Whirlwind of Opinions


Shirley Wind meeting draws heat,
future study still in the air

SUAMICO — Roughly one quarter of the seats in the Bay Port Performing Arts Center were filled on Tuesday night for four presenters in a special joint meeting of the Brown County Board of Health and the Brown County Human Services Committee relating to ongoing issues at the Shirley Wind Farm.

Two of the presenters, Dr. Herb Coussons and acoustician Robert Rand, have been fiercely against what they see as improper zoning of the eight wind turbines owned by Duke Energy in Shirley. To them, self-reported health effects, such as nausea and dizziness, are inextricably linked to the low-frequency sound waves emitted by the wind turbines.

The other two presenters were Mark Werner, Ph.D of the Wisconsin Department of Human Services and Dr. Robert McCunney who was present per Duke Energy’s request and pay. Werner cited various studies which to him proved an inconclusive link between the turbines and health effects as well as global reports of health effects not being consistent, limiting the effectiveness of any future measurement. McCunney, co-authored a literature review on the topic for MIT and said the objective data does not present a link while subjective examples are no basis for scientific conclusions.

McCunney’s 2014 literature review drew funding from wind interests, but he urged onlookers to consume the information more critically.

“It’s misguided to discount a study based on its funding source…MIT has very rigorous guidelines to avoid interference,” McCunney said, adding that follow-up questions should look at the methodology used, how data is collected, how it was analyzed, and whether the study is peer reviewed.

Dr. Robert McCunney
Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert in occupational noise hazards, was one of four presenters during Tuesday night’s meeting regarding Shirley Wind.

Rand, one acoustician present at Shirley for a $2.1 million 2012 study admitted he has no study, published in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject.

“I’m a peer-reviewer, and significant bias is very easily detected,” McCunney said.

Coussons, an OB/GYN and specialist in robotic surgery practicing in Green Bay, has seen six of the affected individuals by the Shirley wind farm. He offered little to combat McCunney and Werner’s assertions that objective data is needed to determine causality, relying on the testimony of his patients. He said when patients left their homes and slept elsewhere, sleep symptoms improved and some claimed they knew if the turbines were turned off even if they did not see it.

“I have to believe they’re credible…I can’t think of any other motivation for them to financially leave their home,” Coussons said before conceding he did not treat their specific symptoms.

This side-stepped earlier references to a 2014 study by the Canadian government which randomly selected 1,238 individuals and showed no connection to sleep disturbances and wind turbine noise at 40 decibels.

A question submitted by County Board member Joan Brusky asked if McCunney would support further study as recommended by the 2012 sound study in Shirley, to which he again emphasized thorough methodology and peer-review as a basis for reasonable conclusions.

For the parts of Rand and Coussons, they offered no guidelines for future study that would appease their concerns.

“Once wind turbines are in place and health complaints arise, there’s only one reliable way to have noise control, and that’s to shut them down,” Rand said multiple times throughout the night.

Coussons echoed the sentiment, saying that turbines, “Have been proven to not be harmful, but not proven to be safe.”

The Denmark News asked Board of Health vice chair James Crawford if the conversation would affect county legislation.

“The Board of Health could rescind the human health hazard labeling now that we’re better informed,” Crawford said.