Back in March STT reported on events in Huron County, Ontario – where, overwhelmed by health complaints, regional authorities appeared to have relented in an effort to gather the evidence of the known and obvious effects of incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound – and to act on it (see our post here).
We pointed out, however, that what was being put forward smacked of tokenism; and that it will be the combination of individuals (victims and properly motivated professionals) – untainted by the influence of government entrenched institutional corruption – that brings the wind industry to account.
Now, the events that have since unfolded in Huron County only add weight to that forlorn prediction.
While the Medical Officer of Health for Huron County, Dr Janice Owen was, no doubt, firmly motivated by her professional, ethical and moral duty to her fellow citizens – to get to the bottom of their suffering – the wind industry was having none of it.
In what could pass for an episode of Danish wind farm docu-drama, Follow the Money, Dr Owen was sacked and, it appears, that the plug has been secretly pulled on the health investigation promised.
Here are three different takes on the unseemly influence wind power outfits exert on those paid handsomely to protect and serve the public.
Concerned citizens dismayed as wind turbine investigation comes off the rails
Concerned citizens for Health
18 May 2016
Rural Ontario is up in arms today over the apparent suspension of a one-of-a-kind wind turbine health investigation that may never happen.
Medical Officer of Health for Huron County Dr. Janice Owen became aware of numerous health complaints from people in her community shortly after she was hired a year ago by the current Huron County Board of Health. Owen began researching the issues last August and contacted many in the field researching the topic.
This February 4, Owen presented to her Board the outline and components of a wind turbine health complaints investigation stating that she had visited wind projects, sought information from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as well as Public Health Ontario and had spoken and heard from many members of the community.
In March this year the announcement of the new investigation was posted on the Health Unit’s website and immediately people suffering as a result of wind projects began to sign up. In April Dr. Owen was informed her services were no longer needed and she was put on administrative leave. This is a devastating blow to Huron County people exposed without consent to the acoustical emissions of wind turbines in proximity to their homes.
More questions than answers arose about the investigation’s future and were addressed on May 12 when the Board put the research on hold – likely permanent – stating that it seemed to be a duplication of a long term Ontario-wide public health survey with nothing to do with industrial wind adverse reactions.
“The people of Huron County do not want to become another Flint Michigan. Health administrators and those tasked with the protection of our health and safety need to see this ground-breaking research through to the end,” says Gerry Ryan for the group Concerned Citizens for Health (CCH). “The eyes of communities around the world who are suffering the same fate as us are watching what happens in Huron County Ontario. The wind industry is watching and the Ontario government whose policy this is are also watching.”
The CCH calls upon the temporary Medical Officer of Health Dr. Meriam Klassen to be courageous like Dr. Owen and find out where this investigation will take her. This is only fair.
Is the Huron County Board of Health reneging on the wind turbine health investigation?
19 May 2016
The Huron County Board of Health (BOH) chair, Tyler Hessel, appears to be reneging on his commitment to implement the investigation of potential health effects of wind turbines.
In April 2016, Hessel called for an emergency board meeting. The next day, Hessel and Van Diepenbeek met with Dr. Owen and then waited to escort her out the door. The following day, reports came out that the Huron BOH and Dr. Owen had parted ways.
The BOH Chair, Tyler Hessel, Mayor of Bluewater, declined to discuss the reason for Dr. Owen’s departure; however, he assured health affected residents and the press that it had nothing to do with the wind turbine investigation. Hessel stated “everything would continue to move forward as usual.”
Hessel told one resident that the investigation was supported unanimously by all the board with the exception of one member with a conflict of interest. Hessel assured the resident that the investigation would proceed as planned. However, without informing anyone, at the May 2016 meeting, the board voted to delay the investigation.
The board members are: Tyler Hessel-chair, Ben Van Diepenbeek-vice chair, Paul Gowing, Dave Jewitt, Joe Steffler, Art Versteeg, and Rosemary Rognvaldson. According to Hessel reported in the London Free Press, “we are waiting for information to come back … we don’t want to get into duplication, because we can’t afford to at a small level. We don’t want to get into a situation where we are throwing money away.”
If he is concerned about wasting money, why did he not ask more questions back in March when the plan was announced? Why did he allow the staff to utilize untold hours to develop a plan for the investigation, develop the survey and give false hope to residents by allowing them to sign-up for the investigation?
Now, months later, when the majority of the staff hours required to develop the investigation is done and the project is ready to launch, he is now questioning the need for the investigation?
The HCHU was to be conducting the first investigation of its kind in Ontario, even though wind turbines have been documented to cause numerous negative health impacts to nearby resident throughout Ontario. Since the announcement of the investigation in March, the Board of Health has received resolutions from municipalities throughout Ontario commending the Huron County Health Unit and Dr. Owen for taking the lead by conducting the health investigation.
On March 15, 2016 in an interview with the Ontario Farmer, Huron County epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Clark stated “we’re treating it as a potential health hazard, as if it were a food [poisoning] outbreak or cancer cluster. The health unit’s mandate is population health, so if it’s something that impacts the health of a community, it’s our jurisdiction.” Clark said “there are now 270 turbines in the county, and another 50 coming soon.
Health complaints from residents directly and through the Facebook page of the health unit staff have flooded in.” The interview continued “while the individual’s information will be kept confidential, the information will be an aggregated and Clark has committed to analyze it seasonally and publish the results. “It will be a public document,” she said. “We will be looking at the pattern…using the information from this first phase to inform the next steps.” “A Medical Officer of Health has the authority to make orders to protect human health.
No one has yet ordered wind turbines halted or adjusted to accommodate human health in Canada, Clark said “Right now we don’t have evidence that will pass that test.” “We need better information,” she said. “The survey is a key step.”
Despite the resounding community support, and the survey developed and slated to be launched this month, and that Huron County residents continue to sign-up to participate in the investigation at http://www.huronhealthunit.ca and the survey remains promoted on the website of the Huron County Health Unit.
The Board of Health voted to delay the investigation into wind turbines. They made this decision relying on some very unsound reasons given by the newly contracted acting Medical Officer of Health from Perth County, Dr. Miriam Klassen. Even though Dr. Klassen admitted there were no wind turbines in Perth County and she did not know much about wind turbines, this ignorance did not stop her from making several illogical statements and suggestions. She told the board it is not in their mandate to investigate health complaints. She apparently relied on the advice of the Public Health Ontario’s (PHO) Chief Environmental Occupation and Health, Dr. Ray Copes.
Public Health Ontario is a crown corporation, accountable to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and relies on the financial support of the Ontario Government. It should be pointed out that in his professional position, Dr. Copes is not governed by the legal mandate to conduct such an investigation, unlike county health units.
The following is the law, in regards to medical officers of health’s duty to investigate health complaints. In legal terms, shall is mandatory or required, whereasshould would be suggestive but not mandatory.
Complaint re health hazard related to occupational or environmental health
11. (1) Where a complaint is made to a board of health or a medical officer of health that a health hazard related to occupational or environmental health exists in the health unit served by the board of health or the medical officer of health, the medical officer of health shall notify the ministry of the Government of Ontario that has primary responsibility in the matter and, in consultation with the ministry, the medical officer of health shall investigate the complaint to determine whether the health hazard exists or does not exist. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.7, s. 11 (1).
Considering Dr. Klassen did not investigate the complaints before making her decision, if she fails to do an investigation, could this be considered malfeasance in office, nonfeasance in office or both? She claims she consulted with Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, which is required by the law, but this does not preclude her from conducting an investigation under the law.
If Dr. Klassen has proof that the health effects were not caused by wind turbines, which she does not possess; she is still required to conduct the investigation as to whether the health hazards exist or do not exist, which she is failing to do.
Under the law, the board cannot prevent her from conducting this investigation. If the investigation is the real reason the board wanted Dr. Owen gone, then shame on them. If the members of the board are truly worried about liability, they put themselves and taxpayers in more peril by misfeasance in not allowing the MOH to do her duty.
There is nowhere in the law that gives the board of health any decision making ability in regards to whether a health hazard investigation shall be conducted.
According to Hessel, “the board wants to check with the province to insure the work wouldn’t duplicate other efforts before a final decision is made.” However, he is duplicating efforts because the HCHU has already determined under Dr. Owen that the province has not and has no plans to conduct this type of investigation.
According to Dr. Klassen, Dr. Copes suggested that residents could participate in the Ontario Health Study. The public in attendance, at the board of health meeting was flabbergasted by this suggestion. This study is entitled “Discovery, Its’ in your Blood”.
This study is highly selective on who participates and has little to nothing to do with the symptoms experienced from people affected by wind turbines. This study gets a baseline of your blood. Considering the residents with health complaints have been already subjected to wind turbines, it is too late to get a baseline. It is a long-term study for heart disease, diabetes and cancer, expecting to last decades.
How can any medical professional in good conscience even offer this as a reasonable alternative to conducting an investigation into current health complaints? It is readily apparent that Dr. Klassen did little, if any, research on this program before carelessly suggesting it as an alternative to an investigation of whether a health hazard exists.
The board, relying on this misinformation provided by Dr. Klassen, voted to delay the launch of the investigation. On May 12, 2016, the Huron County Board of Health directed Dr. Klassen to contact Dr. Copes and bring back additional information/actions prior to proceeding with the investigation. What was the purpose of this motion? Dr. Klassen had already contacted Dr. Copes and he advised against a local health study.
The real shocker was when Dr. Klassen said that Dr. Copes was not aware of the Huron County Health Unit investigation and Dr. Copes advised against a local health study. This was shocking because HCHU staff consulted with the PHO Environmental and Occupational Health Department, of which Dr. Copes is the Chief, on the possibility of developing tools required to conduct an investigation of industrial wind turbines under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
The PHO staff recommended that obtaining real-time data from residents, such as reported/absence of health symptoms, weather, topography, would constitute a starting point to conduct such an investigation. Dr. Owen informed the representatives in the community of the PHO recommendations. Considering the publicity surrounding the HCHU investigation, it is hard to imagine that he would be left in the dark by his staff or that he could be that clueless.
Dr. Klassen also told the board she contacted Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario (CMOH) and Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care. According to Dr. Klassen, Dr. Williams and Dr. Hoskins gave her clear direction. Dr. Klassen did not say, nor did any board members ask, what that clear direction was. Dr. Williams told Dr. Klassen he did not want to micro-manage her unit (HCHU).
Unfortunately, the board, demonstrating their lack of fore thought or empathy for those suffering health concerns and ignoring the legal mandate, was unable to come up with any reasonable alternatives for where residents suffering health effects from wind turbines can go for help.
Apparently, the board failed to read the report provided in February by Dr. Owen, listen to the presentation given by residents in March, read the report in April and ask questions of Huron County Environmental Health manager, Jean-Guy Albert in May where Albert outlined the criteria on which they based the investigation.
The reports and the presentation were informative and of exceptional quality. The BOH meeting in March had a record, standing room only, crowd in attendance, which should have demonstrated to the board members the magnitude of the problem. One misinformed member of the board still thought the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change investigates health complaints. The MOECC only takes noise complaints and does not even possess the training or equipment to determine if a wind turbine project is out of compliance. In addition, the staff does not possess any medical background that qualifies them to perform a health hazard investigation.
Another member of the board offered misplaced concerns of liability, not realizing that failing to act as required by law would provide more basis for liability.
Phase 1 of the health investigation developed by Dr. Owen, Dr. Clark and Jean-Guy Albert was merely a real time survey to be taken, over a year, by those residents whose health has been adversely affected by wind turbines. The survey was nearly complete and ready for implementation. The cost of the investigation was negligible, as the software was already being used.
Shockingly, the biggest concern to the board was the fear that the study would show a correlation between wind turbines and health effects similar to politicians ignoring for decades the problems with cigarettes and what would happen if it was proven cigarettes caused cancer. Then and now, was it or is it really better not to know?
Any board member, who votes against or delays this investigation at the next BOH meeting on June 2, 2016 because he/she is afraid of what the investigation may reveal, is doing a disservice to the residents of this county and should not only be ashamed of themselves, but should resign immediately.
The thought that board members would disregard their duty and forsake their constituent’s health is disgraceful. The excuse by a board member that other health units are not conducting an investigation sounds childish and is without merit. Just because other units are not doing their legal duty is not an excuse to not do your legal duty. Besides, residents of other counties may not have made complaints to their county health units. The question remains: did Tyler Hessel tell the truth to his constituents in April and why is he reneging on his promise to go forward with the health study now? He did not say one word at the board meeting in support of the investigation.
Dr. Owen took her position seriously. Upon her appointment, she too had little knowledge of wind turbines. Her decision to implement a health investigation was taken after months of receiving and reviewing numerous complaints from residents detailing their health problems. She read numerous peer reviewed articles, both pro and con, on wind turbine syndrome. She contacted experts from around the world on the subject. She also said she was under a legal mandate to investigate.
Now, we have Dr. Klassen, who admitted to having little knowledge of wind turbines, made her recommendation in less than two weeks. The Huron County Board of Health needs to stop listening to the province or the wind industry and do the right thing for those suffering and conduct the investigation. The board should take a cautious step before settling permanently on Dr. Klassen, considering her judgement at the first board meeting generates no confidence.
As a community, it is unacceptable to continue to put our “heads in the sand” and pretend people suffering adverse health effects from wind turbines do not exist. These people are our friends, families and neighbors. Ignoring the health impacts being experienced will only lead to further negative health effects from emotions including anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, withdrawal, helplessness, depression, anxiety, agitation, or exhaustion.
A resident of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh
The Wellington Times
27 May 2016
Promising investigation into health impacts of industrial wind turbines halted after Medical Officer of Health was dismissed
Huron County hugs the shoreline of Lake Huron between Amberley and Grand Bend. At its centre is Goderich. The county reaches inland across mostly flat farmland about 75 kilometres. It is home to about 270 industrial wind turbines. Twice that many are planned.
As more turbines go up, more people complain the machines are affecting their health and the wellbeing of their children.
As the complaints piled up Huron County’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr. Janice Owen felt she had a duty to investigate. She had been appointed just a year earlier after considerable turmoil amid the governance and administration of that county’s Board of Health. That turmoil had ultimately led to the dismissal of Dr. Owen’s predecessor, Dr. Nancy Cameron.
Dr. Owen knew she was embarking on rough political waters when she began to propose a health investigation into complaints that industrial wind turbines were making some people sick. Several of the municipalities and councils share in the revenue from these projects. Furthermore, the Board of Health is composed exclusively of sitting council members and one former councillor.
So Dr. Owen was careful. She proceeded slowly—explaining every step to the board along the way. She told them that she was proposing an investigation—not a research study. It would look at complaints and determine if there was a public health issue. It would not look at causality. She explained that it was her legislatively-defined duty in response to the volume of complaints.
In February, Dr. Owen outlined her proposed investigation to the Board of Health. In March, she explained to the board the structure of the investigation before a crowded meeting. About 80 residents filled the 45 seats in the chamber and spilled outside.
In April, Dr. Owen was fired.
Tyler Hessel is chair of the Huron County Board of Health. He is also Mayor of Bluewater, one of the lowertier municipalities that form Huron County.
He confirmed to the London Free Press that the Huron County Board of Health and Dr. Owen had parted ways, “but everything is going to continue moving forward as usual,” he said.
Hessel said that Owen’s departure was unrelated to the wind farm issue and that work would be carried on by health unit staff according to the London Free Press account.
That was five weeks ago.
On Monday, May 16, Hessel and the board changed course again, announcing it was putting the investigation on hold.
He told the London Free Press that while no decision had been made to drop the probe, the board wanted to check with the province to ensure the work by the health unit doesn’t duplicate other efforts.
Huron East resident Gerry Ryan had hoped Dr. Owen’s investigation would finally reveal the serious health issues related to the industrial wind turbines in his community. At the March Board of Health meeting in which Dr. Owen described the plan of investigation, Ryan had presented 26 resident-impact statements.
He emerged from the meeting feeling that his community might have some concrete answers. Joy dissolved into frustration last month, however, when he learned Dr. Owen had been dismissed.
Despite Hessel’s personal assurances that Dr.Owen’s investigation would continue, Ryan didn’t believe it.
“It looks like they are trying to shut down this investigation,” Ryan told The Times. He says his fears were confirmed last week when the board decided it would ask the province if it should proceed with the investigation.
But why would the directors of the Huron County Board of Health want to spike an investigation, and why would they go to the extreme of dismissing another Medical Officer of Health?
“Politics and money,” said Ryan.
He believes the Board of Health is too intertwined with the politics of Huron County and that many of its constituent municipalities share in the revenue from these projects.
“They have a conflict of interest,” says Ryan.
“Some municipalities benefit from a vibrancy fund from the projects in their community. Then that member goes to a public Board of Health meeting where they are called upon to vote on a health investigation related to industrial wind turbines—an investigation that could lead to further regulation and impact the production of power and revenue. I would say that is a conflict of interest, at least indirectly.”
Ryan says others members fear arousing the ire of the province. He says the Bluewater mayor told him that three-quarters of the Board of Health funding came from the province. Ryan suggests that the board worries that more questions and investigations could jeopardize its funding.
But Ryan says the Board of Health ought to be focused on the health of its residents rather than its funding.
Ryan says people in his community want answers. The number of turbines in Huron County is slated to grow to more than 520. They want to know if industrial wind turbines are a risk to their health. He was hopeful that Dr. Owen’s investigations would produce answers.
But Dr. Owen is gone and her investigation is in limbo.
He predicts that if this investigation is quashed in Huron County, no other community will take it on. Besides, it is a perfect laboratory, according to Ryan. Few other jurisdictions around the world have so many industrial wind turbines jammed into such small areas as in Huron County.
Mayor Tyler Hessel declined to respond to a request for comment from The Times.
The Wellington Times