Doctor says ordinances should focus on noise, not distance
Illinois resident shares personal story about living among wind turbines
More than 150 Henry County residents dedicated part of their Saturday evening to learn more about the potential impact that industrial wind farms could have on them and their neighbors.
Jerry Punch, former Riley Hospital for Children Chief of Audiology, spoke at Bundy Auditorium about the noise that large wind turbines produce and the risks that noise can present to people living around the turbines.
Punch was followed by Ted Hartke, an Illinois resident who originally welcomed wind turbines into his Vermillion County area.
Hartke told the Henry County residents Saturday the audible noise and inaudible vibrations created by the turbines around his home forced his family to abandon their home.
The “Word on Wind: Sound & Noise” forum was sponsored by ResponsibleWind, an education 501©3 non-profit organization.
Punch said he first became aware of the possibility that wind turbines cause health problems in 2009 when he was brought in to research the case of aHuron County, Michigan family who claimed they could not sleep in their home because of nearby turbines. The doctor visited the home and came away doubtful that wind turbines, even industrial towers, were the root cause of the family’s troubles.
“I’m scared to death of them now,” Punch said.
Punch co-published a comprehensive study in September that analyzed more than 40 years of research and studies conducted about the noise and infrasound created by wind turbines.
Infrasound is sound energy that is measurable, but is so low that human’s cannot typically hear it. Infrasound is measured at 20 Hertz (Hz) and below. The lowest level that the Henry County Development Code measures for is 63 Hz, a low, audible bass frequency. The infrasound energy waves are created as the wind turbine blades pass the tower.
Punch noted that infrasound can occur naturally during thunderstorms, earthquakes and monsoons. He also pointed out that heavy industrial
machinery and military equipment can produce measurable infrasound.
British acoustician HG Leventhall said in a 2009 paper that “infrasound
from wind turbines is below the audible threshold and of no consequence.”
Punch argued that humans are often hurt by things they cannot see, taste, smell or touch. Carbon monoxide and natural gas are odorless and deadly. Ultraviolet rays and other forms of invisible radiation cause burns and cancers. “Is it also not comprehensible that things that we cannot hear can also hear us?” Punch asked.
Punch told the scores of people at Bundy Auditorium that standard acoustical measuring devices are designed to ignore energy created by infrasound, even though the energy is reaching human bodies. The human body can still detect infrasound energy, which can cause a number of uncomfortable and disruptive health symptoms for people exposed to it, Punch said.
“We have quite solid scientific evidence that wind turbines can cause substantial and [show) a rise in substantial health effects in a substantial number of people,” Punch said. “I’m not saying everyone is going to be affected. I’m saying there’s no question that it causes health problems.”
Punch said the “most vulnerable” populations of a community are the ones who are likely to be the most affected by infrasound produced by large wind turbines. According to Punch, this population includes younger children, older adults and people who have chronic disabilities or health conditions, like people who suffer from migraine headaches or people who are susceptible to motion sickness. Some people are simply annoyed by the presence of wind turbines, even if they aren’t feeling the physical impact of infrasound.
A copy of Punch’s comprehensive study is available online at hearing
Hartke took the stage Saturday and told the people in the auditorium that the turbines installed around his three-bedroom house created a constant rumbling at night that kept him, his wife and their two children awake for months.
The noise sometimes sounded like an old diesel engine running in their yard, Hartke said. The vibrations and low-frequency sounds produced by the turbines in high winds at night were so intense that the family had to move all their beds to the downstairs living room so they could sleep, Hartke said. The Hartkes abandoned their home within months of the turbines being installed and running at full capacity. Hartke’s voice quivered and became thick when he talked about how his chil-
dren were affected by the noise from the wind turbines. Hartke compared to the impact to a child molester attacking his kids in their bedrooms. “I feel embarrassed, hurt; I feel like a failure. Because this was happening to my kids. I wasn’t taking care of them,” Hartke said. “This is really serious, this is really real.”
Hartke said Henry County residents and law makers should visit wind farms overnight to understand how the blade speeds, noises and vibrations can keep people nearby from sleeping through the night.
Some people are more susceptible to infrasound than others, in the same way that some people have worse seasonal allergies than others, Hartke said.
Punch and Hartke suggested that Henry County safety ordinances regarding wind turbines shouldn’t focus on blade failures. Instead, the Henry CountyCommissioners should focus on measurable noises, including low frequencies like infrasound, that reach neighboring properties and can cause health affects.
“It’s the county commissioners’ job to protect health, safety, and welfare of their residents. That’s their only job. It’s not their job to make farmers rich,” Hartke said.
The men both suggested a minimum setback of 1.25 miles from the propertyline. Hartke said even when his family moved to a home 1.25 miles away from the turbines, he was still woken once a week by infrasound from the blades, as was his son.
Responsible Wind Treasurer Gary Rodgers said the group would like to
put on another educational forum in the future that focuses on the potential economic impacts of bringing industrial wind turbines to Henry County. Rodgers said the group is also concerned about the effect that wind electric conversion systems will have property values, fire fighter safety, road maintenance and underground and overhead electrical transmission. Responsible Wind also expressed concern about electromagnetic interference generated by the turbines and shadow flicker caused by the spinning blades.
For more information, visit www.responsiblewind.net