There continue to be pockets of people suffering in Huron County – those exposed to living near and sometimes not so near, Industrial Wind Turbines.
Several people went to their Health Unit in Huron County and spoke to the Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Owen, about their health complaints in the fall of 2015. They had been exposed to the noise and infrasound (below the hearing threshold) for many months from the K2 Project, some for years from the K1 Project, north of Goderich.
Dr. Owen, whom I understand was ‘Acting’ Medical Officer of Health as she needed to complete another course to meet the position’s qualifications. While I have never met her personally, I hear, by all accounts, she is a very nice, highly respected professional. While she hadn’t been in her position for long, Dr. Owen took her role and responsibilities seriously. The legislation which governs her requires her to ‘investigate’ health complaints. I am not sure whether there is any latitude within the Health Promotion and Protection Act’s mandate as to how to go about doing an investigation, but it was clear Dr. Owen was going to get it right. She was fortunate to have an excellent epidemiologist to work with, in Dr. Erica Clark.
Dr. Owen was doing her due diligence, having met with some of the Wind Company reps and others, gathering information and developing an appropriate plan to conduct an investigation. After all, this was the first of its kind in Ontario. Other health units who were the unfortunate hosts of turbines were watching carefully. No one wanted to talk about the script that the Province had handed them with the Green Energy and Economy Act of 2009 with the clear message they were to DO NOTHING with respect to Industrial Wind Turbines.
Similar to the people living north of Goderich, other people in Huron County were experiencing negative health affects after turbine operations began in their area. South of Seaforth in the small community of St. Columban, a Project consisting of 15 Industrial Wind Turbines were built to the dismay of most of the community, surrounding 14 families. Families were asked to give health impacts statements and they bravely did so. After that information was shared at a Community Liaison Committee meeting Concerned citizens of Huron gathered, combining health impact statements, bringing the total number of impacted families willing to go public to 26. A presentation was developed and brought to the Board of Health on March 3, 2015.
In the meantime, wind developers everywhere were salivating at the Province’s announcement of securing even MORE wind power. 600 MW more. It was hard not to imagine slipping in all that drool.
The Chair of the Board of Health (who is also the Mayor of Bluewater) and the Board of Health members heard the presentation on the 3rd of March but somehow didn’t seem to quite grasp what was being said. Basically, the presentation consisted of what we understood the mandate of the Health Unit to be, our health complaints and a request to fulfill their mandate and investigate those complaints. Not rocket science. And yes, okay, there might have been a couple of other slides mentioning torture, Nuremberg etc. but really, that was the simple gist of it. Afterwards, the word began to spread informing Huron County residents about the upcoming investigation and encouraging people to register for same at the Health Unit.
Community members coordinated and a couple of delegations were brought before municipal Councils. Huron East Council members were advised of the investigation and were confused as they did not think anything had come of the presentation at the Health Unit. Bluewater Council was asked to become local champions for health affected residents and support the Huron County Health Unit’s investigation and write letters to the province and the feds. Bluewater took a pass, with the Mayor using language such as ‘IF’ there is a problem’ and after discussion, a motion was passed for staff to write a report. So we will find out tomorrow if it will be on Monday’s agenda or not. If so, I recommend everyone attend that meeting. It will be interesting to find out who votes yes or no.
It’s possible the Board of Health members really didn’t understand the limits of their role. In a meeting, they call Dr. Owen on the carpet and accused her of not properly informing them and they felt she had ‘gone behind their backs’ with respect to the wind turbine investigation. Attempts were made by staff to clarify their responsibilities to no avail. It appears that the Board does not understand that the MOH does not nor should require their approval to conduct an investigation into a public health complaint.
So what happens then? The Board calls a special meeting and Dr. Owen (like so many before her in Huron County) gets her walking papers aka ‘administrative leave’. The Chair and Bluewater Mayor Tyler Hessel and board member, Ben Van Diepenbeek (did I mention Mr. Van Diepenbeek has Industrial Wind Turbine leases?) attend the Health Unit and give Dr. Owen her walking papers. They sit upstairs for about an hour, waiting to walk her out the building, not aware she had already left.
Sniff, sniff…hmmm….could that be conflict of interest I smell?
Reliable ears in Queens Park say both the Feds and the Province are aware of this situation. To my knowledge, they have done nothing about it.
As I understood it, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has 24 hours to accept or decline the Boards recommendation. He was up in Northern Ontario somewhere today. No announcement was made at the Health Unit today, one way or the other and the mood was solemn.
I hope she doesn’t walk. (I would understood though if she ran) I hope she stands firm. She is right. Huron County citizens deserve an investigation. One done by people with integrity. We had that. They knew it. And they stomped on it. If they think that is going to stop us, they have another thing coming.
Patti Kellar – Bluewater Citizen
p.s. as of this morning, April 15th 2015, the Health Unit is still registering people. So we are not ‘stomped on’ (yet). As on 9 am – no agenda yet for Monday night’s Council meeting in Varna at 7 pm. Will be checking later tonight and provide an update.
p.p.s. Nothing on Monday night’s agenda regarding the staff’s report. Maybe in a couple of weeks at the Committee of a Whole Meeting?