Many people are wondering what is going on and what comes next.
Below is a photograph taken at the March 3rd Board of Health Meeting in Huron County. Over 80 people at a meeting that typically no one attends.
Please try not to be too discouraged by the recent decision made by the Board of Health to pause the health investigation begun by Dr. Owen in Huron County.
For those not yet aware, the Board of Health in Huron County, Ontario Canada (comprised of current or past municipal councillors) voted unanimously (other than one abstention /conflict of interest) at a closed meeting, to oust Dr. Owen (Acting Medical Officer of Health). We were assured afterwards by Mayor Tyler Hessel / Chair of the Board of Health that the investigation was to continue and we felt badly for Dr. Owen but we were also relieved to know her work was still going to matter. After all, when an agency is mandated to investigate health complaints, it would seem reasonable to assume that they would do so once started, even in the absence of the person in charge who initiated it. If this investigation involved water or food and the public expressed concerns, they would have to follow through with it, would they not? Mayor Hessel had assured us that the Health Unit’s epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Clark was the lead in the investigation and things were proceeding ‘at this point’.
It turns out, those last three words were pretty significant.
Just a few weeks later, Mayor Hessel and the Board of Health voted unanimously to put the investigation on hold.
Here is an excerpt from the Board’s draft minutes of the May 12, 2016 meeting:
8.1 Investigation of Industrial Wind Turbines under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act: (presented by Dr. Miriam Klassen, Acting MOH)
Moved by: Member Steffler and Seconded by: Member Jewitt
The Board of Health direct Dr. Miriam Klassen, Acting MOH, to contact Dr. Copes, Public Health Ontario, to obtain further information on wind turbine studies, prior to the Huron County Health Unit proceeding with any actions regarding the request to investigate health concerns as a result of industrial wind turbines under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Editorial Comment: Let’s see, yeah, that sounds good, let’s call Dr. Copes….he will help us out (wink wink nudge nudge). If anyone has any questions on where he stands, have a look at this short clip:
Dr. Copes goes away back in his support of wind turbines. No question about that. Check out this letter:
But let’s get back to those May 12, 2016 Draft minutes of the Board of Health:
Moved by: Member Jewitt and Seconded by: Member Rognvaldson
The Board of Health accepts the report of Jean-Guy Albert, Public Health Manager – Environmental Health, dated May 12, 2016, entitled Investigation of Industrial Wind Turbines under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, as presented for information.
That’s it. That’s all. Bing, Bang, thank you very much M’am.
BTW, Not sure why they ‘accepted’ the Environmental Manager’s report, given they sure didn’t give it much consideration.
Our groups note taking was a little more illustrative.
These notes are not verbatim but a running account on the content and the wording of the board of health members, the Medical Officer of Health and the staff member who spoke. There may be errors and omissions.
The Chairperson, Tyler Hessel advised of the following motions arising from the Closed session
- the Board of Health of Huron County and the Ontario Public Health ratify the contract
- that a contract with Perth County be executed between April 15 and June 15, 2016 for the service of the Perth County Medical Officer of Health
- a motion is recommeneded that they proceed as given in the closed session
Dr. Klassen the Perth Medical Officer of Health attended in the role as Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County
There was additional information about going to speak to Perth Board of Health about amalgamation of services, to have a conversation with Perth but it was not clearly stated what the amalgamation covered.
Then to Item 8.1 regarding a recommendation that the Board of health accept the report of Jean-Guy Albert entitled Investigation Of Industrial WindTurbines under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, as presented for information.
Chairman Hessel noted that the background report included the flow charts and tentative draft survey for the observation.
Jean-Guy Albert, (who had been asked to prepare the report) spoke. He said there were 3 points to note:
- on the request to investigate the wind turbine and adverse health effects, the report provided the criteria that was looked at before the HU decided to go ahead with the investigation. (He said the criteria were met.)
- they looked at the previous agends of Board of Health going back to 2004 up to 2016 to see how often the topic was before the board. It is noted that there are 3 reports that dealt with the topic of wind turbines and those 3 reports are included in his report.
- That the report speaks to the turbine investigation and the questionnaire to be used, the survey. He said that outside partners were asked to comment on the first draft (included in the report) and that now that all partners have responded they are in the process of preparing the second draft.
Chairman Hessel asked for questions, comments and there were none.
Dr. Klassen spoke.
She noted that she is on a two month contract.
She said that her work for Perth District Health Unit and that health unit does not have the capacity to work on wind turbine effects.
Her concern in her role is to focus on local public health work
She notes that she is not expert in the area of wind turbine- other may have considerable more experience.
Dr. Klassen noted the professionalism and diligence of the Huron County Health Unit in their work on this file. She also referred to the pressure that the boards of municipalities are under to respond.
Dr. Klassen said she was in contact with Dr. Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario and the Minister of Health, Dr. Hoskins and they have provided clear direction, but the CMOH is not interested in micromanaging a Health Unit.
She had consultation with Public Health Ontario and Dr. Copes, Chief, Environmental and Occupational Health
(Ray Copes is responsible for leading the Environmental and Occupational Health team as well as developing and implementing of Public Health Ontario’s strategies, policies, serives and other initiative in environmental and occupational health. He also works in collaboration with the Knowledge Services team, ensuring the integrity of research results and the proper dissemination of that information)
Dr. Copes advised against a local health study
Dr. Klassen said that the HCHU may consider a complaints procedure coupled with information with date from the information gathering.
Dr. Copes did not see It (the investigation) as a legislated obligation to investigate. (under Section 11 of HHPA)
Dr. Klassen noted
- that Public Health had been consulted,
- that all the ERT challenges on his topic had not been successful,
- that Perth County has no resources for this investigation and
- that Grey Bruce has said it has no resources for this.
Dr. Klassen said the information from survey may be used for research to fill the knowledge gap but that type of research would require an ethics review, that the results may not meet the requirement for validity (too small number), that the results may be in question, that Health Canada has a longitudinal study and they could participate in this.
Dr. Copes mentioned some things a Health Unit may do. (in their consultation)
- Set up a hotline through Rick Chappell of Ministry of Environment (Owen Sound?),
- partner with Grey Bruce
- Get more Health Units involved
Dr. Klassen said to guard against expectations, that expectations (of results of data?) should be guarded.
She referred to the resources that would be required for the investigation, that it could lead to using a lot of resources.
She noted that “Perth and my Board” have stayed away from it.
That was the close of her general report.
Chairperson Hessel asked for Questions and Comments
Speaker 1: Board Member Steffler
- He noted that he has “dealt with this group”, that they have a tendency to go to court quite a bit.
- At end of it Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment…
- Get dragged in hook, line and sinker by (?) “this group” we saw here (presentation to Board of Health of March 3 by Gerry Ryan and Jeanne Melady)
- [They] are going to get a lot of bad press, we are going to get “sucked in big time”.
Dr. Klassen spoke: In Grey Bruce there is a mechanism already in place, to join the health Canada long term health study. This is a study on many things not just on wind turbine; it is over years longitudinal study to track a lot and then after years Health Canada will look back and analyze data.
Dr. Klassen thinks there could be some kind of complaint mechanism with the Ministry of Environment.
She noted that it is “early days for me” (didn’t say with regard to investigation? HCHU? Wind turbine information??
She suggested it expand to Grey Bruce; was discussed with staff.
Speaker 2: Board Member Jewitt
- He expressed concern with duplication of concerns on a county level
- The mechanism is already there and is not sure why it needs to be duplicated
- Looks at the collection of information from survey
- Don’t want to see it as more than that (collection of information)
- Don’t want to create unrealistic expectations.
Speaker 3: Board Member Provincial Appointed R???
- She referred to the survey as being “thrust upon us”.
- The staff were involved in it
- She wondered what would happen with the information?
- What kind of outcome comes from it?
- They can’t pay compensation to those affected, wonder what outcomes would be,
Dr. Klassen spoke: The information on atmospheric conditions could be used to ‘refine’ it (Policy?) . She mentioned setbacks . Likely could not reverse or stop development, perhaps… and referred to setbacks.
Speaker 4: Board Member Jewitt or Verseeg
- Getting outside the mandate of business of Health Unit
- Asked for staff report before being forced into doing a survey
- It is outside the mandate of that is within Health Unit.
Dr. Klassen: Referred to study itself (Health Canada one?) – as being not specific to wind turbines
She had talked to Dr. Copes (PHO) and Rick Chappell (MOECC)
Believed the investigation would spread resources of the Health Unit
Maybe not have it all by one health unit. Spread use of resources.
Chairperson Hessel spoke:
Asked for direction
Speaker 5: Board Member Jewitt
Dr. Klassen to approach them and get approval (of survey?)
Don’t want to go live with survey until hear back
Dr. Klassen spoke: Public Health Ontario has been a partner in this.
Dr. Copes has not been made aware of it. (think it referred to the survey? But perhaps to the investigation? Not sure if said which one )
Speaker 6: Board Member Steffler:
- Dr. Klassen has talked with these other doctors higher up.
- They’re not endorsing it. They are more educated so need to follow their direction.
- He mentioned that he had been in PEI at federal (?) wind turbine test station
- Stood under it, their concerns there were with ice throw and flicker nothing else.
Ask Dr. Klassen to bring back information from Dr. Copes and Public Health Ontario and the Chief Medical Officer of Health
So Draft a motion (draft 1)
Motion: That the Board of health ask Dr. Klassen to contact Dr. Copes to bring back information and actions prior to proceeding with investigation
Final Speaker: Board Member Gowing?
- That the order of operations were a little bit out of the usual
- That after board meeting of March he heard the announcement of investigation on way home from meeting
- Board needs to “hit pause”
- See if anything useful or see if anything beneficial comes out of it.
Make no mistake – The health investigation that was began by Dr. Owen (and who was subsequently turfed from the Health Unit) is PAUSED because of political decisions and not because there is duplication or because there isn’t a need for an investigation to occur.
The powers that be might like to think we are dead in the water, so to speak. They couldn’t be more wrong. What they fail to understand is there are LEGITIMATE HEALTH CONCERNS that are not going to disappear. We are surrounded by hundreds of turbines and if you are affected you do not ‘get used to them’ as our illustrious Premier attempted to tell some students in Waterloo recently. The symptoms get worse.
At the May 14th, 2016 Bluewater Council meeting, Councillor George Irvin, Councillor Dave Roy and Councillor John Gillespie were the only Councillors voting to support a motion for Bluewater to develop a tracking system for residents complaints regarding wind turbines, given the ‘on hold’ status of the health investigation. Consequently the motion was voted down. Personally, I find this rather strange, given the Mayor’s position on wind turbines when he ran for office in the last election but perhaps that is just me?
As a result of that vote, given the lack of support from Bluewater Council and the Board of Health, Councillor Gillespie advised HE will take complaints regarding wind turbines from Bluewater residents. He deserves a commendation or at least a thank you for swimming upstream.
So onto NEXT STEPS …..
Here is some of the things you can do and believe me – they are important. As Councillor John Gillespie said to me, It is time people stopped suffering in silence. I get that health issues are personal. Given the lack of support we are facing, we are going to have to connect the dots ourselves.
FOR BLUEWATER RESIDENTS SPECIFICALLY:
Email Councillor John Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org today. If you wish to keep your name be kept confidential, it will be. I suggest putting that word in the subject line of your email if you so choose. State who you are. Outline what your concerns are with respect to the turbines. e.g. health symptoms, well water, animals, property values, etc. Give an approximate date when you began to notice your concerns. Include the number of people in your home and the number impacted. This isn’t an investigation but just putting it down on paper is therapeutic, believe me. You can keep it simple or write your heart out. John will keep your information secure. He is interested in how many people are affected. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. We need our power back.
FOR ALL CONCERNED CITIZENS IN ONTARIO WHETHER OR NOT YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCE HEALTH CONCERNS RELATED TO WIND TURBINES:
Email Lisa Thompson email@example.com and Jeff Yurek firstname.lastname@example.org (Ministry of Health critic) today and ask why there is a delay or suspension of the wind turbine investigation. Legislature ends mid June so there is not a lot of time to bring for them to bring this forward into the lions den at Queens Park. Policy of reigning governments should not be the last word on what investigations are needed. Consider the implications for the future if we allow this to occur. The Province is talking about getting rid of natural gas and all of us driving electric cars. More padding of pockets. Imagine is those cars started having problems but the Province decided that we could not investigate them. The opportunities for continuing to mismanage the energy and environment portfolios are endless.
FOR ALL ONTARIO RESIDENTS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED HEALTH CONCERNS BEGINNING AFTER TURBINE OPERATIONS
Please consider completing your health concerns in the form a a case study. Again you can remain confidential. This is more extensive exercise than what Councillor Gillespie would be receiving. These studies are being compiled as evidence for the growing number of health affected persons. If you are interested, email me for further details.
FOR ALL THOSE RESIDENTS WHO HAVE LEFT / ABANDONED / MOVED BECAUSE OF WIND TURBINES
Contact Wind Concerns Ontario at email@example.com and provide your selling address. You can add whether or not your property was devalued. We understand no one who is selling wants to jeopardize the potential sale of their home so this can also be done confidentially.
FOR EVERYONE EVERYWHERE
Follow your inner moral compass and step away from the group think. This is no different a process than what government and industry did with tobacco, asbestos, etc.
This is hard stuff folks. Both for people health affected and those who are impacted in a number of other ways. We need our Municipal Councils to act on our behalf, not kowtow to the Province. People want their lives back. They want their neighbours back. They want their families and communities whole again. We need you to do your part to make that happen.
Thank you for your continued interest in this matter.
p.s. The plot thickens. Anyone reminded of the fox watching the henhouse?
The Province has decided to step in and conduct an audit of the Huron County Health Unit in accordance with the Public Health Funding and Accountability Agreement. The Health Audit Service Team (HAST), Ontario Internal Audit Division (OIAD), Treasury Board Secretariat will all be in attendance.
Perhaps one suggestion the Province could make to the Board is that they review the job description for a MOH? The reality is, Dr. Owen was doing her job. In my estimation, she kept her integrity. That’s what I believe they were really afraid of. I hope to meet her one day and I will thank her for the sacrifices she has made and shake her hand.
Investigator of Immediate Risks to Health
The MOH is accountable for assessing the potential health risks to the community and taking the necessary steps to reduce/eliminate that risk