(Clarinda) — Following a lengthy discussion Monday night, the Page County Board of Health took no action on a proposal to place a moratorium on wind turbine development in the county.
Meeting in regular session, the board heard presentations from individuals on both sides of wind turbine development. Dr. William Ben Johnson is a retired Cardiologist and a member of Resident Rights Coalition of Madison County. Johnson says noise caused by the turbines can lead to adverse health effects, which are all tied to disruptions in sleep patterns for those living close to the blades.
"In my assessment, environmental noise -- including wind turbine noise -- due to sleep disruption, poses a significant risk for cardiovascular disease," said Johnson. "Definitive data is lacking, but supportive data continues to accumulate at increasing rates. Such data are adequate to initiate protective regulation."
Ronni Scott is also a part of Resident Rights Coalition of Madison County. She echoed Johnson’s concerns, saying the disturbances have forced rural residents to leave their homes for good.
"The infrasound is noise that you don't hear, rather you feel it; it's like vibrations," said Scott. "Your house is vibrating and some people find it so distressful that they cannot sleep in their own homes. These people leave their homes. There have been examples all over the world of people who abandon their homes. They can't sell it. Nobody wants to live near the wind turbines."
Dr. Mark Roberts is a physician from Wisconsin who specializes in environmental health and epidemiology. Roberts — who was speaking on behalf of a wind production company — pointed to recent studies in Canada that found wind turbines are not the cause of adverse health effects in rural areas.
"They found there was a light annoyance," said Roberts. "There was a subjective reporting of sleep disturbance. But another Canadian study found that when they looked at the health data before the wind turbines went in versus after, they could not confirm that there was an increase risk of sleep disturbances."
Following the two presentations, several Page County residents and representatives of MidAmerican Energy and Invenergy spoke to the board. Resident Jane Stimson asked the board to institute a moratorium on new turbine development based on her experience.
"I think we can imagine that corporations' money can influence studies of science," said Stimson. "You can say that everything is subjective and bogus, but science versus experience is something I really ask you to consider."
Mike Blazer with Invenergy asked the board to delay instituting a moratorium and to go through the mountain of information that they received during the meeting.
"It is clear to me, at least as a representative of the industry, that you don't have enough information in front of you today -- at least not enough valid information," said Blazer. "I would suggest you take this matter under advisement and provide an opportunity for both sides of this argument -- both those who are opposed and those of us who are in favor of it -- to make proper presentations to you about what the evidence is, so you can make an informed decision. Because with all due respect, I would suggest you don't have that evidence in front of you tonight."
Board Member Jona Hutson says she would like more time before making a decision. She pointed to the fact that only three of the board’s five members were present for the meeting and that the board received over 600 pages of materials to look over.
"There's bias on both sides of the debate," said Hutson. "I really think in any heated debate like this, there's going to bias on both sides of the debate. A lot of the stuff that we read, a lot of the opinion statements that we have read, have mentioned a lot of studies and conclusions without actually showing us the studies that were provided. This makes it really difficult to validate that data."
Board Chair Chuck Nordyke thanked all of the presenters for their work. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled to take place on March 15th in Shenandoah.