Why complaints about wind turbine noise are important (and why Ontario is failing to use an important public health tool)

February 21, 2019

Many organizations act on consumer or user complaints because they know those complaints are an important indicator of the success — or failure — of a product or program.  The Ontario government now has records of thousands of complaints dating back to 2006 regarding excessive noise and shadow flicker or strobe effect. The detailed files on these complaints, which contain notes by Provincial Officers with the ministry of the environment, also contain comments on adverse health effects stemming from exposure to the noise emissions.

While organizations like Health Canada act on reports of adverse effects from medications or problems with medical devices, the Ontario government instead maintains all complaints about wind turbines under the environment ministry and, to the best of our knowledge, does not even share these complaints and records with the provincial health ministry.

An article titled “Wind Turbine Incident/Complaint Reports in Ontario, Canada” was published recently in an international open-access library; the paper reviews the Ontario situation in the context of other public health reporting tools, and refers to documents Wind Concerns Ontario received via requests made via Freedom of Information legislation.

Conclusion? Ontario instituted a complaint process with the purpose of assuring citizens health and safety will be protected … but they’re not using it.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Documentation of citizen noise reports received from the government shows that in the beginning, staff of the province’s environment ministry made an attempt (though apparently without resolution) to respond to the reports of excessive noise and other effects of wind turbine noise emissions. This may have conflicted with the government’s “green energy” policy as the efforts appear to have changed from response to issues management as the response rate to complaints declined to 6.9 percent in 2015-2016, from 40 percent in 2006-2014 ([9], p. 4).


Copies of staff training materials in Ontario which were received in the  [Wind Concerns Ontario] FOI request show that employees were given specific directions from management as to what action, if any, to take. For example, in one PowerPoint training session, staff was directed not to treat wind turbine noise as tonal (
[9], p. 9). It is possible the reason for this, could have been that according to the government noise measurement protocol, a 5 dBA penalty would have to be applied to noise measurements in the case of tonal or cyclical noise emissions, in which case a turbine might have been found non-compliant with regulations.


Notes from staff in summary reports of Incident Reports also indicated that staff recommendations to middle and upper management to issue orders for
noise abatement or other actions were ignored (
[10], p. 12). It appears that the process of filing wind turbine Incident Reports and its purpose for addressing concerns about effects on health and safety may have resulted in more reports than expected and may have been dissonant with stated
government policy objectives to promote “green” energy.

Read the full article, here.

 

Cut red tape, enforce wind turbine noise rules: WCO to Ford government

Ontario rural residents caught on a ‘hamster wheel’ of emails and phone calls to government, and endless testing for wind turbine noise — but nothing ever gets done

February 18, 2019

One of the cost-cutting initiatives of the now eight-month-old Ontario government is the “Red Tape Reduction” plan, spearheaded by Government and Consumer Services Minister Todd Smith.

Last week, Wind Concerns Ontario wrote to Minister Smith (who is also the MPP for Prince Edward County where citizens have been fighting wind power projects for over 10 years) to suggest that reviewing to wind turbine noise compliance protocol and actually enforcing Ontario’s noise regulations could go a long way to cutting “red tape.”

“The Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise is a costly and ineffective process,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter that accompanied a box of printouts of noise complaints and Master Incident Report summaries that are government records collected since 2006. “Rather than requiring the project operators to address complaints to the satisfaction of local residents, the focus of enforcement has shifted to proving compliance with audible noise levels using this protocol. While the original Ministry compliance actions were focused on the actual complaints about the project, the new compliance process has no direct connection to the complaints registered with the Ministry about the turbine operations.”

“That is complex and costly for both the government and the power operators,” Wilson said.

This process is incredibly problematic, Wind Concerns Ontario asserts: staff time is being used to receive and respond to complaints coming in to the Ministry via its complaints tracking process (the Spills Action Centre and District Offices), staff is involved in liaising with wind power operators over the audit process, and now, an enormous backlog of long overdue audit reports is also being dealt with by staff. And meanwhile, complaints about the adverse effects created by wind turbine projects are not being resolved.

“This is the very definition of inefficiency,” Wilson said.

In one example provided to the MInister, a family in the Windsor area has been complaining about wind turbine noise and adverse health effects for more than eight years. According to documents received via Freedom of Information request, in one year the family had more than 50 interactions with government staff, staff with staff, and staff with the power operator. Ministry staff made two site visits with no action taken. Meanwhile, one member of the family visited the family’s doctor multiple times and underwent diagnostic testing including MRIs and acoustic testing, all of which place a burden on Ontario’s healthcare system.

“The fact is, the government and the power operators are relying on this protocol instead of listening to resident’s actual complaints, some of which clearly indicate the presence of other than audible noise. These complaints need to be addressed, the noise emissions need to stop, and the enormous cost to the people of Ontario can be identified,” said Wilson.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Nation Rise wind power project not in the “public interest” –petition launched

Rushed approval, outdated noise assessment and significant environmental risks to power project spur community to file a petition

February 8, 2019

The community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont have launched a petition for their MPP Jim McDonell to take to the Ontario Legislature within days. The petition says the 100-megawatt wind power project is not “in the public interest” and its Renewable Energy Approval should be revoked.

The community group has also filed a direct appeal with the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Why?

Nation Rise means more cost added everyone’s electricity bills.
It was approved using outdated and flawed noise assessment protocols.
It will expose hundreds of people to wind turbine noise emissions.
There are very serious environmental concerns with the project.
And,
its approval was rushed through before the election by the Wynne government, without adequate assessments.
Parker Gallant says the power from this project will be like a “fly on the flank of an elephant” — we don’t need to pay the $450 million for this power plant. Profits from the wind power project will go to interests in Portugal, the U.S., and China.
Let’s stop this thing.
Please sign the attached petition and mail it to their MPP Jim McDonell, as soon as you can. Today, if possible.
Let’s have no more personal and environmental damage done to us all by industrial wind turbines.
Thank you
Jane Wilson
President
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
P.S. If you can help further by printing this off or emailing it to your network of friends and family, please do.

Wind company ‘gag’ orders hide the truth

 

In a recent article by the Anderson County Review, the conclusion on the non-disclosure clauses or “gag” clauses in wind turbine leases (property owners lease their land to wind power developers for terms of 20 years and more) was that the wind power corporations want silence from the leaseholders because, as the writer says, “If you control the smoke, there is no evidence of a fire.”

Leaseholders or “lessors” as they are called in the contracts, are prevented from revealing or discussing anything to do with the turbine operations on their land for the term of the lease, and that includes noise, flashing lights, the results of any noise testing — everything.

In Ontario, this came up a few years ago over the question of the disturbed water wells in North Kent. The landowners with turbines were probably affected too if vibrations from construction and operation was causing sediment to enter and clog wells, but they can’t say anything about it. The new leader of Water Wells First said last week she “knows there are more wells out there” beyond the 20 or so that are so badly affected they cannot be used.

The question arose, is this an obstacle to public health surveillance? The answer was that individual citizens would have to spend money taking the multi-billion-dollar wind corporations to court to establish that.

Here is the Anderson County Review article:

The wind may blow free, but the use of gag orders in lease agreements and easements that force property owners to keep their mouths shut about the realities they endure as sites for those giant wind turbines makes information flow anything but.

That’s critical in this fat cat, tax-credit fueled industry which, more and more, depends on secrecy as much as it does a steady breeze. Wind farm developers like to point to thousands of lease holders at projects across the country and how few complaints they have about their gigantic neighbors, but they never mention the source of all that satisfaction – prosecution and financial ruination due to gag clauses in those signed leases and easement agreements. Indeed, where you can keep control of the smoke, there’s no evidence of a fire.
Keeping tight control of information and particularly criticism from eye-witnesses is allowing wind companies like those moving against targets in Linn and Neosho counties and other rural communities in Kansas to go about their business without interference from public regulatory authorities and other outsiders who want to chronicle precisely how much damage is being done by wind turbines. Silenced victims suffer for their property, their environment and their own health. But the gag orders that bind those lease holders are clear: Speak up, particularly to the media, and not only will your lease payments disappear but we’ll sue you – and we’ll still have a 55-story tall tower on your land which you can’t stop us from operating.
Perhaps the most damning casualty of this secrecy is in the kibosh it has put to extended research on Wind Turbine Syndrome, a health condition identified among many people living near wind turbines and believed to be caused by light flicker from the moving blades, fluctuations in air pressure as those blades move past their base tower and low-frequency noise they produce. In her book “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A report on a natural experiment,” Dr. Nina Pierpont conducted extensive clinical interviews with 10 families living near wind farm turbines both in the U.S. and abroad. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine-trained pediatrician discovered a striking uniformity of complaints from these families – migraine, motion sickness, vertigo, noise and visual and gastrointestinal sensitivity, and anxiety. Between the time of her interviews and the final publication of the book, nine of the ten families had fled their homes for residences away from wind farms, and a 10th who couldn’t afford to move did extensive renovations to their house in an attempt to defeat the pressure and frequency issues, and had reduced air flow inside the home to the point it was now hard to heat.
A full-on epidemiological study however will probably never be done – one that correlates the common symptoms Pierpont identified and possible causes like setback from a turbine and what aspects of exposure to measure – because the bulk of the study subjects are all gagged.
“Better Plan Wisconsin” is a wind farm opposition organization in the Badger State which got hold of a wind farm lease from a farmer who’d had enough. The story is nearly identical state to state and lease to lease. Landowners who sign leases or easements can’t discuss noise, vibration, shadow flicker or any disruptions the turbines might cause to their properties. The gag orders stop all discussion regarding the terms of the lease, or the construction or operation of the turbines, as well as speaking to reporters or to anyone in the media or issuing statements or press releases without the written permission of the wind company. Then there’s this jewel:
“This section shall survive the termination of expiration of this lease,” meaning the gag order survives forever, even after the lease is terminated. Under the threat of litigation, you are gagged for life.
Still, impoverished county leaders and farmers embrace the promise of lease payments and payments in lieu of taxes (Kansas wind farms are exempt from property taxes, unlike other power plants), ignoring the deafening silence coming from those signed to the lease agreements.
Yes, silence is golden. That’s just how the wind companies want it.
– Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.