Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Problems with noise, vibration and disturbed wells causes concerns about how projects get approved, and whether the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is actually regulating anything
September 20, 2017
An article in the current edition of Ontario Farmer notes “growing concerns” about the impact of wind turbine construction activities on well water for residents in Chatham-Kent.
From the article by Jeffrey Carter:
The MP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington said provincial approval process for wind turbines in Ontario is “appalling”, especially in how it has impacted the northern part of his riding. Dave Van Kesteren said the federal approval process for pipelines is far more rigorous. “I don’t see that happening for wind farms,” Van Kesteren said. “Let’s go through a proper process and find out if there are concerns.”
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope was asked about the interference with area water wells related to construction on the North Kent II wind power project, where as many as nine wells (it is now 12) wells are said to have been contaminated since pile-driving operations began.
Hope said the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has so far only reported six complaints that may be linked to the project. He also said the wells are not contaminated. Rather, the complaints relate to water turbidity and turbid water does not pose a health risk, he said.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesman for the Water Wells First group said there have been 11 complaints sent to the MOECC so far and others are expected. In three cases the water has been choked off and families are relying on temporary tanks and delivered water.
Earlier this week, power developer Samsung, while still refusing to accept responsibility for the water problems, said that the water it is shipping to families is for general use only but not for drinking.
Last week, the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, a coalition of several Ontario municipalities concerned about and affected by wind power operations, put out a news release demanding the MOECC take action.
“The Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group requests the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to respect the urgent need of the citizens of North Kent and the First Nation clans to see this issue remedied at once,” the Group stated in the news release, signed by Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Stewart Halliday.
Yesterday, September 19, the MOECC responded to a complaint and was prepared to take water samples from a home for testing, but refused because Mr Jakubec of Water Wells First was present.
The MOECC’s mandate is “Leading to healthier communities and economic prosperity through the protection of Ontario’s air, land and water.”
Wind Concerns Ontario urges anyone with well water problems in Chatham-Kent to contact the Ministry via the local office or by calling the Spills Action line at 1-800-268-6060. Be sure to get an Incident Report number from the staff person, and keep a log of your calls and comments.
Turbines in K2 Wind power project were found to be out of compliance with Ontario regulations months ago. Since then, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has done nothing, says a report by CTV News London.
Last spring, the MOECC determined that several industrial-scale wind turbines in the K2 Wind power development near Goderich, Ontario were operating out of compliance. This was the result of noise testing done by the Ministry, following numerous complaints by residents.
Former minister Glen Murray had promised action, saying there are rules to be followed, and his department would make sure they were.
Months later, nothing has been done. And residents continue to file reports of excessive noise and vibration daily.
In a report by Scott Miller of CTV London resident Mike Stachura says, “Nothing has changed…This is our home, we have to live here and we keep hoping the government will do something to help.”
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson raised the issue in the Legislature Tuesday, asking new minister Chris Ballard when the Wynne government was going to take action to protect residents’ health. The minister responded with criticism of the Opposition, and reverted to the government’s green energy mantra.
Wind Concerns Ontario has been urging people experiencing noise, vibration and other effects from being exposed to wind turbine noise emissions to report these to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
We have just received a letter that underscores the need to continue reporting.
In a letter from the District Manager in Ottawa regarding a wind power project in Eastern Ontario, he writes “… additional complaints in the area were not received by the ministry.”
And, he said, the wind power developer did not hold Community Liaison Committee meetings further than the mandated four events because of a “lack of participation by members of the public.”
While the latter statement is not accurate (the power developer said at its very first meeting that it never intended to hold more than four), the message is clear: no reports of excessive noise to the ministry means NO PROBLEM.
Again, if you have experience with excessive noise, sound pressure, vibration, shadow flicker, or altered well water, please call the MOECC Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 or, if you have the District Office telephone number and you are calling during business hours, call that.
Be prepared to give your location, any observations about weather, wind speed if you have it (you can get this from your cell phone), and any other observations about what you are experiencing.
Be sure to get an Incident Report number and keep a log of your calls.
If you do nothing, you are one-hundred-percent guaranteed nothing will be done.
Residents of Chatham-Kent who are concerned about reports that as many as 12 water wells may have been affected by pile driving activity during construction of the North Kent II wind power project continue their demonstration at the site today.
The power developer filed for an injunction against them last week, citing concern for the safety of construction workers. The demonstration has been peaceful, and was conducted through the Labour Day holiday weekend.
The campaign has been organized by local community group Water Wells First, which filed an appeal against the power project. The appeal was withdrawn when the appellants were not allowed time to have experts review a hydrology report submitted by the developer.
Chatham-Kent has asked the Ontario government to halt construction until the situation has been reviewed, and property owners affected have been offered free water testing by independent laboratories.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has taken no action.
For more frequent updates on the demonstration, please check on our Facebook page, and/or at Water Wells First.
The wind power developers awarded contracts in 2016 are now gradually filing for Renewable Energy Approval, in spite of the fact that Ontario has a surplus of power, and wind power is produced out of phase with demand to the extent it is estimate 70 percent of it is wasted.
The Otter Creek project (50 megawatts, Chatham-Kent, $218 million over 20 years) was just on the EBR for comment, and now the Romney Wind Energy Centre (60 megawatts, Chatham-Kent, $261 million over 20 years) has filed documents that are being screened for completeness.
Ontario does not need this new power.
Ontarians do not need more costs added to their electricity bills.
Ontario has shown it is unable — or unwilling — to deal with thousands of reports of excessive noise from projects already operating.
These contracts should be cancelled, not granted Renewable Energy Approval.
This past spring, Wind Concerns Ontario conducted an analysis of Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) response to reports of excessive noise and vibration(MOECC) and concluded the process for responding to citizen complaints is deeply flawed and largely ineffective. Global News ran a two-part investigative report on this information, which featured Ontario families who have been complaining about turbine noise for years, with no resolution.
More documents recently released under Freedom of Information (FOI) and correspondence with Ministry staff reveal problems with the Cornwall office that are further examples of a poor strategy for response. The documents and email also are a clear indication that the MOECC has completely abdicated its role as a regulator, and leaves resolution of any problems up to corporate wind power developers.
The Cornwall office up to now has only had to deal with any reports of excessive noise stemming from the 30-megawatt South Branch power project in and around Brinston, Ontario. Documents show that noise complaints were made even before the project began commercial operation in March, 2014.
No report number means no records?
Our initial request for information resulted in three records, which did not match Wind Concerns Ontario members’ experiences with this power project. It turned out, the Cornwall office had not been giving Incident Report numbers to people reporting, as is procedure, so their complaints were not recorded or tracked. On the advice of insider, we re-filed a request, this time asking for “investigative” reports and a handful — again, at odds with our members’ real-life experiences–was turned over.
In the records was an email from the Senior Environmental Officer to the power developer EDP Renewables, in which the MOECC staff member actually apologizes for passing along a complaint. [Emphasis ours]
Tuesday July 22, 2014
Hi Ken [Ken Little , EDPR project manager for South Branch]
Sorry about this …
I received a noise complaint last week –not specific to any particular time last week, but a complaint of noise when the winds are from the west or south west. The resident lives [redacted] and is bothered by the noise from the turbine [redacted] The caller stated he cannot open his winds when the winds are from that particular direction due to the noise. …
Do you have any acoustic results for that specific turbine yet?
Excerpts from other complaints
May, 2014: There have been several nights when I am awakened with the window closed. I shudder to think of having the windows open all the time now …
March 20, 2014: I have had several sleepless nights when the wind is in the east direction as the sound waves of the turbines kept me awake from 12:30 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. until morning. [Redacted] Is there any way we can control the wind turbine motion for daytime hours only as [sic] they do not run from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.?
And, in one actual Incident Report:
June, 2014 IR 5006-9KYK5D: ..caller report last night was the 7th night since start-up of wind turbines as SBWF that she has been unable to sleep for the noise …Noise is described as drone of an airplane — very loud with windows closed.
MOECC noted: “acoustic monitoring conducted by tech support July 14-18 2014, report under review with noise engineer”
This summer, a Brinston area resident wrote to Minister Murray about the complete lack of response to her reports of excessive noise (she has had to sleep in her basement on occasion because of the noise and vibration), and an officer with the Cornwall Office telephoned her.
Here’s what she was told.
*Ministry staff were completely unprepared for wind turbine noise complaints.
*They still don’t really know what to do.
*They “lost” her records — even though she had so many reports that the MOECC actually installed equipment and did noise measurement for several days.
*Last, it was too bad they lost everything pertaining to her situation and reports but it didn’t really matter, she was told because “You’re the only one complaining.”
“Lost” records? Citizen complaints under the regulations “don’t matter”? And she was “the only one”, which is completely false?
Outrageous behavior for a regulator
Wind Concerns Ontario wrote a letter to new MOECC Minister Ballard, stating “This is outrageous treatment of a citizen of Ontario, who is simply following the process communicated to her by both the Government of Ontario and the wind power developer, who is mandated under its Renewable Energy Approval to act on and resolve any complaints of excessive noise.”
Moreover, WCO noted in its letter to the Minister, the Cornwall office is not ensuring compliance to conditions of the Renewable Energy Approval, specifically results of the compliance audit, which must be posted on the wind power project website, but are not. The response from the Cornwall Office (August 10, 2017):
“Copies of the acoustic audits can be obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. I haven’t had a chance to check, but some reports have been included in the SBWF website– I assume you’ve already checked there. Let me know if you are interested in pursuing an FOI request and I’ll direct you to the form and process.”
When WCO responded that the report is supposed to be public as per the protocol released by the MOECC in April 2017, the Senior Environmental Officer replies [emphasis ours] on August 10, 2017:
“Ah…I haven’t had a chance to review this new protocol in its entirety…there are some changes worth noting. Thank you for bringing my attention to this. I will be requiring the SBWF to post their reports on their website. I’ll keep you apprised.
“This is completely inappropriate behaviour for a regulator,” WCO president Jane Wilson wrote to Minister Ballard.
“The people of this particular area are now facing approval of a 100-megawatt power project by the same developer, this one close to TWO communities,* and they have no assurance whatsoever that the Cornwall District Office is prepared, or even competent, to respond effectively to noise complaints.
“On behalf of our members, we ask that you investigate this situation. Government staff should be prepared to fulfill the department’s mandate, and carry out their responsibilities to the people of Ontario.”
As of September 4, 2017, the mandated compliance report is still not on the South Branch Wind Farm website.
We have just been informed by the MOECC that the EDP documents have been reviewed and found to be incomplete and cannot be posted at this time.
This project has been in operation for three years.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, the wind power trade association/lobbyist/influencer has a document on community engagement for its developer members in which it advises, people have a right to object to your project.
Germany-based power developer WPD seems to have missed that page. Not only has the company faced the fact the community in Prince Edward County by and large does not want a huge wind power development as evidenced by a Not A Willing Host designation and numerous resolutions at council, but it has also seen its project decline from 29 turbines to 27 then virtually razed of 18 more by the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Undaunted in its quest for revenue from its rich contract with the Ontario government, the company now threatens to begin construction on the remaining nine turbines on Sunday, September 10. And in a move tantamount to walking into a room and putting a gun on the table, WPD sent a letter to Prince Edward County Council threatening legal action and substantial costs should the municipal government try to obstruct its project.
Mayor Robert Quaiff has called an emergency meeting at Shire Hall in Picton on Thursday at 1 PM, and Councillor Steve Ferguson is hosting a Town Hall in Milford, next week.
Update on White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County
The Tribunal’s decision of last April to remove 18 turbines from the White Pines wind project — two thirds of the total Project — seems not to have deterred wpd in the slightest. On the last day of July wpd served Notice to the County that it intends to start construction on the 9 remaining turbines in the project as of Sunday, September 10th.
In response to this Notice, South Marysburgh Councillor Steve Ferguson is calling a town hall meeting in Milford on September 5th to provide information about the wind project and to answer questions about the project’s implications to Milford residents and the surrounding area. Mayor Robert Quaiff and other Council members as well as municipal staff, will be on hand to answer questions.
Also on the meeting’s agenda is a Notice of Dispute that was issued to the County on August 23. wpd has given the County 10 days response time on a number of permit applications that were delivered to the County along with the Notice:
“In accordance with the terms of the RUA (Road Users Agreement), please advise of your decision on these applications within 10 days of this correspondence. . .The County’s failure to issue the permits to which wpd is entitled under its REA (Renewable Energy Approval) will be taken by wpd to be an act of bad faith and an attempt to frustrate its wind energy project. If we do not hear from you on or before September 7th, 2017, we will engage our external counsel to take all steps necessary to enforce our rights before the Divisional Court on an urgent basis and to seek our costs for doing so.”
While wpd blusters about others’ bad faith, its own actions tell a different story.
The company made no effort to comply with the REA condition to set up a Community Liaison Committee within three months of receiving its REA and has made no effort in the two years since receiving the approval.
To make things worse, wpd has wrapped itself in a cloak of silence. All pretense of public consultation has been dropped. wpd now declines to respond to any questions from members of the public. While everyone realizes there must be major repercussions after such a significant down-sizing, everything is now handled by wpd out of the public eye.
This has only fuelled speculation about the status of wpd’s FIT (Feed-In-Tariff) contract, the OEB approval for leave to construct a (now non-existent) 28-kilometre, 69-kv transmission line, the change from a transmission to a distribution project and all that involves, Hydro One’s potential involvement and rumours that wpd may be opting to hang power lines above-ground on poles in direct contradiction to their REA commitment to bury the lines (with two minor exceptions where overhead lines were required).
As September 10th draws closer, members of the public of Prince Edward County are looking for answers.
Last week, Wind Works Power announced it has cancelled the Feed In Tariff (FIT) contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator for its Cloudy Ridge wind power project, to have been located in Grey Highlands.
The company, based in Germany, made this statement in its news release:
Given that the government of Ontario recently cancelled the previously repeatedly announced second bidding process for up to 850 MW renewable energy, and given the loss incurred by Cloudy Ridge due to repeated governmental uncertainties, Wind Works has decided to terminate any activities in the uncertain and unpredictable Ontario renewable energy market.
Wind Works also claimed that it had planned to “invest” $300 million in Ontario, but will not now due to cancellation of further wind power procurement and government “uncertainty.”
The Auditor General for Ontario has stated that Ontario has paid far too much for wind power and that in fact, the citizens of Ontario overpaid by as much as $9 billion.
A commentary published by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy noted that Ontario has a surplus of power and that because wind power is produced out of phase with demand in the province, as much as 70 percent of wind power is unusable. Of the remained, little of it actually gets to areas in the GTA and southern Ontario where it is needed.
Wind Concerns Ontario received documents earlier this year indicating that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has failed to address reports of excessive noise and vibration. The Ministry’s own staff documented concerns with existing regulations regarding noise levels and setbacks.
Five more wind power projects received contracts in 2016 and are now proceeding through the approval process.
“These projects are not needed,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “If approved and allowed to proceed, they will add $3.3 billion in costs to Ontario electricity customers’ bills for intermittent and unreliable power that also has significant negative impact on the environment and human health.”
There is news in the ongoing tragic tale of the single turbine owned by Unifor at its Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
It’s not good.
The wind turbine — which would not be permitted under today’s regulations, lax though they are — has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints. Promises of noise measurement have been made but little or no real action has taken place, and members of the community are still suffering from sleep disturbance and anxiety as a result of the noise emissions.
Recently, Unifor had a deadline to produce a compliance audit. Here is correspondence from this week between the MOECC and Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, sent to Wind Concerns Ontario.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is committed to seeing that renewable energy projects are developed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment, and takes noise concerns very seriously. The ministry needs conclusive E-audits and I-audits in order to determine compliance with applicable noise conditions.
On April 28, 2017, following finalization of the revised Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise, Unifor undertook the commencement of the acoustic audit as required by the ministry. Insufficient data was collected in the spring to make a valid assessment in accordance with the ministry’s Compliance Protocol. Unifor will reinstall the sound level monitoring equipment in September, when ambient noise will be lower to collect additional data so a valid assessment can be made.
To date, the ministry has not determined that the Unifor Wind turbine is operating outside of the terms and conditions outlined in their Certificate of Approval, nor has the ministry confirmed any adverse effects due to the operation of the facility. If the ministry determines the facility to be in non-compliance with our legislation, ministry staff will take appropriate action through application of appropriate compliance and enforcement tools. Actions taken by ministry staff are assessed on a case-by-case basis and based on many factors, including an evaluation of risks to the environment and human health.
Although the ministry has not identified any non-compliance related to noise, Union Building is voluntarily derating and shutting down the wind turbine under certain conditions.
I understand that the [citizens filing a noise complaint] were sent the complaint numbers they requested this morning, complaint numbers are assigned automatically when a complaint is logged within the ministry’s IT system. Sincerely,
District Supervisor, Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
You cannot permit this to continue while people suffer
From: Luke Charbonneau Sent: Monday, August 21, 2017 1:13 PM
I am, unfortunately, all too aware of the information in your email. UNIFOR’s voluntary derating and shutting down of the turbine has been in effect for many years now – it has not abated the negative impact on neighbouring property owners. UNIFOR’s ‘voluntary’ acoustic audit has been promised for four years now. They have failed to deliver it because you consistently fail to demand it. The Ministry has not determined that the turbine is operating out of compliance because you have failed to investigate in spite of four years of ongoing complaints from the neighbours who are experiencing “unconfirmed” adverse effects.
You are a regulator and you failing to regulate.
You cannot permit this years long delay and procrastination to continue while people continue to suffer.
I again ask you to order the turbine shut down until the often promised (never delivered) audit can be completed – this, in the interest of public safety and your legal and moral obligations.
Wind Concerns Ontario received documentation on wind turbine noise reports 2006-2014 earlier this year via a request through the Freedom of Information Act. Many of the Master Incident files (i.e., files that had so many individual complaints they were bundled into larger “master” files) were related to the Unifor turbine, so many in fact that the single turbine ranked fourth in the number of complaints after multi-turbine projects Melancthon, Enbridge, and Talbot wind farms. In one report dated 2014, the MOECC staff recorded: “extremely loud swooshing and raking sound from the turbine blades – also a banging noise from the turbine vibrations could be felt.” The complaint, as others, was referred to Unifor for action.
Once again, with problems like these ongoing and without proper action by the ministry, no new wind power contracts should be approved. This government needs to acknowledge the problems and take action, immediately.
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY TO REPEAT WIND POWER MISTAKES
August 22, 2017
Wellington, Ont. —
Applications for approval of new, huge wind power projects now being filed with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate should be denied, says Wind Concerns Ontario.
“There have been so many problems and mistakes with the government’s wind power program that not a single new project should be approved,” says Wind Concerns’ president Jane Wilson.
Recently, problems with well water have been revealed in the Chatham-Kent area, where vibrations from turbine construction and operation have disturbed the shale bedrock resulting in toxic heavy metals such as arsenic contaminating water, making it undrinkable.
On August 21st, Chatham-Kent council voted to demand a halt to construction of a new wind power project.
The Otter Creek project by French power developer Boralex is proposed to be built on the same geologic formation and there are questions as to whether it could also create water problems.
Turbine noise is an ongoing concern: Wind Concerns received MOECC documents earlier this year showing that the ministry has had thousands of complaints about excessive noise and vibration from operating wind turbines, but has not resolved any of the problems. Complaints about noise emissions from the turbines continue, often beginning as soon as the power projects begin operation. Citizens affected report sleep disturbance for weeks at a time, and other health problems such as headaches, dizziness, and cardiovascular symptoms.
“The Ministry doesn’t seem to be learning anything from reports of problems created by wind power projects,” says Wilson. “Their own field officers have documented issues with existing noise regulations and observed health effects, and now we have people with formerly pure well water turning black, but the MOECC continues to receive and approve these huge power projects based on the same regulations that have proven to be flawed.
“If the MOECC were a private business, they would acknowledge these mistakes and problems, and work to resolve them — that’s not what this government is doing.”
Wind Concerns filed a document recommending the Otter Creek project, now in review, not be approved. The turbines proposed have never been used and there are no actual noise output measurements for them, WCO says of the project which will operate immediately north of Wallaceburg.
“The modelling documents filed with their approval request are just estimates based on estimates,” says Wilson. “That’s not good enough to assure citizens of Wallaceburg their health will be protected.”
WCO says that projects not built yet should also be halted, such as the North Kent II, where water problems persist, and Amherst Island, to name two, where a tiny island community will be exposed to noise emissions from 26 50-storey high wind turbines and endangered wildlife will be affected.
The damage to the environment and to human health is inexcusable, WCO says, especially when the power projects are not needed. According to a report by the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, 70 percent of Ontario’s wind power is wasted as it is produced out of phase with demand, and Ontario has a surplus of electrical power.