying wind turbines make people sick.

Just that he believes they might.

Concerned about the health effects of commercial windmills on an unsuspecting populace, the Rumford doctor has written a letter to the state asking for at least a yearlong moratorium on new wind turbines in Maine, and he's gotten medical staff at the hospital to sign on.

Aniel says he, six other physicians and one family nurse practitioner believe the conditions they've found online - things called "acoustic radiation" and "wind turbine syndrome," among them - and the possible symptoms - nausea, back problems, mood disorders, seizures, even heart attack... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

As Maine preps for wind power, medical staff at Rumford Hospital say turbines may make people sick. Others beg to differ.

The phrase "vibroacoustic syndrome" started him Googling.

The worrisome set of symptoms - allegedly caused by exposure to low-frequency noise and linked by some to wind farms - sent him on a mission he didn't anticipate.

This week Dr. Albert Aniel, an internist at Rumford Community Hospital, mailed a letter to Gov. John Baldacci. He visited the Mexico Board of Selectmen. He's contacting every town manager in the River Valley.

Aniel is not saying wind turbines make people sick.

Just that he believes they might.

Concerned about the health effects of commercial windmills on an unsuspecting populace, the Rumford doctor has written a letter to the state asking for at least a yearlong moratorium on new wind turbines in Maine, and he's gotten medical staff at the hospital to sign on.

Aniel says he, six other physicians and one family nurse practitioner believe the conditions they've found online - things called "acoustic radiation" and "wind turbine syndrome," among them - and the possible symptoms - nausea, back problems, mood disorders, seizures, even heart attack - are serious enough to stall new wind projects while medical researchers around the world gather more information.

The move was spurred by a 22-turbine development under review and bound for nearby Roxbury. Another wind farm is under discussion for Black Mountain in Rumford.

"We didn't know about asbestos, we didn't know about tobacco or coal mines," said Aniel. He says knowing about those future health issues decades ago would have prevented suffering.

And it could do the same here.

"We need more than just the economists and the technologists and the politicians deciding what goes where," Aniel said.

The state's chief medical officer has her doubts about turbine-related health effects. When it comes to potential hazards, "If anything, there's evidence to put a moratorium on fossil fuels not on wind turbines," Dr. Dora Ann Mills said Friday.

Former Gov. Angus King, one of the Roxbury project backers, said it's all a matter of distance.

"I think there's enough data that it's pretty much established when it's a problem," King said. "If I lived under a railroad trestle, I might well have railroad syndrome. If I lived a mile away, I might hear it but it wouldn't make me sick."

The Department of Environmental Protection will hear out all sides Wednesday in Roxbury, where townspeople have been narrowly split on that project. Ballot questions to pave the way for the turbines passed by less than nine votes last month, but the DEP still needs to approve it.

While projects elsewhere have garnered dissenters, Aniel believes this could be the first time in the county that medical providers have come out and taken a stance on a wind farm. He said he worries about noise you can hear, noise that you can't hear and the strobe effect created by the sun setting behind the spinning blades, which some say can lead to seizures.

Audible noise can lead to sleep disorders and more, Aniel said. Low-frequency noise, so soft you can't hear it, to problems with memory and reading, he said.

Nina Pierpont, a New York doctor, gave the name "wind turbine syndrome" to people who live near industrial turbines and experience insomnia, unsteadiness, eye problems and tinnitus, among a host of other complaints, according to her Website.

A 137-page report on www.turbinenoisehealthhumanrights.com describes "acoustic radiation" as a mix of "audible sound, infrasound and vibration, in a pulsating character, that appear to trigger serious reported health problems in those families living near wind turbine installations."

Aniel is still working his way through that lengthy report. It cites several research papers.

"The constant swishing and swatting of the wind turbines does effect the inner ear - it leads to dizziness, nausea," he said. "I need to tell them there's a problem here and you need to address it."

Testing the winds in Maine

Commercial wind power has been relatively new in Maine but coming on strong.

Bodies that regulate commercial wind farms here - the DEP and Land Use Regulation Commission - have approved three projects with 118 turbines so far. Many more wait in the wings.

"There have been countless anemometer locations that we have approved throughout the jurisdiction," said LURC Commission Director Catherine Carroll. "People are testing the wind."

Her agency, which governs projects in unorganized territories, hasn't had to address health issues specific to any of its wind farms. Namely, she said, because there aren't people for miles.

"(Projects have) mostly been in the industrial forest," Carroll said. "But the commission would not ever dismiss a public health issue if one were raised and legitimate."

James Cassida, licensing coordinator for the division of land resource regulation at the DEP, said health concerns haven't come up before Aniel's letter, though Mars Hill turbines - the development to date that's closest to homes - have logged "numerous" noise complaints.

The Aroostook County project has two issues that won't apply to Roxbury. When the Mars Hill project was sited, Maine didn't have setback requirements. And, while that wind farm is in compliance with noise regulations, he said, it's allowed to run at louder-than-usual levels at night.

"We would not issue that variance again," Cassida said.

He isn't sure what to make of wind turbine syndrome, he said, because of the mixed reports on the Internet (see box). He was also unsure how to take it into account - if it exists at all.

The DEP looks at decibel levels, setbacks, effects on wildlife and stormwater.

"We don't have a health standard - that's difficult for some people to hear," Cassida said.

Two weeks ago, Aniel gave a presentation to medical staff about the material he'd found online and encouraged them to do their own research. They came back and agreed to get involved, he said.

In his letter to Baldacci, Aniel urged the governor to weigh input from the health community on any industrial alternative energy project "to avoid any deleterious health effects on communities as well as potential liability issues that may involve the industry and the state itself."

Issues won't happen right away, Aniel said. It could take 10 or 15 years to see problems. And opinions vary, he said, about whether it's safe to site industrial wind turbines one, two or six miles from houses.

"There are concerns here. Personally, I wouldn't want it closer than six miles from my home," said Aniel, who lives in Mexico.

The governor's office received Aniel's letter Thursday signed "Medical Staff of the Rumford Community Hospital." Hospital spokeswoman Jane Bubar said members of the staff, like doctors and nurses, acted on their own behalf, not on the hospital's.

"I can say without any question the governor supports the development of appropriately sited wind farms," said Baldacci spokesman David Farmer. "From the information we see, that has been happening and will continue to happen."

'We want to hear from the public'

Mills, the state health officer, questioned some of the available online research.

"I approached it with a very open mind. (Aniel) seemed very concerned and very well-intended," she said.

"In my review I found no evidence in peer-reviewed medical and public health literature of adverse health effects from the kinds of noise and vibrations (from) by wind turbines other than occasional reports of annoyances."

She pointed to U.S. Department of Energy data that put a modern wind farm 1,000 feet from a home at about as loud as a kitchen refrigerator.

Mills said she didn't find evidence to support a moratorium.

King, a principal in Independence Wind LLC with Rob Gardiner, said most homes in Roxbury are 1.25 miles away from the proposed turbines, though a few are at 3,100 feet.

"We had visited several other (existing wind turbine) sites. The observation was, if you were too close, it was a problem; if you weren't too close, it wasn't a problem," King said.

"We developed this project specifically around the fact that we are two and three times farther away than they are in Mars Hill," said King.

At the same time: "We've tried to be very careful about (not) making ironclad guarantees about noise." King, who lives in Brunswick, said in certain kinds of weather he can hear planes at the naval air base. Other times, he can't.

Roxbury, eight miles from Rumford, is small, with more homes than people, because of the number of camps and second homes, according to the U.S. Census. About 380 live there year-round.

If the turbines do go up, John Sutton, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, will live within a mile of them.

Sutton, a forestry consultant, moved there in 1973. As a public official, he declined to express his views on the project. On Wednesday, in front of the DEP, he'll read a statement on behalf of the town.

"People who are opposed have a variety of reasons why. Some of it is noise, some of it is visual impact," Sutton said.

Whatever his opinion, "we live in a democracy," he said.

Aniel said it's not his hope to scuttle the project, but "if you're going to do it, make sure it doesn't hurt people."

Even before the medical staff's letter, Cassida said the DEP had already taken the "very unusual" step of calling a department meeting in Roxbury. It'll be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico.

"We want to hear what the public has to say," he said. "There's a lot of public concern and these are highly emotional issues."


Source: http://www.sunjournal.com/s...

FEB 15 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/19085-troubled-wind
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