FAIL: Ontario’s wind turbine noise monitoring process

New information reveals audits of Ontario wind power projects still not complete after years in review

September 30, 2019

When the Ontario government under premier Dalton McGuinty introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act in 2009, the premier promised that regulations for setbacks between the industrial-scale wind turbines and Ontario residents’ homes would be based on science, for health and safety.

“If you have concerns [about health and safety],” he said, “ we must find a way to address those.”[1]

So, promises of protection were made to the people of rural Ontario, who were without recourse as their quiet communities were transformed into power generation facilities.

But there was little or no protection.

Information provided to Wind Concerns Ontario by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks shows that lengthy periods, sometimes years, elapsed between the submission, review and acceptance of technical reports required to confirm that turbines were safe. The majority are still either not complete or in review.

Meanwhile, citizen complaints of excessive noise, many with reports of adverse health effects linked to sleep disturbance, continue. Thousands of complaints have been registered with the government, most without resolution.[2]

Regulations exist but checking for compliance involves comparing real noise measurements via “audits” (done by the wind power operators themselves, using acoustics contractors) against their own “modelled” or predicted noise levels.[3]

According to the information provided by Eugene Macchione, Acting Director Client Services and Permissions Branch of the environment ministry in an email dated August 9 this year, of the 49 wind power projects listed in response to our request under Freedom of Information legislation:

  • 16 are determined to be incomplete
  • 15 are still in review
  • 12 have demonstrated compliance with regulations
  • 3 are not yet due
  • 2 are non-compliant and in Noise Abatement plans, and
  • 1 was never submitted.

These figures mean that, according to the environment ministry’s list, Conservation and Parks, almost 70 percent of the audits required to assure health and safety are either not complete as submitted, are in review, not compliant, or not submitted at all.

The list is not complete and is missing 11 post-Green Energy Act projects; more projects, at least 19, are also not listed.

 

WIND POWER PROJECT AUDIT STATUS AS OF JULY 30, 2019, FROM MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION AND PARKS

Not only are the required audit reports not completed, the time elapsed between submission of the audits and conclusion of the government review is astonishing. The Conestogo wind power project began commercial operation on December 20, 2012, and is listed as still being “in review” as of July 30 for 2,058 days — that’s over five and a half years. According to noise report data provided to Wind Concerns Ontario via FOI, Conestogo has been the subject of dozens of noise complaints from nearby residents.

East Durham Wind Energy Centre began commercial operation in 2015, but after 1,087 days, it is now listed as incomplete; the project racked up almost 300 formal noise complaints in just a year and a half.

The Summerhaven power project has been operating since August 2013, and remains “in review” after more than 2,000 days, or 5.4 years.

The list provided by the ministry is not only incomplete, however, it is inaccurate: the K2 Wind power project, which is number three in Ontario for noise complaints as of 2016 (it started operation in 2015) is listed as “incomplete” when in fact, the project was found to be out of compliance with more than 80 of its 140 turbines not meeting the regulations. The project is currently under a Director’s Order to implement a noise abatement plan.[4]

Bluewater is one project that was determined to be “in compliance” (despite many noise complaints against it), but its audit report was in review for four years.

The single wind turbine owned by union Unifor is not named on the government list but was the subject of over 300 complaints by the end of 2016, with many more reported in the media. Meeting recently with environment minister Jeff Yurek, residents of Port Elgin told him that audits were never done for the turbine, in spite of hundreds of complaints, many with reports of adverse health effects. [5]

 

DAYS IN REVIEW: WIND TURBINE PROJECTS CURRENTLY DEEMED “INCOMPLETE” AS OF JULY 30, 2019

Source: Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, August 9, 2019

The new government seems to be actively demanding audits be done, and several Ontario projects are now under order to reduce noise, but a lot of people have been waiting a long time for these reviews, says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.

In April 2017, MPP Lisa Thompson asked a question in the Ontario Legislature regarding resolution of complaints about wind turbine noise emissions experienced by two families in her riding of Huron-Bruce. Then Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in the Wynne government Glen Murray assured members of the Legislature that:

The … law works. There are standards. When people call, I’m very proud of the officials. They respond quickly and they enforce the law. The law is being enforced here. If wind turbines or any other type of technology exceeds sound levels, we enforce the law. … No one should have to suffer noise or noise pollution from any source, and certainly not wind turbines in their community.[6]

“People were promised—and they are still being told by environment staff, every day—that the rules are there to protect them,” Wilson says. “But here’s the truth: the rules may be there but they’re not adequate, and they haven’t been enforced. The previous government appears to have been very protective of the wind power business.”

The Ministry has multiple options to force wind power operators to comply with regulations, including shutdown. (See Sections E1 and E3 of the Compliance Protocol). The project operators are required to post the submitted audits publicly, but there is a serious inconsistency in this. The Compliance Protocol on the ministry website appears to have been edited and is now contradictory.[7] As of September 24, 2019, the protocol (with the apparent cut-and-paste errors) reads:

The Ministry will also require that all Acoustic Audit reportsSummary [sic] documents are also acceptable but upon request, the complete audit should be made available. be posted [sic] on the project website within 10 business days of the Acoustic Audit being submitted to the Director and District Manager. The Ministry expects the owner/operator to ensure that the Acoustic Audit reports, and any updates, remain available to the public on the project website for the life of the project.

The larger issue is the fact the Compliance Protocol is flawed: it is based on audible noise and does not take into account the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines. Low-frequency inaudible emissions are implicated in many adverse health effects, but were not included in the regulations which were themselves formulated with guidance from the wind power lobby.

“While the current government seems to be committed to enforcing the noise regulations for wind power generators, there is a long way to go before the people of rural Ontario are protected,” says Wilson.

© WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Read the MECP document here: I and E Audits July 30 2019 – (Aug 9 2019) (1)

NOTE: data on noise reports filed with the Government of Ontario are only available at present for 2006–2016; requests have been made for 2017 and 2018 data, but have not been fulfilled. WCO recently applied for a second appeal with the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Office for refusal to reply to the 2017 data request.

[1] Toronto Star, February 11, 2009. “McGuinty vows to stop wind farm NIMBYs.” Available at: https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/02/11/mcguinty_vows_to_stop_windfarm_nimbys.html

[2] Wind Concerns Ontario. Response to Wind Turbine Noise Complaints, 2nd report 2015-2016, February 2018.

[3] According to the Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise two kinds of audits are required as part of their Renewable Energy Approval, and to comply with Ontario regulations. They are: E-Audits to verify the validity of the sound power levels provided by manufacturers, and used in acoustic models to determine the noise impact of a wind facility at receptor locations; and I-Audits to verify the validity of predicted sound pressure levels in Acoustic Assessment Reports, and verify compliance with applicable sound level limits at receptor locations.

 

[4] Scott Miller, CTV News London, May 27, 2019. Wind farm ordered to reduce noise. Available at: https://london.ctvnews.ca/wind-farm-ordered-to-reduce-noise-1.4438989

[5] Shoreline Beacon, September 24, 2019. Environment minister hears about Port Elgin wind turbine suffering. Available at: https://www.shorelinebeacon.com/news/local-news/environment-minister-hears-about-port-elgin-wind-turbine-suffering

[6]Hansard, Ontario Legislature, Oral Questions, Session:  41:2   Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2017

[7] Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Compliance Protocol, Section E5.1 Complete Submissions. Available at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/compliance-protocol-wind-turbine-noise

Environment minister hears stories of wind turbine noise, health impacts

The previous government did not respond to complaints, or do the testing required in its own regulations, Saugeen Shores residents say

Unifor turbine: hundreds of complaints, no resolution under the previous, pro-wind government in Ontario [Photo: Greg Schmalz]
September 25, 2019

Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, met privately with residents of Port Elgin/Saugeen Shores to discuss the hundreds of complaints filed by families there about noise emissions from the single wind turbine owned by Unifor.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau, who has long advocated for the residents and tried to resolve the problems with the Unifor turbine, was also present at a meeting, wrapped up by Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson.

Local community leader Greg Schmalz was grateful for the minister’s attention (“I had to pinch myself”) and said the government seems to understand that new regulations for wind turbine noise, including the low-frequency or inaudible noise emissions from turbines, is part of the answer.

Read this account in the Shoreline Beacon, here.

An excerpt:

Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz, founder of STOP/ Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy, said the medical harm the CAW wind turbine has caused local residents makes Port Elgin “the lab rat test case” for Ontario.

“They put a low-powered machine amongst 1,300 people living 1,000 metres (of the turbine) – you’ve got an experience that generated the highest number complaints about any wind turbine in Ontario – half which are about audible noise and the half are ‘I’m feeling sick’ complaints due to infrasound,” Schmalz said in a Sept. 24 telephone interview, adding the constant feeling of nausea by at least one local couple forced to them to sell their new Port Elgin home near the turbine.

Schmalz said after years of not so much as an email from ministry officials on turbine issue, he was “pinching myself” to believe he was actually in a room with the minister who was listening.

After the meeting Schmalz was confident they got more than lip service from Minister Yurek, who is on a turbine fact-finding tour of Ontario.

Schmalz hopes the first-hand testimonies and scientific data provided to the minister will lead to regulations prohibiting health harming ‘nauisogenic frequency range’ audio emissions that can’t be heard but are felt by the body.
“Part of the remedy, that I believe the PC government is examining, is how to create regulations that could address the measuring of very low frequency of sound inside people’s homes – the nauisogenic frequency range emissions,” Schmalz said, adding they presented the minister with their expert’s testing results and information uncovered after STOP filed a Freedom of Information request that showed the turbine was operating out of compliance with provincial rules.

Schmalz said they key message to the minister was they’ve done the science.

Noise and infrasound harms people and here’s the people that were harmed,” Schmalz said, adding after 10 years of opposition to the turbine, STOP wants to end the endless cycle of noise complaints to the ministry about the UNIFOR turbine and help finding a solution.

Provincial officials made a written commitment for annual emission testing of the UNIFOR turbine when it began operating in 2013, but that testing was not done.

Private testing by STOP and a Freedom of Information filing found the turbine had been operating out of compliance, and last spring a noise abatement plan, including reducing output to 300Kw from 500Kw, showed it was in compliance under those conditions.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau revealed details of the meeting after-the-fact, saying the minister wanted no advance notice to prevent “some big splashy thing where a lot of people – no offense media – show up,” Charbonneau said , adding the minister wanted the affected people to be the story, not his visit.

Charbonneau said two or three years ago, the very notion that the minister would come and speak to the affected people was impossible, so “just the very gesture means a lot to me and those folks who had a chance to speak to him the other say,” Charbonneau said after the Sept 23 council meeting.

Charbonneau said the minister listened, but did not say anything that would advance the issue.

“I hope and expect the government will make some decisions based on what they are hearing from the people,” on the minister’s fact-finding tour.

Charbonneau said Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, facilitated the meeting, and wrapped up the Sept. 19 meeting asking Minister Yurek to comment on what he’d heard.

 

Wind Concerns Ontario reminds everyone living inside wind power projects to continue to file noise reports with the ministry by calling a local office or the “Spills Line” at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number, and keep a record of the call.

More protective regulation needed for wind turbines: NY health official

Stapleton to lead state health officials group 

Daniel Stapleton of Niagara County: managing risk is my job [Photo: Niagara Gazette]

September 17, 2019

Last week, Senator Robert Ortt of New York State, hosted a public health forum in Williamsville, NY. Many speakers attended including acoustician Robert Rand, audiology professor Jerry Punch, and others.

The Public Health Director for Niagara County, Daniel Stapleton, was one of the featured speakers. Starting out with the grave pronouncement, “I don’t call them wind ‘farms,’ I call them industrial wind turbines,” Stapleton said it is his job to manage risks to health in his jurisdiction.

He pointed out that sleep disturbance is an acknowledged and serious risk to health, and leads to various chronic diseases. He linked wind turbine noise emissions to sleep disturbance (which is not the same as sleep deprivation) and the development of chronic disease.

He said that he, and many fellow public health officials are so concerned about wind turbine noise emissions and the lack of appropriate regulation, that he, and 58 other officials will be issuing a statement on the need for stronger regulation governing wind turbines.

In Ontario, Canada, wind turbine noise regulations were drafted by the government under Premier Dalton McGuinty whose government took many actions to promote wind power development; the regulations, including property setbacks, were developed in consultation with the wind power industry.

They have not been updated.

Ontario received more than 4,500 reports of excessive noise from wind turbines, many with reports of adverse health effects, between 2006 and 2016.

Wind Concerns Ontario has requested the noise reports for 2017 and 2018 from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, but has notreceived any documents. The 2017 documents were the subject of an appeal after lack of response was deemed a refusal, but the request has still not been fulfilled, after more than a year.

Listen to the 12-minute Daniel Stapleton presentation here:  https://youtu.be/fWwLAxIaiYY