Excerpts from the Final Report of the Township of Lincoln Wind Turbine Moratorium Committee

[Prepared by Elise Bittner-Mackin for presentation to the Bureau County, Illinois, Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the 54.5-MW 33-turbine Crescent Ridge wind facility proposed for Indiantown and Milo by Stefan Noe (Illinois Wind Energy)]

After the wind turbines went online in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, the Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors approved a moratorium on new turbine construction. The purpose of the moratorium was to delay new construction of wind turbines for eighteen months, giving the township the opportunity to assess the impacts of the 22 turbines installed by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC) and Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which went online in June 1999.

The following document summarizes some of the problems the Moratorium Committee faced in trying to address problems the township hadn't faced prior to turbine construction and some of the resulting changes the committee proposed as a result of its study. Verification of this information can be obtained from Lincoln Township officials.

Agenda. The Moratorium Committee met 39 times between January 17, 2000, and January 20, 2002, to (1) study the impact of wind factories on land, (2) study the impact on residents, and (3) review conditional use permits used to build two existing wind factories in Lincoln Township.

Survey. The committee conducted a survey on the perceived impacts of the wind turbines that was sent out to all property owners residing in the township. Each household received one vote. The results were presented on July 2, 2001, to the town board, two years after the wind factory construction.

Question: Are any of the following wind turbine issues currently causing problems in your household?

residents w/i 800 ft. - 1/4 mi. 1/4 mi. - 1/2 mi.
a. Shadows from the blades 33% yes 41% yes

Here are additional write-in comments from the survey:
An additional comment from Lincoln Township Supervisor John Yunk:
Dr. Jay Pettegrew, researcher, neurologist, and professor for the University of Pittsburgh, testified before the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals that strobe effect could cause drivers to have seizures, which could result in fatal traffic accidents. At the very least, drivers could become disoriented and confused, he said. He testified that the turbine spacing (sited on top of hills instead of in a single field in orderly rows) would increase the likelihood of seizures.

It is important to note that according to Lincoln Township Chairperson Arlin Monfils, the wind developers publicly stated that strobe and shadow effect would not occur once the turbines were operating. In reality, strobe and shadow effects were problem enough that residents vehemently complained and the power company anted up for awnings, window treatment blinds and small trees to block the light at certain times of the day. Strobe and shadow effects take place for about 40 minutes during sunrise or sunset if the angle of the sun and the light intensity create the right conditions. Mr. Jeff Peacock, Bureau County highway engineer, has recommended denying permits for 8 turbines due to safety concerns, including strobe effect.

Diane Heling, whose property is adjacent to the WPSC turbines, said the utility purchased blinds for her home, but especially in the spring and fall when there are no leaves on the trees, the strobing is at its worst in her home. It's like a constant camera-flashing in the house. I can't stand to be in the room, Mrs. Heling said. Her neighbor, Linda Yunk, whose property is adjacent to the WPSC turbines, describes the strobe effect as unsettling. It's like somebody turning something on and off, on and off, on and off ... It's not a small thing when it happens in your house and when it affects your quality of life to that extent, Mrs. Yunk said.

residents w/i 800 ft. - 1/4 mi. 1/4 mi. - 1/2 mi.
b. TV reception 33% yes 37% yes
Additional write-in comments from survey:

residents w/i 800 ft. - 1/4 mi. 1/4 mi. - 1/2 mi.
c. Blinking lights from on top of the towers 9% yes 15% yes
Additional write-in comments from survey:

residents w/i 800 ft. - 1/4 mi. 1/4 mi. - 1/2 mi.
d. Noise 44% yes 52% yes
Additional write-in comments from survey:
The most illustrative description of turbine noise was that of reverberating bass notes from a neighbor's stereo that penetrate the walls and windows of a home. Now imagine having no recourse for asking anyone to turn down that noise, whether it's during the day or in the middle of the night.

As the result of so many noise complaints, The Moratorium Committee ordered WPS to conduct a noise study. However, residents are still upset that the study was inadequate in that it measured decibel levels for only one to five days per season, sometimes only for a few minutes at some sites, and included days when rain and high winds blotted out the noise from the turbines. In addition, many measurements were taken when the turbines were not running. WPSC claimed it did not have the funds for a more comprehensive study, according to resident Mike Washechek, whose home is victim to some of the worst noise caused by the turbines, due to its location downhill and downwind from the WPSC turbines.

Nonetheless, the study established that the turbines added 5-20 dB(A) to the ambient sound. A 10-dB increase is perceived as a doubling of noise level. As soon as the noise study was published in 2001, WPS conceded that these homes were rendered uninhabitable by the noise of the turbines and made buyout offers for the neigboring homes (see below).

e. Other problems -- lightning

On the survey, several residents showed concern over the perceived problem of increased lightning strikes in the area.

Additional write-in comments from survey:
According to Township Chairperson Monfils, the wind developers declared prior to construction that lightning would not affect the turbines; however, lightning later struck and broke a blade that had to be replaced.

In addition, Mrs. Yunk said that one month after the turbines went online, in July 1999, a lightning and thunderstorm sent enough electricity through the power grid that Mrs. Yunk and Mrs. Heling both lost their computers to what the service technician called a fried electrical system -- even though both computers were surge protected. The reason that Mrs. Yunk attributes the electrical surge to lightning striking a turbine on that particular night is that on the night of the storm, her relative, Joseph Yunk, whose television set was also fried that same evening, reported seeing lightning move from one of the turbines along the power grid to the nearby homes, which is a common occurrence with wind factories since nearby strikes to either turbines, external power systems, or the ground can send several tens of kilovolts along telephone and power lines. Replacements for the computers and television were paid by the residents.

e. Other problems -- traffic

On the survey, several residents showed concern over hazardous traffic conditions during and after construction of the turbines.

Additional write-in comments from survey:
In addition, Mrs. Yunk said that especially when the turbines first went up, other drivers would be looking up at them and they would dead stop in front of you. She said she narrowly avoided colliding with a car that had stopped abruptly in front of her.

Question: In the last year, have you been awakened by sound coming from the wind turbines?
residents w/i 800 ft. - 1/4 mi. 1/4 mi. - 1/2 mi.
  67% yes 35% yes
Additional write-in comments from survey:

Question: How close to the wind turbines would you consider buying or building a home?

The results for all survey respondents in the study, including those living over 2 miles away are as follows:
These are people who know first-hand about the problems caused by the wind factories. They have lived with the turbines for three years. Again, 74% responded that they would not build or buy within 1/4 mile of turbines. Common sense dictates that if a 38-story skyscraper is built next to any home and it obstructs the view, that home would not be as valuable on the market as an equivalent home sited away from such an obstruction. Common sense also dictates that if the skyscraper had moving parts that contribute to or have the potential to contribute to blinking lights, strobing, noise, stray voltage, ice throws, and health problems, that home would not be as valuable as it had been previously. The above numbers from Lincoln Township corroborate that common sense.

Additional write-in comments from surveys:

A sampling of some of the overall write-in comments from the survey is as follows:

WPSC's buyout offer. During the two years of the Moratorium Committee work, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation made offers to buy houses and property to six property owners around the WPSC wind factory site. Offers were made to property owners who vocalized complaints about the wind factory's effects on their quality of life after construction. According to Lincoln Township Supervisor John Yunk, some of these residents were identified on the Noise Complaint Log record kept by the township. Over 90 complaints were logged in one year.

According to the Moratorium Committee report, WPSC publicly stated the buyout was to establish a buffer zone around the wind factory. The Noise Complaint Log was discontinued by WPSC after the buyout offer.

According to the Moratorium Committee report, WPSC's intention was to bulldoze the houses and subsequently keep the property from being developed for rural residences. Owners were allowed only one month to consider the offer.

According to the Moratorium Committee report, This tactic did not sit well with the Committee. In response the Committee drafted and approved a resolution condemning the WPSC ploy, and requesting that WPSC meet with the town board to develop a better solution for the township.

WPSC officials met with the town board and concerned citizens at the August 6, 2001, regular board meeting, reiterated their policy to purchase property and destroy the homes, and stated that they had no intention of meeting with the town board or changing their policies at the request of the town board.

Mrs. Heling was offered the buyout, but she said she and her family were allowed only one month to make the decision and only six months to move. In addition, the buyout offer was based solely on an appraisal by someone hired by WPSC. Mrs. Heling said WPSC refused to consider independent appraisals. Mrs. Heling said she couldn't obtain another property within six months, so she and her family rejected the buyout.
The most recent development is that one homeowner contacted Township Supervisor Yunk during the week of September 11, 2002, and asked what the process would be to request MG&E to buy out her home. She said she has a new baby and two other young children and that she does not want to live in her house any longer because she is too scared about the effects on her family by electronic radiation, stray voltage, and other electricity associated with the turbines.

Property values. The following information will directly refute the Market Analysis: Crescent Ridge Project, Indiantown & Milo Townships, Bureau County, Illinois report submitted by Michael Crowley to this board.

Mr. Crowley, a paid consultant to the Crescent Ridge developers, alleges in his report that property values won't be affected in Bureau County, based on his analysis, in part, of property values in Kewaunee County.

However, Town of Lincoln zoning administrator Joe Jerabek compiled a list of properties that have been sold in the township and their selling prices. The list compared the properties' selling prices as a function of the distance to the wind factories, using real estate transfer returns and the year 2001 assessment roll. Conclusions were as follows:
Furthermore, not taken into account in Mr. Jerabek's conclusion are the homes that were bought out and bulldozed by WPSC.

Also not taken into account is the fact that of the homes that sold within one mile of the turbines since their construction, four of them were owned within the Pelnar family as the family members shuffled houses. One brother sold to another brother. One brother purchased his father's home. The father built a new home. And a sister purchased land from one brother and built a home. It is important to note that two of the family members are turbine owners themselves.

Subsequent to the zoning administrator's report, homes have gone on the market that are still for sale.

Stray voltage. Another issue addressed by the Moratorium Committee is that of stray voltage and earth-current problems that may be exacerbated by the wind factories. This issue was brought to the attention of the Lincoln Town Board by the committee and concerned residents. An ordinance was passed by the Town Board to study the potential effects and to declare a moratorium on any further turbine development. The Committee agreed that any study of earth currents and stray voltage issues must include an analysis of the distribution system, analysis of the wiring from the utility's grid to the wind turbines, and an analysis of the grounding system used for the wind turbines. They also drafted a request for proposals to identify an expert that could help pinpoint the issues surrounding stray voltage and earth currents. The issue has yet to be resolved.

In the meantime, farmers and their livestock in Lincoln Township have been suffering. There are over four farms that are battling -- among other problems -- herd decline due to diseases that were not present in the herds prior to turbine construction, but are present now, according to farmer Scott Srnka. These problems are not limited to nonparticipating leaseholders. Farms with turbines have been affected as well, as evidenced by the trucks, which have grown more and more frequent, hauling away animal carcasses, Mr. Srnka said.

Mr. Srnka is a former supporter of the WPSC wind power project that is across the road from his family farm. His dairy herd is about 175 cows on 800 acres of land. Mr. Srnka said, Thirteen turbines were proposed for my land, but we decided to wait. Thank goodness we did or we'd be out of farming.

Mr. Srnka has traced the decline of milk production and increase of cancer and deformities in his formerly award-winning herd to an increase of electrical pollution on his farm after turbine construction. He also has seen the same chronic symptoms that are in his herd in his family.

Animal health problems in the Srnkas' formerly award-winning herd include cancer deaths, ringworm, mange, lice, parasites, cows not calving properly, dehydration, mutations such as no eyeballs or tails, cows holding pregnancy only 1 to 2 weeks and then aborting, blood from nostrils, black and white hair coats turning brown, mastitis, kidney and liver failure.

Within a few months in the first year after the turbines were erected, 8 cows died of cancer. No previous cases of cancer were detected ever before in the Srnka herd, which is a closed herd, according to Mr. Srnka.

Mr. Srnka also detected a change in well water on his property, and there has been a definite change in taste, he said, which has contributed to the decrease in water consumption by his herd. In the past his cows consumed 30 gallons of water a day, but that figure declined to 18 to 22 gallons of water a day after turbine construction. As a result, cows became dehydrated and terminally ill.

At the time of his testimony before the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals in October, Mr. Srnka said he had spent upwards of $50,000 of his own money to try to remedy the electrical pollution in his home and on his farm. Mr. Srnka stated that in his opinion, there were three other farms in the area facing enough problems with their herds in the aftermath of the turbines going online that those three farms are almost ready to sell out.

The ZBA members saw a brief unedited video interview with Mr. Srnka in his dairy barn, taken this spring. In it there were some of the cows in his herd and Mr. Srnka talking about some of the rewiring that he has had to install to try to combat problems of electrical pollution. Mr. Srnka said that he has had to resort to insulating the farm through electrical wiring to put his farm, in effect, on what he calls its own island.

Dr. Pettegrew, testifying before the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals, said he would be remiss as a doctor if he didn't tell the board that he thought the weaknesses and illness he saw in the cows in the video were most likely caused by EMFs or electrical pollution. Dr. Pettegrew also said the risk would be greater in Indiantown and Milo for animals and humans to become ill than in Wisconsin because the proposed turbines would be taller and would produce more electricity.

Mr. Srnka and neighbors report serious health effects on not just dairy cows. Health problems in residents include
Sometimes even short-term visitors to the farms or homes contract the symptoms, including construction workers on the Srnka property who broke out in nosebleeds after only a few hours. One of the workers left and refused to return.

The Srnkas are so concerned with health effects that they aren't going to have kids anymore because we're so afraid.

Representatives of WPSC have denied that there are stray voltage or earth currents affecting Mr. Srnka's family or livestock and will not compensate him for his family health bills, electrical system upgrades, loss of herd or decrease in milk production.

How did the situation become so grave when wind factory developers swore there would be no problems?

Even if a wind developer may claim that the wind factories, substations and power grids will not contribute to stray voltage or electrical pollution because (1) insulated cable will be used, (2) all cable will be buried several feet beneath the surface, and (3) cables are laid in thick beds of sand -- these statements should be viewed with suspicion because of poor project track records, according to Larry Neubauer, a master electrician with Concept Electric in Appleton, Wisconsin. Mr. Neubauer, who has customers who are dairy producers, homeowners with stray voltage problems, and farmers with turbines on their property, said that currents from each ground on the cables and project substations, as well as the regional transmission lines that receive electrical energy and that are electrically tied together, do not harmlessly dissipate into the soil. Energy disperses in all directions through the soil and these currents seek out other grounded facilities, such as barns, mobile homes and nearby residences. Only in California is it illegal to use the ground as an electricity conductor. In the rest of the country, including Wisconsin and Illinois, power companies are allowed to dump currents into the ground, according to Mr. Neubauer.

Residential properties that are in a direct line between substations and the ground conduits are particularly at high risk since electricity takes the path of least resistance. Mr. Neubauer said that burying the cables, as the Illinois Wind Energy project intends to do, makes it worse, citing the short lifespans of buried cables, frosts that wreak havoc on the cables, and the problems of locating trouble spots that cannot be seen without digging up the cables.

Two of Mr. Neubauer's clients, who were interviewed in October, are dairy farmers who have spent over $250,000 and $300,000 trying to rewire their farms to reduce stray voltage. That cost does not included herd loss or losses from diminished milk production. Mr. Russ Allen owns 550 dairy cows in DePere, Wisconsin. His farm is in a direct line between nearby WPSC turbines and a substation. Mr. Russ said he was losing one or two cows a day during the three years prior to his installing electrical equipment to help reduce currents on his farm. About 600 cows died, he said. Mr. Russ said he has so much electrical current on his farm that he laid a No. 4 copper wire around his farm for 5,000 feet. The wire is not attached to any building or additional wires; yet it can light up a lightbulb from contact with the soil alone. Mr. Russ has scheduled a media day on October 24 to draw awareness to the problems of stray voltage and he said to encourage everyone in Bureau County to attend.

What scares me more is that I know ... they're pumping current through people. They're pumping current through kids, Mr. Allen said.

It is important to note that Mr. Noe and his electrical engineer, Mr. Pasley, deny that there will ever be EMFs or stray voltage resulting from the proposed Indiantown/Milo turbines. Just as WPSC has dismissed any problems in the face of mounting evidence, Mr. Noe testified that he will never implement electrical pollution studies and that he thinks they would be a waste of money.

Moratorium Committee findings. As a result of the aforementioned concerns and problems with wind factories in Lincoln Township, the Moratorium Committee recommended, in brief, the following changes from the original conditional use permit:
In effect, with these guidelines, Lincoln Township is making construction of new turbines unattractive to further development. They are finding it almost impossible to remedy problems with the current turbines and restore a former quality of life to residents. However, they are trying to ensure no more mistakes will be made.

As Mrs. Yunk plainly said, Anyone that thinks there aren't going to be problems resulting from the turbines has got another guess coming. She said that she and other residents felt like the bad guys for opposing the turbine project and warning other residents that the project would spell disaster. She said she hates now that what they feared has come true: There isn't any satisfaction in being able to say, I told you so.

The board must weigh heavily the situation of Kewaunee County and the voices and experiences of residents who have no vested interest in wind development in Bureau County. They have no vested interest in telling anything but the truth. They are telling it like it is, and unfortunately, like it was.

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