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Sue Atkins says she has acoustic neuroma — a benign brain tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from the inner ear.
Although it’s non-cancerous, she says it is continuing to grow and has resulted in hearing loss and the possible need for surgery. It has also made her particularly sensitive to infrasound, like the sound created by the huge spinning blades of industrial wind turbines.
But the rural St. Anns farm she shares with her husband Leon and their 29 ponies and horses will be within five kilometers of 24 huge industrial wind turbines if a provincially approved Green Energy Act development by Niagara Region Wind Corp. is allowed to proceed.
“We are really concerned at the fact that our small parcel of property is going to be surrounded by these wind turbines,” she says.
Atkins says because of her medical condition her physicians have advised her to stay away from “stress, wind and noise.”
“I do believe I have a good reason why I don’t want to be surrounded by 24 600-foot industrial wind turbines.”
Atkins was one more than 150 people who were at Wellandport Community Centre Friday participating in a preliminary hearing for an Environmental Review Tribunal scheduled to start Jan. 19.
The tribunal is being held as the result of an appeal launched on Nov. 24 by a group of west Niagara residents calling themselves Mothers Against Wind Turbines
And Atkins shares their concerns about the potential impact the project could have on children, including the children that visit her farm for an opportunity to ride her horses.
“Most of all I’m concerned about the children that live in the area, and the children that come to our pony farm,” she says. “This is actually an accident waiting to happen. It really is. I just shudder when I think about it.”
Meanwhile, she says the development will also have a negative economic impact on her business, Atkins Pony Rides.
“I’m worried about the noise and our horses and ponies. It’s well documented that horses’ auditory capabilities far exceed that of humans. I’m worried about the low frequency noise and the electro magnetic energy produced, the stray voltage, the shadow flicker. The horses are going to be affected by all of that,” she says.
“This is going to impact our lifestyle.”
Atkins was one of about 16 people who spoke during the preliminary hearing, giving Environmental Review Tribunal vice-chairman Dirk VanderBent — as well as representatives of the provincial government, the developer, and Mothers Against Wind Turbines — an opportunity to hear what they had to say prior to the actual hearing taking place next month.
But some of the comments from Atkins and several other presenters resulted in objections from lawyers representing the developer and Ministry of the Environment, who say concerns about the potential economic impact of the wind turbines are outside the scope of the appeal which is limited to human health impacts.
Other presenters, however, argued that the potential economic impact also has an impact on the health of residents.
“We believe that economic impact has a really big impact on people’s health,” says Mothers Against Wind Turbines president Marianne Kidd.
Kidd says her own organization is already feeling the economic impact of the project they’re fighting.
While the provincial government has taxpayer money to cover its legal costs, Kidd said her group is holding spaghetti dinners to pay its lawyer.
“The whole process of an Environmental Review Tribunal does not seem fair to the people. Our legal costs could be upwards of $60,000,” Kidd says. “The financial burden is excruciating.”
The Environmental Review Tribunal is scheduled to begin Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Wellandport Community Centre, 5042 Canborough Rd.
Representatives of Niagara Region Wind Corp. were not available for comment, Friday.