Report on May 23rd ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the testimony of APPEC witnesses Tracey Whitworth and Richard Copple.
Examination of Tracey Whitworth
Tracey Whitworth used to live near the Clear Creek, Frogmore-Cultus wind projects, which began operation in November 2008. Wind turbines surround her house, Receptor 250. The closest turbine is 433 m away, a second nearby, and nine others within 2 km. Ms. Whitworth moved out of her house three years ago and has been unable to sell it.
Ms. Whitworth rarely saw a doctor before the turbines started to operate. Then she experienced a broad range of symptoms: sleep disturbance; hearing impairment with aching, buzzing, and plugged ears; headaches; aches in wrists, knees and feet; twitching of face and limbs; chest pain; skin inflammations; blurred vision; dizziness; palpitations; high blood pressure; lethargy; nausea; diarrhea and uterine bleeding; anemia; and cognitive impairment. Many symptoms disappeared when she left home but recurred within an hour of her return. Other symptoms have lingered.
To obtain relief, Ms. Whitworth, a high school teacher and department head, tried sleeping in her vehicle sometimes, remained at school after hours despite her fatigue, and spent weekends elsewhere. After a year and half, upon her son’s advice, she abandoned residence in her home.
Ms. Whitworth’s conditions, such as chest pain, have not been explained by conventional medicine. An audiology exam detected no physical abnormalities. An MRI scan revealed white foci in her brain, but these disappeared a year after her move. A complete blood transfusion was recommended by one doctor, but the need for the procedure was disputed by another. Blood thinners were prescribed for a blood clot until a second MRI indicated a brain aneurysm. Two sleep studies found she suffered from a high number of arousals during sleep, but these are not related to sleep apnea. Since leaving her home she requires sleep medication no more than twice a month.
However, one of Ms. Whitworth’s many doctors suggested that tissue damage has been caused by exposure to wind turbines. Dr. Nina Pierpont examined Ms. Whitworth in fall 2009 and diagnosed Wind Turbine Syndrome and vibro-acoustic disease.
Ms. Whitworth is under psychiatric care but was advised by her psychiatrist not to disclose these medical records because of privacy issues and their irrelevance to wind turbines.
Besides seeking medical care, Ms. Whitworth has complained to the developer and different government ministries. Once she met with Mike Crawley, president of AIM Power Gen (the project developer), but had no further contact. She repeatedly called the Ministry of Environment (MOE) but without results. She surveyed other project residents to learn of their similar reactions. She has given two newspaper interviews and spoken at a few public meetings so others will hear the news and get help.
Recently, she filed a lawsuit again the project company.
Cross-Examination of Ms. Whitworth
Gilead Power’s fourth lawyer, Eric Pellegrino, led Ms. Whitworth through her list of symptoms, questioning her medical records. He noted that the audiology report identified high-frequency hearing loss. There was no confirmation of bowel, cardiac, or neurological problems. Blood pressure tests did not register higher levels after wind turbines started up. She was treated for anxiety before the wind project was built. Anti-depressants have been prescribed, but their purpose cannot be determined without her psychiatric records.
Ms. Whitworth responded that she did not report every condition to her family doctor on its first occurrence but rather as the effects developed. She said that doctors did not associate her symptoms at the time with wind turbines because she was living in just the second Ontario wind project.
MOE Lawyer Sylvia Davis asked about Dr. Pierpont’s diagnosis. Ms. Whitworth said it is related to low-frequency sound. Dr. Sarah Laurie has also written several reply emails to her, but she does not regard either Dr. Pierpont or Dr. Laurie as treating physicians.
Re-examination of Ms. Whitworth
APPEC Lawyer Eric Gillespie confirmed that neither Gilead Power nor the MOE has asked for Ms. Whitworth’s psychiatric records or a medical exam prior to testifying.
Examination of Richard Copple
Richard Copple lives near Ostrander Point on a farm property with two historic barns. One barn serves as a residence for Mr. Copple and his wife, Dr. Karen Hatchard; the other is used for an import and repair business of luxury motor vehicles. Mr. Copple stressed that the repair work is very quiet: there are no impacts guns, hammering, or shouting.
Mr. Copple’s health concerns are sleep disturbance for the family, his own tinnitus, and his wife’s susceptibility to vertigo.
Although Mr. Copple’s education, training and experience are in mechanical and automotive engineering, he has been interested since childhood in noise reduction and filtering because his father rented lab space to Dr. Dolby of Dolby Systems. He said that the dbA scale used for measuring wind turbine noise is inappropriate because it does not give sufficient weight to low-frequency sound. The scale is therefore not suitable for recognizing effects on human health. He exhibited two charts showing the technical problems associated with turbine sounds.
Cross-examination of Richard Copple
Bryn Gray asked if Mr. Copple had plans for moving. Mr. Copple said he liked the peace and quiet of his present location and would prefer to stay there. He confirmed that he has hearing loss in the high-frequency range. His concern about the project is with low-frequency sound.
Mr. Copple also confirmed that his witness statement lists other concerns about the wind project: construction traffic and noise, and interference with emergency response service. The last is related to his volunteer work as a first responder.
Sylvia Davis asked whether Mr. Copple is concerned about property values. He said his residence is modest and a commercial property would not likely be affected.