What has no ears, three legs, and hooves turned backwards? (Australia)

Apr 23, 2012

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“Add them all together—the eagle death, the bad eggs, the deformed lambs, the headaches, the forgetfulness, the family feuds—and it is difficult to envisage a more apprehensive or dysfunctional town.”

“Questions Blowing in the Wind”

—Graham Lloyd, Environmental Editor, The Australian (4/21/12)

From the low mountain ridge, 3km in the distance, the roar of wind turbines bears down on the Waterloo village main street like a runaway truck that never arrives.

At night, the soundscape changes with the prevailing winds. Sometimes the distant rumble could easily be mistaken for waves rolling on to ocean sands. But given the heightened anxieties along this dysfunctional street, 120km northeast of Adelaide, the mind can play tricks.

Is the squeeze of ear pressure significant or simply a brewing head cold? Is broken sleep the result of unfamiliar surroundings or something more sinister?

But what is beyond doubt is that in Waterloo, after 18 months of operation of the wind farm, residents are voting with their feet at great personal financial and emotional cost. Domestic and farm animals are reportedly showing signs of distress and the discovery this week of a dead wedge-tailed eagle at the base of the northern wind turbine tower may confirm the worst for environmentalists.


Photo by Vanessa Hunter

Experts say the eagle, a sub-adult with a broken wing and crushed skull, appears to have died quickly. Many locals say the impact of wind turbines on immediate residents is more drawn out.

Roger Kruse is a descendant of one of Waterloo’s original settler families. In March last year he went to a liquidation auction to buy a $180 lawnmower in neighbouring Saddleworth, but ended up buying the property for $233,000 as a bolthole to escape the noise in Waterloo.

Kruse says he gets ear popping and head squeezing from the wind turbines and finds it difficult to sleep. “The wind turbines are the only thing we talk about around here any more,” he says. “There is nothing else to say, you just can’t escape unless you go away.”

Kruse says he is forced to use the Saddleworth property often enough to make the purchase worthwhile.

Other residents, such as the Marciniak siblings, Andreas, Wanda and Johannes—who each moved to Waterloo to retire and live debt free—are not so wealthy, or lucky. Andreas and Johannes claim the wind turbines have worsened existing medical conditions and they have fled to live in caravans away from town.

“When the company first said it was going to put them in I was all for it,” Andreas says. “I have got solar panels, hot water, it is a very green house. We thought they (wind turbines) were good for everybody.”

He spoke out publicly in support of the Waterloo project but says “once there is a problem no one has come to speak to any of us. I have written letters till they come out of my ears and all I get back is the reply they are following the guidelines set by the EPA (Environment Protection Authority).

“Something is happening here. It’s not the noise, it is something else penetrating my house. I am waking up saturated, scared, my heart is pounding.”

His sister Wanda says she is watching her health, relationship and life collapse and just wants wind energy company TRUenergy to move her transportable home somewhere else.

“People say these people (complainers) have found out the farmers are getting money and now they want some,” Wanda says. “This is disgusting. We didn’t even know these things, that farmers were getting money. I don’t want money, I want to get relocated.”

Neil Daws, 51, lives directly opposite Andreas behind a big, black sign that reads: “Warning, while you are near wind turbines you may experience: Short term exposure—headache, nausea, vertigo; Long term exposure—sleep depravation, feeling sea sick, increased blood preasure (sic).”

But this week, Daws was more concerned about his chickens which, after years of faithful service, had started to lay yolkless eggs. The chooks are now off the lay completely.

Daws has kept examples of the yolkless eggs to demonstrate. He cracked open two for the cameras and, sure enough, out flowed white with no yolk.

Ironically, yolkless eggs are known as “wind eggs” and there are a number of plausible explanations. According to Broad Leys Publishing, which specialises in books for poultry keepers and organic gardeners, “wind eggs” are fairly common when a pullet is first coming into lay.

“Wind eggs can also occur in older hens if they are subject to sudden shock,” the Broad Leys website says. Daws’s chickens do not have youth on their side.

Andreas claims his chickens, too, had produced yolkless eggs in Waterloo but returned to normal laying habits when removed from the influence of the turbines.

Yolkless chickens aren’t the only animal concern in Waterloo. One long-term sheep farmer reports a three-fold spike in birth defects since the turbines started operating. This year, lambs have been born with no ears, three legs and hoofs turned backwards.

But the farmer, who does not want to be identified, says he’s not ready to blame the windmills.

“If it continues we will have to call out the experts,” he says.

“It could be genetics from inbreeding or chemical residues or something else.”

But add them all together—the eagle death, the bad eggs, the deformed lambs, the headaches, the forgetfulness, the family feuds—and it is difficult to envisage a more apprehensive or dysfunctional town.

Whatever is causing the symptoms, the suffering in Waterloo is acute and a stark example of the community challenges faced in the push into wind energy that still enjoys a great deal of support from the South Australian government.

It highlights questions about the rights of neighbours and the need to properly understand health concerns that are now being raised across the world.

TRUenergy, which purchased the Waterloo wind farm from Roaring 40s last year and has plans to expand, says it is doing its best to be a good community citizen. According to TRUenergy’s Waterloo community liaison officer, Michael Head, and the company’s Melbourne-based head of corporate relations, Sarah Stent, community relations are progressing well. The company says there are many local residents who are happy but not willing to speak publicly.

There is a community liaison group but only three of the group’s more than 25 members live near the wind turbines.

Head’s office is in the foothills below the range on which the wind turbines are perched. He does not live in Waterloo and is prepared to accept assurances from outside the town that local community divisions are long-standing.

Head says the company has worked hard to fix issues of poor television reception and denies there are widespread complaints from the local community.

The company rejects the findings of a recent survey that says more than half of local resident respondents reported having been very or moderately negatively affected by the wind turbines.

For Kruse, the Marciniaks and other local families, the explanation is obvious. All say that when they ring TRUenergy to complain using their land or mobile lines the calls go to message bank and are never returned. When they use an unfamiliar line to call, the telephone is picked up.

They say it exemplifies the pattern of screening in which they believe the company favours advice from people who tell it what it wants to hear, something the company denies.

This includes the use of postcode surveys in which “locals” may live more than 20km away and never see a wind turbine.

From Melbourne or Adelaide it is seen as good enough.

“It is not our view that the majority of the population is opposed to the wind farm nor dissatisfied with our approach to community engagement,” says Stent. “Community engagement for us is not a battle ‘to be won.’”

The company’s December community newsletter says “Talking with the community is very important to us as it helps us gain an understanding of your opinions and concerns.”

Stent says that the company will “continue to engage with the community both in Waterloo and the wider mid north so that residents can form their opinion on wind energy based on relevant, factual information”.

  1. Comment by alice mckay barnett on 04/23/2012 at 4:02 pm

    To Whom It May Concern,
     
    Please support the following change recommended in Maine Office of Energy Independence and Securities. Wind Tangible Benefits and Noise Regulation Report 1 April 2011

    It is the low frequency sounds from wind turbines, that often cannot even be measured, that have generated concern from those opposing wind projects (1).

    It is also clear that certain types of noise, namely, amplitude modulation and perhaps others, are not adequately considered in international noise standards, sound level computer modeling or the state’s current noise regulations.

    These deficiencies should be addressed by adjust the state’s noise regulations to compensate for these considerations (2).

    I attach 3 sound modeling maps from Patriot Renewables DEP applications (3).

    1. Saddleback Ridge Wind, Carthage, Maine
    2. Canton Mountain Wind, Canton, Maine
    3. Spruce Mountain Wind, Woodstock Maine

    The noise trend is 40-45 dBA at one mile from turbine centers. While pre-existing sound levels are below 20 dBA (3). And Wilderness Ambience is considered 35 dBA (4).

    I personally know 24# receptors against the Saddleback Ridge Project that will hear and see these turbines and have NO RECOURSE (5).
     
    References:
     
    1. Page 71, click here.
    2. Page 80, click here.
    3. Click here.
    4. Page 27, click here.
    5. Name list sent upon request

    Alice McKay Barnett
    1 Pit Road
    P.O.Box 588
    Carthage, ME 04224
    207-418-4404

  2. Comment by Hart Daley on 04/23/2012 at 4:54 pm

    I concur with the comments submitted by Alice McKay. I live 1.1 miles from the top of Colonel Holman Mountain in Dixfield, ME where Patriot Renewables LLC is “contemplating” an industrial wind project. Currently I enjoy a pristine serene existence with my wife, daughter, sons and granddaughters. We recreate all around our house, which is surrounded by a small peaceful brook, wide open and game filled fields and a beautiful mountain range. At night we sit outside and enjoy family campfires, peaceful starlit nights and firefly watching. The silence offers inner peace.

    Unfortunately our tranquil existence and our health and well being will be jeopardized if this project is allowed to move forward! The lies, corruption and deception start with the wind companies and travel “on the wind” to the governmental elected officials who are all getting rich on their “green lies” and tax subsidies.

    We want a wind ordinance with a setback restriction of 1.25 miles from any occupied residence and a noise limitation of 35 dBA from 7pm to 7am to try to salvage our livelihood! Wilderness ambience is considered 35 dBA this is what we are adapted too! Fight back, don’t be next on the list of collateral citizens.

  3. Comment by Johannes Karl Marciniak on 04/24/2012 at 8:22 pm

    WE ARE NOW GETTING PEOPLE, AFTER 18 MONTH OF BIG WIND OPERATING, AS FAR AS 10KM AWAY NOTICING PROPLEMS, NOT GETTING GOOD SLEEP AS THEY CAN HEAR AND FEEL SOMETHING.

  4. Comment by Andreas Marciniak on 05/15/2012 at 4:00 am

    Hello to all
    Hart Daley: you do NOT want this to happen in your pristine serene existence, we had moved to Waterloo for exactly what you have right now, and we thought wind Turbines would be good, well as you have seen by the Graham Lloyd, Environmental Editor, The Australian (4/21/12) it turned out to be a Disaster, and don’t be fooled by the set back, we know and have used our Body’s as instrument’s to find out at what distance they still have an effect on us,please trust me when I tell you that 10 km is a minimum, my Brother can feel them at 17 km when it’s overcast, and the wind blows in his direction, if you not worried about your self, think of your wife and children, my daughter got ill after only three days, she was 17 at the time , and I made her move to the city, to stay with her other sister.
    So if you want to keep what you have,”do what ever it takes to stop them putting up ‘Wind’ “Turbines”, NOT GREEN , NOT CHEAP ,Killing Machines,
    kind regards
    Wind Turbine refugee

  5. Comment by James Dylan Rivis on 03/16/2013 at 6:14 am

    About 12 years ago I had to have an MRI at a local vermont hospital. It was administered improperly, without stable ear protection, and I have suffered since with a profound ‘tinnitus’ (a constant hissing/ringing in the ears).

    I was on Social Security Disability and in the middle of a very painful divorce and in enough distress already, but managed to call an Oregon center for tinnitus study. I spoke with the head of the organization who told me that tinnitus was not a provable affliction as there was no way that anyone, or any device, could confirm the diagnosis. Ergo, as far as any authorites are concerned, I don’t have an issue that I can pursue.

    My ears hiss constantly. I did no have the problem prior to the botched MRI. Following the test the tinnitus started.

    Ergo, my body is the measuring device and, to my view, unless it could be proven that I was prone to lying in the past in order to gain a settlement, then my word should be enough. But, in a society where many do make bogus claims, I am fresh out of luck.

    An Australian study came out recently with a report that there is no evidence that wind turbine disruption is a real issue and that it is just ‘word of mouth’ anxiety causing chatter from citizens near the turbines, as well as interference from external agitators.

    Yolkless eggs, sick livestock, disappearing species, agitated and sleep deprived citizens who also have ‘sourceless’ ailments are not sufficient evidence for authorities.

    All that is left is for citizens to keep detailed notes (both personal and from other people’s observations of changes in that person), documenting these experiences over a period and legally filing these reports. Then, if authorities do not take them seriously and ACT by shutting down the turbines for an equal amount of time with citizens filing subsequent reports, without the turbines running, as a means of comparison thereby using the peoples’ bodies as ‘measuring devices’, then if there is no action then publicity and, possibly, civil disobedience is called for to gain society’s attention.

    We are not imagining things when we state that we are suffering and that we perceive a source of that affliction. It is incumbent on society to prove that our experience is NOT the case.

  6. Comment by sean macaskill hants on 04/05/2013 at 6:50 pm

    200-250 150m+ turbines proposed for king island tasmania! disaster for a pristine, still a bit wild and remote island with a small rural and financially vulnerable community. HELP! The pr machine is in full swing herding the unsuspecting community thru their farmgates (their terminology) to an agreement to the biggest industrial wind turbine development in the southern hemisphere. am trying to gather information and support for a protest against this development. if anyone has some good ideas or suggestions please call . my sympathies to the people of waterloo
    sean

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