Andrew Smith — Southwestern — September 5, 2012
NORTH PERTH – Parents and community members are speaking out for those who can’t, expressing their concern for special needs children living in the shadow of proposed wind turbines.
When Britton residents Gerald Rathwell and Tammy Medeiros look at the draft site plan for the Conestogo Wind Energy Centre, their first thought is how it could affect their children — in particular, Rathwell’s 25-year-old son Jeremy and Medeiros’ 17-year-old son Cody.
Jeremy and Cody have autism, and both exhibit problems processing sensory information, such as sights and sounds. The concern of Medeiros is how the low-frequency noise produced by wind turbines will affect her son when he is already sensitive to sound.
“Anything like that is really going to set him off,” Medeiros said. “Even the phone ringing, he’s slapping his head and can’t stand the sound.”
In addition to extreme sensitivity to sounds, autistic children often exhibit a fixation on shadows or moving objects. This is where the shadows cast by the large rotating blades of industrial wind turbines can be a concern. Commonly referred to as shadow flicker, these shadows can be cast as far as 1,000 km depending on the size of the turbine.
“For Cody, I know that could bring on a seizure,” Medeiros said. “In a swimming pool, even if he just stares at moving water for too long, he’ll have a seizure.”
For Medeiros and Rathwell, the threat of wind turbines in their backyard will only add to the frustration and confusion they experience when dealing with their non-verbal children and determining what could have triggered a disturbance or a seizure.
“I can’t imagine throwing in something else that’s going to confuse everybody,” Medeiros said. “If this happens, I guess we’ll have to move.”
Warren Howard, North Perth municipal councillor and representative of Elma Mornington Concerned Citizens, said the draft site plan for the Conestogo Wind Energy Centre from Invenergy Canada very clearly shows Britton in the shadow flicker radius of three turbines, which he said could cause an annoyance to everyone in the village southeast of Listowel.
“Shadow flicker is extremely annoying to anyone who is exposed to it,” Howard said. “Casting these very annoying, moving shadows on your property should not be allowed.”
North Perth council has already been approached regarding shadow flicker by resident Tyler Martin, who took the position that bylaws can be enforced under the Municipal Act of Ontario by protecting the health and well-being of persons. Since then, council has been investigating a nuisance bylaw against shadow flicker, which Howard said could limit the hours of the day that the turbines would be allowed to operate, cutting into Invenergy’s profits substantially.
“If the bylaw is passed, they’ll know it’s there and they’ll have to plan around it,” Howard said. “There are some steps they can take to limit the effect.”


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