Wynne government “let people down” on wind turbine noise

Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.

Home in Huron County. [Photo Gary Moon]
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.

“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.

In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.

Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.

In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.

No action to revise regulations

In a 27-page report based  on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.

Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.

“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.

Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.

Computer modeling, not real-life measurement

As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.

“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.

A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.

Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.

“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.

Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.

Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects

 

 

MOECC staff knows about wind turbine health effects, WCO tells Minister

Environment Minister says health concerns “bogus” — staff acknowledge health problems in official records

Home in Huron County: the Minister says claims of health effects from turbine noise are “bogus” but his staff say different [Photo Gary Moon]
Last week, following a report by Global News based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, there was a barrage of questions in Question Period at Queen’s Park on wind power projects and related issues, including reports of adverse health effects from exposure to the noise emissions from the power generators.

In response to a question from MPP Laurie Scott of Haliburton-Kawartha-Brock, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray tossed back:

This government spent a considerable amount of money hiring the leading experts and doing medical research, as did the federal government, and found out the totality of the opposition party’s claims were completely bogus and like so much, not science-based.

In fact, the “science” the Minister Murray refers to, including the Health Canada study, supports concerns about adverse health effects from wind turbine noise, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario produced a brief review in 2010 that concluded that there were significant gaps in the information available at that time (seven years ago) and that actual noise measurement was needed.

But what the Minister seems not to know, says Wind Concerns Ontario, is that his own staff are aware of people experiencing health effects from wind turbine noise, according to official staff notes included in the information received n the Freedom of Information request. That information consisted of 3,180 Incident Reports and 100 Master Incident reports; several of the Master files contain dozens of reports to the government about the turbine noise and vibration, and include staff observations.

“It is very disturbing that a Minister of the Crown could be so dismissive of the health concerns of Ontario citizens,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter to Minister Murray, sent yesterday. “While the view that there is no link between wind turbine noise emissions and any health effects may be that of the wind power development industry and its trade association, it is not supported by the Master Incident complaint records that your Ministry released to Wind Concerns Ontario via a request under Freedom of Information legislation.”

Of the 100 Master files, 59 contain specific reference to health complaints, Wilson said, chiefly loss of sleep, headache, and feelings of “pressure.” Some people reported not having slept for weeks, due to the noise.

“It is therefore completely inaccurate to say that there are no health effects from wind turbine noise in Ontario,” Wind Concerns advised the Minister.

In several records, staff noted that wind turbine noise exceeded regulations: ““Staff have attended at the complainants homes on multiple occasions … noise measurements were obtained…subjective observations were made by Provincial Officers…the conclusion of the POs were that the noise emissions from the wind turbines were causing an adverse effect contrary to S. 14 (1) of the EPA at the complainants locations…”

““…the conclusions of the Provincial Officers who conducted the inspections that the sound discharged into the natural environment by the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect…” was the staff note in another official record.

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 30 community groups and individuals and families, is asking that no new Renewable Energy Approvals be granted to wind power projects — five projects received contracts in 2016 but which do not have approval yet from the Environment Ministry.

“You have to ask why the government is treating the wind power industry and these huge corporations differently from other businesses,” Wilson says. “If this were any other product or service, with thousands of complaints, there would be a halt to exposure… instead, the Ontario government refers to the wind corporations as its ‘client’. We think the government should answer to the people of Ontario.”

 

 

Global TV News team on Ontario unresolved wind turbine noise reports

“What happens in Ontario when you report wind turbine noise?” asks Global National News reporter Shirlee Engel in a two-part special report? “Not much…”

@globalnews

Global News’ investigative team aired the two-part story last week, based on information obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change under access through Freedom of Information legislation.

The report was repeated this past weekend on Global’s news feature, Focus Ontario.

Part 1 is available here.

Part 2 is available here.

A story by Associate Producer Brian Hill is available online here.

Carla and Mike Stachura: their ‘dream home’ is now a power plant

Carla Stachura and her husband Mike thought they’d found the perfect spot to retire.

A house in rural Ontario where they run a wildlife sanctuary with lamas and a variety of birds, and planned to spend their retirement years enjoying the peace and quiet of country life.

But that dream was shattered when wind turbines began popping up near their Goderich, Ont. home. Since then, their dream has become a nightmare. The couple says they’ve been unable to sleep and exposed to prolonged periods of annoying noise. Adding to their frustration, they say the provincial government won’t lift a finger to help them, other than order more tests.

The couple purchased the property in 2003. They say it was paradise until the K2 Wind Farm, operated by Pattern Energy, started operations in the spring of 2015.

The Stachura’s complaints of government inaction are not unique. In fact, Global News has learned that Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change does not respond to the majority of complaints made by residents concerned about wind turbines.

Documents released through Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act and obtained by Global News reveal officials from the Ministry of Environment chose not to investigate or deferred responding to – meaning they did not make immediate plans to investigate – roughly 68 per cent of all noise and health complaints lodged against wind turbine operators in the province between 2006 and 2014. This represents nearly 2,200 individual complaints.

The documents also show limited resources sometimes prevented the ministry from responding to complaints.

Originally obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, the documents include a list of 3,180 complaints. They also include a 458-page collection of “master incident reports,” which the ministry has verified as authentic, detailing the ministry’s response – or lack thereof – in cases where residents complained multiple times.

The documents show that in 54 per cent of all cases – more than 1,700 individual complaints – the ministry did not investigate residents’ concerns. In another 450 cases, roughly 14 per cent of total incidents, the ministry deferred responding to complaints.

In most cases, the documents do not reveal why the ministry chose not to respond. Instead, they tend to focus on whether the wind farm was compliant with ministry standards or past efforts to resolve residents’ concerns.

“The lack of response from the ministry shows just how unprepared they were for the potential effects of putting these giant machines so close to people and their communities,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. …

Read the full article here, and see video interview with Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.

Ontario government failed to respond to wind turbine noise reports, documents show

Incident reports released under Freedom of Information show government unable or unwilling to act on noise complaints from residents living near wind power projects

Turbines near Huron County home: Ontario citizens were promised help for concerns about health, instead they got a flawed, less than responsive system

OTTAWA, May 31, 2017—

Documents recently released by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) under Freedom of Information show a deeply flawed process for responding to complaints of excessive noise levels from industrial-scale wind turbines, Wind Concerns Ontario says.

Documents released to Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups and citizens, show that almost 3,200 reports of noise complaints were made in 2006-2014. In more than half, the government took no action.

“When Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in the Green Energy Act in 2009, he promised the people of rural Ontario to address concerns about health and safety from the turbines,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson said. “But they already had multiple complaints about wind turbine noise from 2006 onward, and they were unable and even unwilling to deal with them. This is failure of a government to protect people.

“Their goal appears to be protecting the interests of power development corporations instead.”

Ontario families called the MOECC hotline to report sleep disturbance, headaches, and dizziness from the wind turbine noise emissions. Some were desperate and reported not having slept for days, even weeks at a time.

The reports show, however, that ministry staff had no protocols or guidelines to deal with noise complaints and that high-level directives blocked staff from responding. Staff were told to rely on computer noise models provided by power developers instead of actual noise measurement.

“The noise models said that the turbine noise levels were safe, and within regulations,” Wilson explains, “but complaints continued — the Ministry did nothing. The MOECC chose power developers, their ‘clients,’ over Ontario families.”

Many reports referred to vibration or “pulsing” sensations from the huge turbines, but the MOECC restricted responses to audible noise alone.

“People just gave up and stopped calling,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says. “Then, in many cases, the Ministry simply closed their files. There was no help for these people from their government.”

A revised Compliance Protocol was released by the government on April 21, but contains no substantive change to the complaint process.

Wind Concerns Ontario recommends that no more approvals or Notices To Proceed be granted for wind power projects, and that the government develop and enforce new, tougher noise standards.

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, families and individuals concerned about the effects of industrial-scale wind turbines on the environment, the economy, and human health.

Read the report on the documents, here: NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May9

 

Excerpts from MOECC Pollution Report documents, provided to Wind Concerns Ontario.

“ … noise emissions are causing an adverse effect..” Note by MOECC field officer, March, 2010

“…no resources for after-hours monitoring…” Note by MOECC staff November, 2015

[Wind turbine noise] “Sounds like a jet engine roaring” Citizen report, March, 2013

“House [is] vibrating…” Citizen report, February, 2011

“Staff have no options to address complaint” MOECC staff, November 2015

Family, young children forced from home by wind turbine noise

Weekend on the farm? Or, a visit to a power plant?

Victoria Day weekend in Canada is a time for picnics and fun with family and friends, for many people.

One set of grandparents living on a farm in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township in Huron County thought that would be fun too, and were looking forward to having their two young granddaughters come and stay for a lovely weekend in the country.

But it was not to be.

Early on the morning of the holiday Sunday, the grandmother said, “there was a horrible tonal* noise  whine and whooing that made staying on the second level of our home intolerable.”

Later on that same morning, she said, she had “severe pressure and pain” in her ear.

Then, “Our eight year old granddaughter complained of a ‘sore forehead’.” The child has complained of sore ears at times in the past while visiting her grandparents’ home, but never at any other time.

Outside that morning the family discovered, the whining and whooing noise was everywhere.

“We had to leave here [our home] with those little girls,” the grandmother said.

“We have no freedom to do as we want in our private surroundings. It makes me weep.”

The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, like so many other families forced to endure the noise and vibration from wind turbines, have reported the turbine noise and vibration to authorities on numerous occasions. They live with 11 wind turbines within two kilometres of their home, the closest of which is just over 700 metres from the house.

On the Victoria Day weekend, they filed a complaint with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change District Office, and added this statement:

“You are harming us.” 

Ontario Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray recently promised in the Legislature  that his staff were responding to such complaints and that they would ensure the rules on noise emissions would be enforced.

Ontario families who did not ask to be exposed to these noise emissions deserve to have the Ministry fulfill its mandate, and protect all citizens from harm.

The Spills Action Line for the MOECC can be reached at 1-800-268-6060 to report excessive wind turbine noise, vibration and shadow flicker. If you call during business hours, you will be referred to the local Business Office. From the website:

You must report a spill if it:

  • harms or causes material discomfort to any person
  • injures or damages property or animal life
  • impairs the quality of the natural environment air, water or land
  • causes adverse health effects
  • presents a safety risk
  • renders property, plant or animal life unfit for use
  • leads to the loss of enjoyment of the normal use of property
  • interferes with the normal conduct of business

  • Pure tones are wave forms that occur at a single frequency. Tonal noise is generated by rotating equipment at a predictable frequency relating to the rotational speed of the shaft and the number of compressor vanes, fan blades, engine pistons, gear teeth, etc.

Wind power in Ontario: expensive, unneeded, wasted

Surplus, exported power in April could have powered half of Ontario’s homes. Instead, it’s gone … and so is your money.

Ontario’s Minister of Energy claims that Ontario needs a “reliable, efficient and clean electricity system that comes from a number of sources” [sic] but the stats from this past April put the boots to any notion of wind power being “reliable” or “efficient.”

Parker Gallant and Scott Luft have both looked at the report from the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO, and found that not only was demand at an all-time low that month (the lowest since the IESO began keeping records) but also that curtailed wind power (power we pay the wind power developers for, but do not accept on the grid because it isn’t needed) was at an all-time high.

Two Auditors General have noted that wind power is produced out of phase with demand in Ontario—it seems things are just getting worse.

 

Here’s how Parker Gallant describes it on his Energy Perspectives blog:

For the month of April 2017, wind power generated and curtailed (521,056 MWh) was 1,374,873 MWh, for a cost of  approximately $182 million.

Curtailed wind in April was the highest on record since we began paying for it back in September 2013!

Here’s the fatal math:

net exports of 1.3 million MWh +

the 521,000 of curtailed wind = 18.7% of total Ontario demand.

Combined, the 1,832,176 MWh at the HOEP price of $11.14/MWh and 1.11 cents/kWh and what do you get? Enough power for more than 2.4 million average households (over 50% of all households in the province) with their average need for power at a cost of only $8.35 — for the whole month.

Curtailment of wind is getting worse, as Scott Luft documents, in a chart from his Cold Air Online blog. Curtailment has doubled in the past three years–money for power we don’t need.

 

Analyst Marc Brouillette in a report prepared for Strategic Policy Economics on the supply mix for power in Ontario, said that ” over 70% of wind generation does not benefit Ontario’s supply capability, and wind generation will not match demand in the OPO Outlook future projections as 50% of the forecasted production is expected to be surplus.” (Page 20)

Seventy percent of wind does not benefit us, and fully 50% is surplus.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government claims they are trying to get electricity bills down, but it appears they are not considering the option of cutting costs.

The contracts given out for $3.3B in new wind power in 2016 should be cancelled, as well as contracts for any projects not yet built, such as the Amherst Island project which has been dubbed “the worst place” for wind turbines because of its effect on migratory birds and other wildlife, to say nothing of a heritage Loyalist community.

Cancel the contracts, Premier Wynne.

Wind turbine infrasound can harm health, new research paper says

‘What you can’t hear, can’t hurt you’ notion shown to be false

The wind power industry, Health Canada, and the Ontario government insist that infrasound cannot be heard, and therefore it cannot hurt you.

CanWEA went so far as to pay for a study done by MIT in 2014, that concluded infrasound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds* and is therefore not a health risk.

Turns out, they are wrong.

All of them.

A paper just published by a team of German researchers, believed to be the first of its kind, documented “changes of brain activity across several regions in response to prolonged, near-threshold IS [infrasound] …”

The peer-reviewed paper, Altered cortical and subcortical connectivity due to infrasound administered near the hearing threshold – Evidence from fMRI, was published by a team of researchers led by Markus Weichenberger of the Max Plank Institute for Human Development.

“For decades,’ the research team wrote, “it has been a widely held view that IS [infrasound] frequencies are too low to be processed by the auditory system. … Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing consensus that humans are indeed receptive to IS and that exposure to low-frequency sounds can give rise to high levels of annoyance and distress.”

The authors then stated that the idea that sound needs to be perceived in order to exert effects on humans “falls short when aiming at an objective risk assessment of IS.”

The team then set out to investigate whether IS “near the hearing threshold” can affect brain activitiy and what the effects of stimulation might be.

An excerpt:

” … our results also allow us to draw some preliminary conclusions on potential long-term health effects associated with (sub-)liminal IS stimulation. It has been reported in several studies that sustained exposure to noise can lead to an increase of catecholamine- and cortisol levels [114116]. In addition, changes of bodily functions, such as blood pressure, respiration rate, EEG patterns and heart rate have also been documented in the context of exposure to below- and near-threshold IS [117118]. We therefore suggest that several of the above mentioned autonomic reactions could in fact be mediated by the activation of brain areas such as the ACC and the amygdala. While increased local connectivity in ACC and rAmyg may only reflect an initial bodily stress response towards (sub-)liminal IS, we speculate that stimulation over longer periods of time could exert a profound effect on autonomic functions and may eventually lead to the formation of symptoms such as sleep disturbances, panic attacks or depression, especially when additional risk factors, such as an increased sensibility towards noise, or strong expectations about the harmfulness of IS are present.”

And, ” Transient upregulation of these brain areas in response to below- or near threshold IS may thus reflect an initial stress response of the body, eventually promoting symptom formation as stimulation occurs repeatedly and additional risk factor[s] come into play…”

Read the entire open-access paper here.

 

Ontario Energy Minister misquotes public health info to justify green energy

190417_DM_Thibeault

Glenn Thibeault claims his energy policies saved lives. Photo: Darren MacDonald Sudbury.com

 

In a recent interview, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault spoke in defence of his government’s energy policies, which he admits have been responsible for escalating electricity bills and creating “energy poverty” in the formerly prosperous province.

The Minister claimed that his government didn’t self-promote the benefits of its policies often enough, and offered some public health figures as proof.

“When I talk about energy,” the Minister said, “we don’t [talk] about the fact we haven’t had a smog day in three years. Our air pollution hospitalizations are down by 41 per cent, deaths are down 23 per cent.”

Parker Gallant took the initiative to query the Minister’s office on the source of those dramatic figures and learned that whoever provided them to Mr. Thibeault for “talking points” had actually taken them from a report which in turn referenced another report, which had nothing whatever to do with energy and electricity generation in Ontario.

The figures actually came from a report by Toronto Public Health on air pollution in that city, Gallant says in his Energy Perspectives blog.

Here is the relevant excerpt:

These estimates include the impact of pollution originating in other parts of Ontario and the United States and represent a decrease of 23% in premature deaths and 41% in hospitalizations as compared with 2004 estimates. Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources. Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year…”

To be sure, air pollution is a major concern in public health, but for a Minister of the Crown to misappropriate figures to bolster policy in another area entirely is unacceptable, and deceitful.

We recall again the fact that two Auditors General for Ontario chastised the government for having implemented a green energy program including highly invasive wind power projects in quiet rural communities against their wishes, with no cost-benefit analysis. The truth about health benefits might have shown up, if a real independent analysis had ever been done.

 

 

Victory for turtles, environment and community in Prince Edward County

“…in the public interest … to remove from the REA turbines … in Blandings turtle habitat”

Blandings turtle: to allow “remedy” would be to allow extirpation of the endangered species

The Environmental Review Tribunal released its long awaited decision on the remedies proposed by wind power developer WPD for its White Pines project in Prince Edward County Ontario to protect the endangered Blandings turtle and Little Brown Bat.

Relevant sections of the decision:

[163] In light of all of the circumstances, based on the evidence provided and taking

into account the purposes of the EPA in support of environmental protection and

renewable energy, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to alter the Director’s

decision by amending the REA in part. The Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest

to add the Approval Holder’s proposed Condition L2 to the REA, but to alter that

condition by removing Tables 3-1 to 3-3, in the NRSI Plan. The Tribunal further finds

that it is in the public interest to remove from the REA the turbines proposed to be

accessed by the proposed upgraded secondary and tertiary municipal road segments

and by the intersections in Blanding’s turtle habitat, specifically Turbines 12, 13, 14, 15,

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

 

and

Condition J7.1. The Company shall implement the Mitigation Plan

for Operation of the White Pines Energy Project, dated July 21,

2016 prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., including:

1. Implement the monitoring and mitigation measures as

outlined in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan;

2. Adjust cut-in speed to 5.5 m/s between sunset and sunrise

from May 1 to September 30 at all turbines for the operating

life of the Project; and

3. In the event of a mortality of a bat species that is a species

at risk, successively increase the operational mitigation as

detailed in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan.

The question that remains is, with 60 percent of the project effectively removed, how can WPD meet its obligation to provide 75 percent of the power in its contract?

The entire project may have to be reformulated…it remains to be seen whether the company will opt to do that by using 4.1 MW turbines perhaps, or by finding other locations, but the company may have run out of time to do that.

The decision is here:ERT15068-White PInes

Here is a recording of lawyer Eric Gillespie’s closing remarks at the remedy hearing held in Wellington, last January. “The only remedy is to revoke [the approval]. … the result of mitigation will be to extirpate a species.”

EricGillespieClosingRemarksWhite PInes