Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nine days and seven wind farms

Sue Sliwinski of Sardinia, N.Y., writes:

Over the past nine days and 3,000 miles and seven wind farms, Sandy Swanson and I took many still shots, reams of video, and copious notes and conducted numerous interviews. What's happening is an absolute crime. Every single impact that is denied by developers has been confirmed again and again in wind farm after wind farm. Lovely rural communities are being turned into industrial freak shows. In some places people have just accepted their fate and live with it, not understanding how empowered they actually are by their situations . . . meaning that all they'd have to do is get noisy enough and the developers would stop ignoring them. One told us she's learned how to go outside in her garden and block everything from her mind . . . so as not to be disturbed and frustrated. She said once, on a quiet day (the turbines weren't moving), she heard what sounded like gunshots. She had been blocking everything as she had taught herself to do and suddenly realized the gunshot noises were really coming from the nearest turbine . . . probably contracting as the sun went down.

Scott Srnka from Lincoln Township, Wisconsin, is enduring such awful atrocities, it's very hard to believe they're true. I've even steered clear from his information over the past three years for fear of being accused of using scare tactics. But the guy is rock solid, and anyone who meets him and actually goes to his beautiful farm and sees his beautiful family knows he's the real deal. His neighbors know he's honorable and credible and that his troubles are real . . . it's those of us who hear about his dilemma long distance that doubt the truthfulness when we hear about his deformed cows, his family's health problems, etc. due to severe stray voltage.

Most farmers experience some levels of stray voltage on their farms. But the extenuating circumstances on Scott's farm include a combination of surface rock, no substation for this particular wind farm, and the nearness of the turbines. He and one other dairy farm are being severely impacted, but the other one, right next door, won't admit it because they own the leases for about 10 or 15 of the turbines and don't want to jeopardize that easy money.

Scott is a young man and the farm was his father's and grandfather's before him, but after hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses to try to remedy the problems caused by the wind farm across the street, he's calling it quits and may be moved out by spring. His wife is pregnant with their third child and they are nervous wrecks, though they have gone through every imaginable test to ensure that the baby's been fine right along. He says with the equipment he's installed he knows when it's bad, and when it is they leave the home for a week, maybe two . . . however long it takes to get back to more tolerable levels. Scott says that under the current conditions, he's losing about a thousand dollars a day from what his farm should and would otherwise normally produce.

Bob Bittner [Illinois], a long-time and dedicated opponent who we recently haven't heard much from, was not at home when we visited his lovely farm house . . . also once his father's, now surrounded with 10 turbines within 4,000 ft of his home, with one only 1,300 ft away. His neighbors told Sandy and I that they believe he spent over $250,000 in court battles and ended up signing a deal with the developers that basically said he would quit interfering in exchange for not being sued for all the lost income the company incurred over the 3 or 4 years of legal wrangling he brought.

I left a note in his door, and when I got home there was an e-mail from him for the first time in a very long while saying that since the turbines went up, he and his wife, Sharon, for their peace of mind bought a cabin in the woods about seven miles away to escape the impacts . . . noise, lights shadows . . . . People everywhere are being driven from their homes.

In the Mendota Hills wind farm [Illinois], it's like the twilight zone. There is no life. Almost every home within the boundaries of the wind farm is kept to look as if someone lives there . . . but on close inspection it's clear that no one does. All the lawns are mowed perfectly . . . but most often no flowers are tended. Every house seems to have a chair or two outside in the front yards creating the appearance that people actually plunk their butts down in them to relax once in a while, but they're dirty and unused. Every window and door is closed, with drapes and shades drawn at eye level. There are cars and trucks with current licence plates parked outside of garages or with garage doors open so you can see them. We didn't check for cobwebs in the mailboxes, we wish we had, but they looked rusty and old. Even dogs were kept on leashes in many of the side yards . . . animals that are evidently being visited once a day to be given food and water. I know this all sounds crazy, but to prove it to ourselves, we went back after dark . . . thinking, well maybe everyone was just at work. But inside these houses, only one light burned, shining through greasy grimy windows in spots where curtains were left slightly open to reveal the condition of the glass, and revealing absolutely no movement whatsoever.

We heard about connectors that were not supposed to be used, but were indeed and have since blown holes -- small craters -- in roads and fields. The stories we've been told all echo each other. There are many children involved. Some, such as in Lincoln Township, have grown up knowing nothing but life with wind turbines. People have been bought off where they're fighting. A family's teenage daughter totaled her car in an accident with wind equipment on a foggy day and then had to fight to get reimbursed! Another says that her little kids are terrified by the noise and can't fall asleep when conditions are bad, such as on rainy nights. Their nearest turbine is 1,000 feet from the bedroom window. Another older woman says, through tears, that her town, where she was born and raised and where her family farm still exists, has been ruined.

Story after story after story . . . .

Lights, shadows, noise, TV and phone interruption, gawkers, accidents, lost views and plummeting property values, and more . . . all on tape, video, and still shots. We felt sick at the end of every day . . . like we had to get away and take a break from the twirling blades and the surreal atmosphere and our sadness for all these families.

It felt so good to get home and step out of the car into this beautiful environment that Sardinia still is and hopefully will stay for years to come. So . . . now we have to figure out how best to use all this information, and not let a smidgen go to waste, because all these families living in these inconceivable conditions deserve no less.

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