(continued)

University of Waterloo professor gives testimony at Armow
Wind hearing

By Liz Dadson

Technology

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Dr. Philip Bigelow, a professor at the University of Waterloo, offered testimony about a study being done that connects sleep disturbance with wind turbines, at the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Kincardine.

Speaking Friday afternoon (Jan. 10), Bigelow was led through his witness statement by Asha James, counsel for the appellants, Ken and Sharon Kroeplin, who launched an appeal against the Armow Wind industrial wind development, Oct. 23.

Bigelow is a professor with the university's School of Public Health and Health Systems, and teaches risk assessment and public health epidemiology.

Currently, he is working with the Ontario Research Chair in Renewable Energy Technologies and Health, set up by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE).

Among the research being done, said Bigelow, is a study on the potential health risks of wind turbines.

A pilot study was conducted in July, 2012, in Thamesville, Ontario, said Bigelow, and from that study, the research chair developed some scales, looking at the potential health effects of wind turbines.

Further research is being done and the findings will come out with an internal review, he said, noting that one of the major hypotheses was that stress is an important thing to consider.

The pilot study is to be defended Jan. 28 and peer-reviewed, he said.

Another ongoing study is registering biomarks - the cortisone levels in saliva and hair of people who live near wind turbines, said Bigelow.

Other graduate students are researching the "lived experience" of those who reside near wind turbines, Bigelow said.

"It's all very complex stuff and quite challenging," he added.

When asked about a poster that depicts health effects caused by wind turbines, Bigelow said that stems from the pilot study which contained the results from the questionnaire that went out to about 5,000 people, with a response rate of less than 10 per cent.

Based on the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, scores by respondents showed that the closer they were to the turbines, the poorer their sleep was.

"The findings were statistically significant," said Bigelow. "The thesis will be defended and then peer-reviewed."

He admitted being disappointed by the low response rate. "The survey could have had better results with increased resources. Often, when you send things like that out in the mail, people treat it like junk mail."

Bigelow said when the final report is complete and published, it will be sent to the Ontario Council of Universities.

In cross-examination, Danielle Meuleman, counsel for the MOE director, asked Bigelow if he was surprised that the poster showing the study results had so much attention so quickly. And that in a newspaper interview, he was reported as saying it was "not good."

"My concern was with interpreting the data," said Bigelow. "There will be much peer-review of the study and that will come out." 

Meuleman said the tribunal relies on good evidence, such as the symptoms people experience during the operation of wind turbines.

James objected, stating that Bigelow is not a qualified expert and cannot give his opinion on the study.

"Dr. Bigelow is an epidemiologist," said Meuleman.

"The tribunal did not allow opinion from the last witness," argued James. "He is not an expert witness; we should not be seeking an opinion from Dr. Bigelow."

"Then we should be striking the poster from evidence," argued Meuleman. "If Dr. Bigelow cannot state an opinion on it, then we should strike it from the evidence."

"I don't see a need to strike the poster," said James. "All I asked Dr. Bigelow was what the poster says."

Jim Bunting, counsel for the approval holder, Samsung Pattern Armow Wind Ontario GP, said Bigelow is not at the hearing as a qualified witness and should is not qualified to give his opinion.

After a brief break, tribunal chairperson Maureen Carter-Whitney agreed that Bigelow is not a qualified expert and is not allowed to give his opinion. However, the tribunal would not strike the poster from evidence but will take into account it was part of Bigelow's witness statement.

In his cross-examination of Bigelow, Bunting asked if the professor knew when he was speaking to a reporter, that the information would be published.

 

"Yes," said Bigelow.

"You told the media that the survey had a good response rate," said Bunting.

"In part, yes," said Bigelow.

Bunting asked if the study relied on self-reported information about symptoms, rather than observation in a controlled setting.

"Yes," said Bigelow.

"And the response rate was below 10 per cent," said Bunting.

"Yes," said Bigelow.

Referring to an E-mail sent by Bigelow Oct. 27, 2013, Bunting noted that Bigelow wrote he was "very disappointed" by the response rate and said it could be "very problematic."

"You also state that getting the full impact of wind turbines is complex and would take a lot of studies; is that correct?" asked Bunting.

"Yes," said Bigelow.

"So, it's important to put that poster in context?" asked Bunting.

"That's true," said Bigelow.

Bunting noted that in various media reports, the same information was used, including Bigelow's concern that a peer-review could invalidate the findings.

"With the research you've been doing, there is no physical pathway between noise from wind turbines and adverse health effects," said Bunting.

"We're trying hard, but no, you're right," said Bigelow.

"This poster does not show a link between wind turbines and health effects," said Bunting. "Given further studies, there could be other causes for the health effects."

Referring to a study by Dr. Laurie Hoffman-Goetz about fear in the media, Bunting asked Bigelow if he was aware of the report from this study, pointing to a "fright factor" that includes statements of dread.

"Yes," said Bigelow.

Holding up an article from an Ontario newspaper, Bunting pointed to the photo that featured a grim reaper holding a scythe made of wind turbine blades.

"This could be causing the health effects, right?" said Bunting. "Thank you, Dr. Bigelow."

That wrapped up the appellants' case. The tribunal also heard from the approval holder's acoustician, Robert O'Neal, Friday afternoon before adjourning the hearing until Monday.

The hearing ends with testimony Monday and Tuesday in Toronto. A teleconference has been set up for people in Kincardine and area to listen to the proceedings.

If you wish to listen in, dial 1-866-500-5845. Enter Conference ID: 3507467, followed by the # key. If the ID is not accepted, press the # key three times for live technical support.

The appeal, launched Oct. 23 by the Kroeplins, is against the proposed Armow Wind Class 4 wind facility, a 92-turbine, 180-megawatt industrial wind development in Kincardine. It was approved by the director of the MOE through the REA process, Oct. 9.



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