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High EMF levels found in tests at Campo, Manzanita and Ocotilllo among residences near turbines

By Miriam Raftery

March 12,2013 (Campo) – Acoustical experts warn that sound generated by proposed Shu’luuk, Tule and Manzanita wind projects will cause severe negative health impacts on neighbors – and further, new studies suggest that noise impact assessments created to justify these and other projects relied on errors in computer modeling that severely underestimate sound levels. 

New noise and infrasound findings

At the Campo Shu’luuk Wind project, massive wind turbines and solar panels are proposed just 500 feet from private properties with homes and 1,320 feet from tribal homes (or less if owners sign a waiver).  But a major new study commissioned by a public health department in Wisconsin  involving  five different acoustic experts found high levels of low-frequency noise at homes abandoned by residents as far as 7,000 feet from turbines.  The Brown County Board of Health concuded that residents’ complaints of health problems at the Shirley Wind project are valid and related to long-term exposure to wind turbines.

Richard R. James with E-Coustic Solutions has sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent for Southern California Robert Eben on behalf of three interveners opposed to Tule Wind:  The Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps, and Donna Tisdale.

James contends that noise impact studies for Tule Wind, ECO Substation and a cross-border transmission line include errors leading to “severe underestimates of the sound that will be received at properties adjacent to and in the footprint of the Shu’luuk project.”  Studies failed to consider infra and low frequency sound characteristics emitted by industrial-scale wind turbines “that has been identified as plausible cause of adverse health effects related to vestibular disturbances,” he said.

The vestibular system in the inner ear contributes to balance in humans and animals. In Ocotillo, where 500-foot-tall wind turbines have recently been built, several residents have told ECM that they are experiencing problems with vertigo and that dogs have been observed to lose their balance and fall over since the turbines began operating in December.

Since the Tule report was written, James observes,  new papers and presentations including “many of them peer reviewed” are showing that “modern industrial scale upwind wind turbines of the site being considered for the project have the potential to cause adverse health effects if sited too close to residential or other occupied properties.”  The wind industry has discounted concerns, ignoring mounting evidence, he adds .

But the Shirley Wind study should be closely read by any elected officials considering wind siting decisions.  To avoid bias, Brown County’s Health Department commissioned a special study of three homes vacated at 1200, 3300 and 7000 feet from the nearest wind turbine.  The study was conducted by five acoustical experts from four firms—with special equipment for recording infra and very low frequency sound below the range of most equipment .  Dr. Paul Schomer, Chair of the Acoustical Society of America’s Standards Committee, was chosen to act as an independent observer.  One of the firms represented acousticians who work for the wind industry and another firm works for communities impacted by turbines. 

The study found peak sound pressure levels “were observed to routinely exceed 95 dB and periodically 100 dB.”  The more accurate equipment “explains why other studies of wind turbine infrasound have failed to identify similar high levels.”  Residences who abandoned their homes reported feelings of motion sickness and other health problems. 

It’s rare for wind industry experts and those representing people claiming illness from turbines to agree on much of anything.  But the four investigating firms concluded that enough evidence was found to “classify LFN (low frequency noise) as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. “ 

James concludes that given the findings of the Shirley Wind study, “it would be prudent to follow the Precautionary Principle and withhold approval of any projects where people are located within 1.25 miles of the boundary.”

High electromagnetic fields, other abnormalities found at Kumeyaay  and Ocotillo wind turbines

A separate report  reveals that the Kumeyaay Wind turbines are exposing Campo and Manzanita tribal members to high levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  The new study,  by Sal La Duca, indoor environmental consultant with Environmental Assay Inc. was  prepared for the Protect Our Communities Foundation. (Also view appendix A and B, C, D).

 Tests were done with permission of individual tribal homeowners.  The study notes that due to the rushed scheduled, cooperation from SDG&E and Infigen Energy could not be obtained. Thus the testing was limited to weak wind days and “it was not possible to make EMF measurements during a fuller range of operational conditions.”

Despite those constraints, measurements still found “inordinately high electric field strengths and substantial Electromaginetic Interference (EMI)” excacerbated or caused by the Kumeyaay wind turbines and other electic generators and their interconnections, as well as powerlines transmitting electricity from the wind facility. 

Residents experienced electrical interference that damaged equipment, such as a well pump replaced three times at one home, the report found.  Other problems occurred with television reception.  The findings coincide with residences already found to have stray voltage 1,000 times normal in prior measurements taken by Dr. Samuel Milham, as ECM previously reported. Milham has also sent a letter with his latest findings to the BIA. Moreover, a small health study of Manzanita residents found 68% of those living near turbines reported sleep disturbances consistent with Wind Turbine Syndrome.

La Duca’s new study found the EMIs were most likely originating from the Kumeyaay Wind turbines and associated substation and power lines, with the most likely pathways through ground currents and through the air. 

In places, the electric fields found were “inordinately strong, even reaching extreme levels”; radiofrequency was also relatively high for a rural area. 

Building taller turbines, as proposed for the area, may make the problems even worse, the study suggests.  “The nacelles being located high a lot places them at ideal position to convey EMI onto the surrounding conuntryside and use the distribution lines as convenient antennas that will pick a portion of the radiated energy and redistribute it far from the sources,” La Duca concludes, noting that high exposure levels of electric fields have been linked to leukemia. 

Abnormalities were also found in Ocotillo, where presence of ground current was found in open desert.

La Duca He warns that “there are some hucksters trying to make a quick profit with the lore of a clean and green `solution.’ “  He further concludes that “It is clear that placing industrial-scale wind and solar projects at least a few miles distant from all neighbors would eliminate the most significant electrical near-field effects, reduce or eliminate physical sound perfection…and reduce or eliminate ground current contributions to residents.”

Mitigation urged to reduce harm from Kumeyaay  and Ocotillo wind turbines,  plus future projects

The authors of the Environmental Assay report recommend  that to reduce EMFs and negative health impacts, wind projects already built as well as new ones planned should implement the following suggestions, most of which are “low cost and easily implemented.”  Options  including technical fixes by utility companies to eliminate or shield sources of EMIs to creating barriers such as trees.

One home near the Kumeyaay turbines includes “an ongoing imminent danger” that could cause a fire and potentially death, requiring immediate correction, the study warned. 

The study also calls for monitoring and measurements from each turbine, wired metering instead of wireless, and actions homeowners near turbines can take such as removing fluorescent lights and dimmer switches, hiring an electrician to check neutral connections, watching for bright-and-dim lights, planting trees and removing energized fixtures near sleeping areas.

Donna Tisdale, Chair of the Boulevard Community Planning Group, says that a letter outline concerns has also been sent to Manzanita tribal leaders, participating tribal homeowners and other interested parties, regarding the documentation of high levels of high electrical field strengths (EMF)  and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) at homes and offices near Infigen's Kumeyaay Wind turbines located on land leased from the Campo Indians adjacent to Manzanita tribal lands in San Diego's East County.

Invenergy's 160-250 MW Shu'luuk Wind and 40 MW solar are planned on an additional 5,000 acres or so of the same Campo Reservation within 1,320 feet of tribal homes (or less with a waiver) and about 500 feet of adjacent private properties with homes.

Additionally, the 57-100 MW Manzanita Wind project, proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric, is under consideration for virtually all Manzanita's 4,500 or so acres of tribal lands.  In addition, Tule Wind would cover thousands of acres in McCain Valley Recreation Area nearby with another 112 industrial wind turbines.

Even more turbines are proposed in Jewel Valley, at the southern end of Boulevard. Together the projects would virtually surround the rural community, impacting homes on the Campo, La Posta and Manzanita reservation as well as Boulevard residents and campers/outdoor enthusiasts in the region.

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