Barb Ashbee: wind company “agreed that we couldn’t live there any more”
I’m sure everyone reading this has had the experience of phoning some corporate entity (Hydro, Bell, Visa, etc.) and heard the pre-recorded message, “This call is being recorded for quality assurances purposes…”. Yeah right. Well, a similar act is played out in the ERT hearings. Often the wind company will engage a court reporter to provide a transcript of the testimony. Other parties will be offered copies IF they pony up a portion of the costs. Often the MOE will do so. They will use this record further down the line when final submissions are made. What they likely will not do is get the transcript certified. Why, you ask? Because certified transcripts must be submitted to the ERT and then it becomes a public document that anyone can a have access to.
There’s lots of stuff that happens in an ERT that a wind company and their helpers (MOE) wouldn’t want the public to hear. I wish we could have afforded the cost of a court reporter for Nextera’s Adelaide ERT appeal. That’s the way the game is played.
So when an actual certified transcript becomes available, it’s a rare thing indeed. Such is the case with the St.Columban and K-2 appeals and excerpts appeared in the factum submitted for the court case in London in mid-November. Of particular note is the testimony of the post-turbine witnesses for those appeals. The first installment is Barb Ashbee’s testimony for both appeals.
Evidence of post-turbine witnesses heard on all three appeals
The Dixon-Ryan Appellants called the evidence of two post-turbine witnesses, Barb Ashbee and Sandy MacLeod, both of whom were forced to leave their home because of the effects that the wind turbines were having on their health. Their evidence was subsequently entered before the Tribunal by way of transcript on the Drennan and Kroeplin appeals.
In 2005, Barb Ashbee and her husband moved into a home located in Shelbourne, Ontario. The home was intended to be their retirement property. Shelbourne is home to one of the first wind power projects in Ontario, the Melancthon EcoPower Project. The project consists of two phases and is comprised of approximately 123 wind turbines.
When Ms. Ashbee first learned of the project she was excited about the prospect of wind energy. She recalled telling her family and friends about how exciting it was that they were getting turbines, and would go out in her backyard and take pictures.
Ms. Ashbee’s home was affected by phase two of the project which began commercial operation in 2008. Ms. Ashbee’s home was located 457 meters from the closest turbine. She had four more turbines located within one kilometer, and another 15 turbines within two kilometers.
She began keeping a journal to describe what the noise sounded like and any symptoms she and her husband were experiencing.
Ms. Ashbee experienced sleep deprivation, stomach aches, heart palpitations, headaches, and dizziness. In addition, she began having nosebleeds and experiencing terrible cognitive and memory problems as time wore on.
Ms. Ashbee never sought medical attention specifically for the symptoms she was experiencing but did explain to her doctors what was going on with the wind turbines. Ms. Ashbee recounted that she informed her doctors about the wind turbines “because when I had the appointment with them I was severely sleep deprived and impacted and I wasn’t my normal self and I did want to tell them about what was going on.”
Ms. Ashbee immediately reported her symptoms to the project owner and they began conducting testing. Soon thereafter the MOE became involved in the process of monitoring the turbines and of receiving complaints. After the MOE and the project owner began testing on the project, they indicated to Ms. Ashbee that the project was in compliance with the guidelines and the 40dBA level permitted by the regulatory guidelines.
To try and mitigate the effects that the Ashbees were experiencing in their home, the wind company shut down the five turbines closest to their home. Despite this, the Ashbees reported still feeling a vibration and humming in the house, and they continued to be deprived of sleep and to experience headaches.24
The Ashbees tried to adjust to the turbine noise with ear plugs, but found no relief with these because the vibration was being felt throughout the house. They moved their bed out into the detached garage to see if it would help but this did not give much relief.25
During the period from May 8, 2009 to June 25th, 2009, at which time they left their home for good, the Ashbees moved into a tent in their backyard with their animals to gain respite from the vibration they were experiencing within their home.
Q. Okay. And so during the entire period did you remain in your house?
Q. And so you slept the entire time in your bedroom?
A. No, we got to the point we started looking for a rental and because our, like, we were all affected and we started, first I started looking for a rental, but we had three dogs, two cats to move and there’s not very many people that will rent with that many pets. And plus we were paying the mortgage and would have to pay out money for rent again and it was horrible.
And we thought well, we’ll rent a trailer, like, park it on the driveway; four wheel trailer thing. And I phoned around to a few places and there was nothing. I couldn’t find anything, nobody rented them.
We moved the bed out into the detached garage hoping it would be quieter out there so we wouldn’t have the vibration and noise and it was actually out there too. So it really didn’t help anything.
The wind company offered us a house a concession over from us and we did attempt to move into it. There were problems with it, with mould in it, so we couldn’t move in. So we were stuck, again.
So we ended up moving into a tent in the backyard because the turbines were being shut down at night and the vibration wasn’t there like it was in the house. You would feel it a little bit, a little bit of it but it wasn’t resonating like it was in the house. So we bought a tent. We went through two, actually, put the tent in the backyard, put our bed out there, a little table and a heater and a light and all the animals slept out there with us and that’s how we coped.
Q. And how long did you have to do that for?
A. May until we left.
Q. And when did you leave?
A. June 25th. I think it was May, early May. It’ll be in here, actually I guess. Do you want the date?
Q. If you have it.
A. May 7 we bought the tent.
Q. Okay. So then would May 8 be your first night in the tent?
A. Yeah, that was yeah, we set it up and put the bed in.
Q. And, sorry, you said you left June 25th?
A. Twenty fifth.
Q. So for almost two months did you sleep in the tent constantly every night?
A. Pretty much. The odd night when it didn’t seem too bad we would try it in the house. We put the spare bed in the tent and we still had the bed in there but there weren’t very many nights we were able to stay in the house.
Q. So did you have some alleviation from your symptoms while you slept in the tent?
A. Oh, yeah, we could sleep again, yeah. It still wasn’t the best because we were in a tent and it was still pretty cold still, but it was better than the house.26
Once Ms. Ashbee and her husband moved from their home, they no longer experienced any of the adverse health effects they had while living in the home.
Q. And so the symptoms that you described for us earlier, do you still suffer from any of those symptoms?
Q. Okay. And when did those symptoms stop altogether?
A. Within pretty much within weeks, a month after we moved. Like, the sleep deprivation stopped immediately. The headaches stopped and that. I mean, the other effects, the upset and anger and that lasted a little bit longer, but as far as the stomach aches, the chest pressure, that was pretty much gone.
Q. Okay. And just so that we make sure it’s on the record, can you tell us how long you were in the environment when you were exposed to the wind turbines and these adverse health effects?
A. From early December 2008 to June 25th, 2009.
During cross examination, Ms. Ashbee was vigorously questioned about the source of the noise and vibration that she experienced in her home. The questioning was directed at demonstrating that her concerns arose not from the audible noise, but rather from some low frequency sound. This low frequency sound and its impacts is the same issue that Health Canada is now investigating through their study.
Q. And how long after they became operational did you notice that you were having problems?
A. Pretty much right away, like, within the first week, two weeks.
Q. And you talked about and I know from reading through your journal that the vibration was particularly a problem for you, correct?
A. Yeah, mm hmm.
Q. Would you say that that was the bigger problem than the noise?
A. It was as big a problem. The noise was a big problem. When they started shutting them down, it alleviated that, but the vibration was just as bad. Like, it didn’t fix that part of it.
Q. And you would know that because when five of the closest turbines were down around you, you were still bothered significantly by the noise?
A. The vibration.
Q. Or by the vibration, yes.
Q. Including the fact that you were in a tent and it was better in the tent than in your home, right?
A. Yes, it was.
Q. Okay. And you think that’s because of the and I don’t mean to demean you by saying you think your belief is that that’s because there was vibrations at that time with the turbines down was the problem?
A. Well, it was in the house. Whether it was coming from the turbines or the electrical, I don’t know.
Q. Okay. So you still have never been given an answer on that?
A. No. Excuse me, there was a 160 spike measured by the wind developer, low frequency spike and so that was determined that it was in our house. It was measured. And Gary Tomlinson told me that that 160 hertz was coming off all the turbines, not just the one behind us.
Q. So when you say a spike, was that a one time thing?
A. No, it’s acoustical terminology. And I don’t know acoustics.
Q. You’re as blind as me on that.
A. They showed us the graph and it’s a spike. It’s continuous, but it shows the spike and they were outside measuring and inside measuring and a spike happened and they went oh, there’s a 160 spike and then the wind developer told us there’s definitely a problem with the low frequency in our house. So I don’t understand the rest.
Q. That was going to be my next question that you have said the wind turbine company acknowledged to you that there was a problem in your home because of the turbine, some aspect of the operation of the turbines?
Q. And to your knowledge, was that the reason for the buy out of your home?
A. They agreed that we couldn’t live there any more, yeah.
Although Ms. Ashbee and her husband suffered these adverse health effects, they did not seek medical attention. Ms. Ashbee chose not to seek medical attention because her doctors “were not very engaging with wind turbine problems” at the time she was experiencing her symptoms. Additionally, Ms. Ashbee felt that she knew that the wind turbines were what was causing her health problems.
Q. And it’s fair to say that they weren’t concerning you enough that you went to a doctor to have them checked out?
A. I knew what was causing them so.
Q. Okay, but even if you know the cause of something, it didn’t concern you enough to go to a doctor to have them check out whether or not they should be doing something, putting you on heart medication?
A. I talked to this doctor and I talked to my doctor in Toronto, and they weren’t very engaging with wind turbine problems. So I mean, I — what do you want me to do? I know what’s causing them. If they stopped them, we knew because, I mean, we were both going through the same thing, sometimes at different times it would come on.
Ms. Ashbee’s evidence is consistent with the evidence of other post-turbine witnesses that when they left the vicinity of the wind project, they no longer experienced the adverse health effects. Another witness that provided similar evidence before the Tribunal was Ms. Sandy MacLeod. Ms. MacLeod is a high school teacher and lived in Ripley, Ontario, the home of the Ripley Wind Project.