“High probability” of serious health effects from wind turbine noise emissions, say researchers

Government and public health authorities have failed to protect health, say researchers in a new paper published in Environmental Disease journal

 

Home in Huron County surrounded by turbines [Photo Gary Moon for WCO]
October 24, 2021

Wind power developers and their government supporters have long claimed that there is “no proof” of a link between wind turbine noise emissions and poor health. Yet concerns persist around the world, and there are many people who claim to have had their lives and health adversely affected by being forced to live near the wind power generators.

A new research paper published last week in the Environmental Disease journal concludes that “exposure to IWTs [industrial wind turbines] is associated with an increased risk of AHEs [Adverse Health Effects]. The analysis concludes that living or working near IWTs can result in AHEs in both people and animals.”

The paper addresses the fact that despite many thousands of complaints about noise and health effects around the world, research as yet to conclude a causal relationship between wind turbine noise and poor health. The authors employ a series of criteria developed by famed epidemiologist and statistician Sir Austin Bradford Hill in order to answer that question.

The result? The criteria for establishing a cause and effect relationship were met and the conclusion can be made that “exposure to IWTs is associated with an increased risk” of adverse health effects.

The authors cite studies from all around the world, including Shepherd in New Zealand, the Bridgewater study in Australian and numerous others, as well as papers produced by Wind Concerns Ontario on noise complaints filed with the Ontario government. One study was completed by two acoustics experts who became ill themselves while studying the noise emissions from a wind power project in the United States.

Most noise studies do not accurately measure wind turbine noise

“The vast majority of studies of sound from wind turbines do not accurately measure the presence of LFN [low frequency noise] or infrasound,” the authors said. “This failure of public health authorities and governments to monitor the impact of LFN and infrasound on exposed individuals impedes the proper interpretation of results and is not consistent with the WHO [World Health Organization] report “Guidelines for Community Noise’ that states: ‘When prominent low-frequency components are present, noise measures based on A-weighting are inappropriate’.”

A failure of government and public health authorities

The authors say with the “growing weight of evidence” and the “rapid proliferation of IWT installations globally” it is time for governments to act to protect public health.

“Preventive action should be taken and policies implemented that are more cautiously protective of public health, safety and welfare,” the authors conclude.

“More stringent regulation is needed to recognize, monitor, analyze, and document effects on the health of local residents and animals.”

More effective and precautionary setback distances should also be employed.

In Ontario, the regulations governing the approval and monitoring of industrial-scale wind turbines has not changed since 2009, and many aspects of the regulations still in force today were dictated to previous governments by the wind power lobby, including setback distances.

A statement by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health published in 2010 also has not been revised (though an update was developed in 2014 but never published). It continues to be used by Ontario medical officers of health as “proof” that there is no link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects, despite thousands of records of complaints held by the environment ministry.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

Citizen noise complaints spur public health investigation at Nation Rise

Taking matters into their own hands: a North Stormont resident measures turbine noise above regulated levels [Submitted photo]
October 8, 2021

People living in the Finch-Berwick-Crysler areas of North Stormont began filing complaints about noise from the wind turbines in the 29-turbine Nation Rise power project well before it was commissioned in July.

As the turbines were being tested and run intermittently, there were complaints about noise, sound pressure and vibration, and reports of headache, feelings of pressure in the head and chest, and sleepless, fitful nights.

A resident living near Crysler wrote to Wind Concerns Ontario in March with this report:

Today I woke up at 5 am and got out of bed. Soon after I started to feel  nauseous and dizzy. I became hot and sweaty and felt so unwell that I had to lie down on the floor for 15 minutes. I got up then felt chilled and had pressure in my chest.  I was able to go back to bed and woke up a few hours later. I felt better and noticed 5 of the 6 turbines around my home were now not turning.

He added that when he left his home for a period of time, all his symptoms vanished. He is now in the care of a cardiologist.

Yesterday, a local newspaper reported that the Ontario government has launched an investigation into the noise complaints and reports of adverse health effects at Nation Rise.

This is a hopeful sign but if Ontario continues to use its outdated and ineffective noise measurement protocol, it will not be serving the interests of residents, or solving the problem.

As we have documented for the government many times, the entire regulatory process for wind turbines needs to be revised, and soon.

In the meantime, we encourage people to keep filing complaints, and to report adverse health effects to their physician and local health unit.

To report wind turbine noise, or any other effect thought to be connected to turbine operations, please call 1-866-MOE-TIPS or use the online reporting tool, here: Report Pollution | Ontario.ca (gov.on.ca)

 

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

 

Latest wind turbine fail raises questions about Ontario regulations, safety

SPLAT! Catastrophic failure of turbine at Bow Lake Photo: Sault Online)

September 2, 2021

The failure of a wind turbine at the Bow Lake wind power facility near Sault Ste. Marie is raising questions about safety around the giant industrial structures and current Ontario regulations.

The collapse of the Bow Lake turbine is being investigated by the power facility operator, BluEarth Renewables, and there were no injuries associated with the event. However, as can be seen from the photo of the debris field, it is worth questioning what might have happened if the collapse had occurred on a farm property in southern Ontario.

Interviewed for the story in Sault Online , engineer Bill Palmer said “this incident is the 10th wind turbine failure in Ontario that has put the blades (and in this case all three of the 50 metre long blades for the failed turbine) onto the ground… this is the second collapse of a very similar GE wind turbine and the 6th case in Ontario in which GE turbines have put blades on the ground”.

Palmer has published numerous academic papers and appeared at international conferences on wind turbines and health and safety. He noted that his personal experience with a turbine failure showed that debris was flung more than 500 metres.

The Ontario regulation for setback between a wind turbine and a roadway or right of way is currently blade length plus 10 metres. In the case of the Nation Rise power project for example, that would be 79 metres or just 259 feet.

Just two months ago, a turbine failed in Southgate, just west of Toronto. The roadway nearby was closed for a week. No conclusions of the investigation into the event have been published to date.

“People who have never seen an actual modern wind turbine and who are familiar only with images from the wind power developers’ lobby group may not understand that these are industrial structures,” says Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario. “We are calling for an update to Ontario’s regulations for these power generators, for both safety and health. The current regulations are unchanged from 2009 and the McGuinty government, despite the fact turbines are growing more massive every year.

With the City of Ottawa calling for the installation of wind turbines as part of a Net Zero emissions strategy, more turbines could be on the way for Ontario.

“Government needs to act, now,” Wilson says.

Source: Wm Palmer PEng, published in Sault Online

 

The Green Energy Act is not gone

As long as old regulations for wind turbine noise and setbacks remain unchanged in Ontario, anger is not going anywhere

Why people are still angry: noise complaints and other problems still not dealt with in Ontario [Photo: D. Larsen for WCO]
September 1, 2021

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is reported to have said of citizens objecting to wind power projects in 2009: “They can’t stay mad forever”.

But, it seems they can.

Writer Tom Van Dusen explores this in the August 24 edition of Ontario Farmer and asks, why, when the Nation Rise power project has been approved and is now operating, after lost citizen appeals and even a court case, is the opposition to the project just as strong?

Why aren’t people just accepting of the 29 giant turbines, and getting on with their lives?

Why indeed?

Appeal process was a sham

For one thing, there is the sense of injustice about it all. Almost every single wind power project was appealed, before 2009 to the Ontario Municipal Board and after, when the Green Energy Act prescribed an appeal process before the Environmental Review Tribunal. Legal writers have described the task of appeal as almost impossible to win, the way the rules were set up. Instead of power developers having to prove there would be no harm, citizens, with limited time and resources, had to prove there would be.

Birds killed? Sure, Ontario said, but turbines would have to kill so many that entire species would be wiped out. Impossible. (Except when it came to turtles…)

A recent academic paper showed that “the people were not wrong” in their concerns about the dangers to people and the environment that led them to take action. Many of the risks they foresaw in the power development proposals have actually become reality.

Among those, noise is paramount. The Ontario government now has about 7,000 formal complaint records called incident Reports dating back to 2006. There appears to be no process in which these records are collected and submitted to the environment ministry for review, analysis and action. They stay in the District Offices until asked for (which we do, every year.) There are families in Ontario who have been complaining about noise for five years and more—there is no effective response.

The Green Energy Act is not gone

The Green Energy Act may have been repealed in Ontario but the Regulation that governs noise limits and setbacks, Regulation 359/09, still exists, unchanged from 2009.

The Renewable Energy Approval process is likewise unchanged; if there were to be another rush for wind power (like the City of Ottawa is proposing as “local” power), the process will not save anyone from being invaded by huge turbines that will make noise, produce vibration and sound pressure, and will affect wildlife.

Disturbed water wells are another concern: dozens of families in North Kent are awaiting the results of a public health investigation into why their wells, some operating for decades without problems, suddenly stopped working after construction began on a wind power project.

Developers claim that griping “non-participating” landowners are just jealous of the lease fees. It’s true that it is tough when they see leaseholders driving around in new trucks, said one Nation Rise resident. But the reason it’s tough is because their actions left other property owners with homes that have lost value, and are perhaps not even sellable.

Opposition to wind turbine projects continues around the world, and is growing in the U.S. where some states (New York) are actually forcing through legislation to steamroll over local opposition. And there is opposition, with key states being Illinois, Michigan, New York and Vermont, to name a few.

Mr. McGuinty was wrong: we CAN stay mad forever…and we will until there is justice for the unwilling neighbours of industrial wind power projects.

 

Jane Wilson

President

Wind Concerns Ontario

What needs to happen:

  • REVISE Regulation 359/09 with new setback distances and noise limits

  • Revise Renewable Energy Approval process to reflect reality of wind turbine noise emissions

  • Revise and update 2010 Chief Medical Officer of Health statement on wind turbine noise and health

 

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And Twitter @windconcernsONT

 

A living hell: one family’s wind turbine noise story

Brookfield Comber, seen October 2020 (supplied photo)

Just move—or maybe get tubes in your ears, family told by government officers

April 23, 2021

Among the desperate complaint documents provided to us following a request for Ontario wind turbine noise complaint records under Freedom of Information legislation is correspondence from one family that lives inside the Brookfield Comber project.

On the advice of their lawyer, they now file reports of excessive noise and adverse effects once a month, and they keep a daily log.

For the month of April 2018, this was their record:

  • 24 days the noise level was high pitched to unbearable high pitched
  • 4 days were medium pitched
  • 2 days were low and bearable

They concluded their report that month with “[redacted] noise inside your head 24/7 whenever the turbines are running … trying to live a normal life in your own home is not possible.” The described the noise on one complaint as being like “a dentist’s drill.”

TWO DAYS of the month were “bearable.” Just two.

May that year was a slightly better month for the family. Slightly.

The report:

  • 25 days the noise levels inside our home were high pitched to unbearable high pitched sound
  • 2 days were medium pitched
  • 4 were low bearable days.

Did they get any help from the power operator or the environment ministry? Here’s what the record says, in an email dated June, 2018:

“Following a letter we wrote to Mr Glenn Murray [then Minister of environment], we have been dealing with them [the then MOECC] concerning the Wind Turbine Infrasound we have been experiencing inside our home since 2012. …. After lengthy conversations, with two members of that office [Windsor] we were told our symptoms were that of infrasound but because the Ministry of Health does not consider that a health problems their hands were tied. Since then and after an Officer attended our home on January 19, 2018 and suggested perhaps we just just move, or get tubes in our ears to ease the pressure, they have now refused to acknowledge our monthly reports on the noise levels we are experiencing.”

FACT: the Renewable Energy Approvals granted to wind power projects in Ontario require that the project operators identify and resolve the cause for each complaint about emissions from their project.

FACT: It is beyond the scope of Ontario Environmental Officers to be telling people what surgical procedures to have.

FACT: It is the job of the Environmental Officers to receive and record complaints received from Ontario citizens about wind turbines.

Wind turbine noise reports missing

The family has since told Wind Concerns Ontario that in 2018, they filed a total of 26 reports of excessive noise/vibration/pressure; in answer to our Freedom of Information request, we received NINE.

This system is beyond broken, it was badly set up and a sham to begin with.

Ontario is dealing with the worst of the pandemic right now to be sure, but steps must be taken to fix this, and Ontario’s environment officers must do their jobs.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Don’t stop calling: to report wind turbine noise, effects on water wells, harm to wildlife, adverse health effects, call

1-866-MOE-TIPS. And be sure to get an Incident Report number.

For more on the 2018 complaint record documents, read our report: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL

To email the environment ministry using their standard form, go to: Government of Ontario

Reality bites in North Stormont, Ontario: what a wind “farm” really looks like

Turbines and transformer substation near Crysler. Industrial use of the land. (Submitted photo)

April 18, 2021

Reality is biting hard in North Stormont in Eastern Ontario as residents who didn’t get involved in the multi-year fight to halt the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project are now getting to see what a wind “farm” really looks like.

It is plainly an industrial use of the land.

The North Stormont turbines—29 of them—are among the largest in North America.

Here’s what the developer told people the turbines would look like, based on a photo from its nearby South Branch project. You have to give them credit at least for not proffering photos of a single turbine with cows grazing around the base, as some other developers do.

EDPR photo

The photo from the Crysler area depicts a partially constructed acoustic barrier around the transformer substation—it should not be possible to see the equipment, but you can.

The farmland in the Nation Rise project area is Class 2 with some areas of Class 1.

Construction activity continues this week as EDPR races toward its June Commercial Operation Date, as required in its contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). There are no details as to where construction activities will be taking place.

Anyone experiencing sound or noise that seems to be excessive and is causing adverse effect should contact the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) via the 24-7 Spills Action Centre line at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number and describe any effects you are experiencing.

 

 

 

Wind turbine noise complaints unheeded in Ontario

Complaint process for wind turbine noise inherited by the Ford government not effective

April 12, 2021

Wind Concerns Ontario has just released its latest report on how the Ontario government has responded to citizen complaints about excessive wind turbine noise from grid-scale wind power projects.

Warning: the contents of this report can make for difficult reading.

The excerpts of comments from people calling into the 24/7 Spills Action Centre telephone line, or sending emails to their local District Office of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks are an alarming demonstration of the desperation felt by families forced with the wind turbine noise—some of them, for many years.

“We ache all over and can hardly function we are so tired. Please tell us what to do. Please respond.”

“Noise described as a ‘whooing’ sound, both heard and felt.”

“This continues to be horrendous.”

“Caller reports a pulsing roar.”

“This is the 65th time they have called.”

“We can’t go on like this.”

Polluted acoustic environment

One complaint documented was from a technician hired to do monitoring of bat populations near Bow Lake, who questioned whether he/she could continue the work due to the “acoustic pollution” from the wind turbines. The wind turbines were “generating unacceptably intrusive and potentially dangerous noise emissions into the natural environment,” the person reported. This is a “polluted acoustic environment.”

This report is based on Incident Reports created in 2018, received as the result of a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. The request was filed in January 2019; we received almost 4,000 pages of documents this past March. The report is fourth in a series, examining ministry response back to 2006.

It’s not working

The overarching conclusion from examining the complaint records as a whole is that Ontario’s complaint monitoring process, which the current government inherited from previous administrations, is not working. Key findings:

  • Complaints about wind power projects are part of the process government promised would ensure protection of health and safety. Robust enforcement of the regulations in response to these complaints will fulfill that responsibility.
  • In total, almost 6,000 files of complaints about wind turbine noise, vibration and sound pressure have been released to Wind Concerns by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • 39 percent of complaints in 2018 noted adverse health effects.
  • The records show that complaints do not result in real action by the project operators, despite requirements of approvals for the project.
  • The process to accept and record citizen complaints is inconsistent, and information gathered is incomplete.
  • There appears to be no ministry-wide evaluation and review process for citizen complaints about environmental noise produced by wind turbines.
  • The report concludes with recommendations on how the complaint handling process could be improved as an enforcement tool, and could provide opportunities to act on other issues such as electricity costs.

 

Read the report here: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Wind turbine noise emissions listed among concerns for modernization of radiation emitting devices legislation

March 26, 2021

Health Canada released an update today on progress toward “modernization” of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act or REDA.

A consultation process was held last year in which the public and stakeholders could submit opinions and recommendations. Wind Concerns Ontario submitted a document which gave an overview of wind turbine proliferation in Ontario, and resulting complaints about noise and vibration.

Health Canada received 20 submissions from a variety of participants including interest groups and professional associations.

“Although many of the special interest groups and individuals expressed general support for strengthening the provisions of REDA,” Health Canada said,  “concerns were raised in relation to the application of REDA to address noise emissions from wind turbines. Respondents expressed a desire to ensure that the provisions of REDA, specifically the general prohibition and notification requirements, apply to wind turbines as well as other products that emit tonal infrasound.”

Wind Concerns Ontario referred to numerous federal documents including the Health Canada wind turbines and noise study published in 2014 and the 2015 Council of Canadian Academies report, which both acknowledged problems with wind turbine noise emissions. Current protocols for monitoring noise from the turbines do not capture the full range of emissions, the Council noted.

Wind Concerns Ontario said:

There are processes in place for the people of Canada to report adverse reactions or adverse effects from the use of medications and medical devices, and to report problems with machinery or other equipment that pose a risk to health. In the case of wind turbines in Ontario, there have been thousands of reports of problems with exposure to wind turbine noise emissions.

The REDA must be employed to halt the risk to human health.

This is particularly important now as well, as the federal government seeks to encourage an expansion in development of renewable energy, which may mean the planning and construction of more wind power facilities. …

It has been a heartbreaking and frustrating exercise reading reports on wind turbine noise emissions and attendant health impacts filed by the people of Ontario who thought their government would really protect them.

Health Canada says the comments are under review and may result in some revisions to the proposed legislation.

See the Health Canada update here: Modernization of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act (REDA) 2020 Consultation – Summary of Results – Canada.ca

See the Wind Concerns Ontario document here: Comment to Health Canada REDA-September 10-2

Suncor to remove question from wind turbine noise complaint record

March 19, 2021

Wind Concerns Ontario received the news today that the Ministry of Environment, Parks and Conservation (MECP) contacted Suncor, the operator of the Adelaide Wind Farm regarding our concerns about an internal document.

The document, turned over to us in a batch of files requested under Freedom of Information legislation, appears to be an internal record for noise complaints received by Suncor about the wind power facility turbines. The section of the form asked the staff member receiving the complaint to identify whether the person complaining was a “member of a larger stakeholder group.”

WCO was concerned that this question is an invasion of privacy and could be used to intimidate people wanting to report adverse effects.

Suncor has been contacted by the MECP. Suncor also responded to an email sent directly by WCO and said they will review and revise the form.

The letter from the MECP:

I had forwarded you concerns on to the London Office of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks. They in turn reached out to Suncor to follow up.

Based on your concerns I believe Suncor has made changes to the wording of their questionnaire and shared that with you.

Thank you

Mark Dunn

Director, Divisional Compliance Branch (DCB)

Drinking Water, Environmental Compliance Division

Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks

It is the right of any Ontario citizen to report noise, vibration, sensation, disturbance to water wells or any other effect believed to be associated with the operation of wind turbines. Call the Spills Action Centre at 1-866-MOE-TIPS, and be sure to get an Incident Report number. Keep a record of your call.

 

Ontario Green Energy Act showed bias toward wind power developers: new research paper

[Shutterstock image]

From failed appeals before a powerless quasi-judicial tribunal, to unanswered letters to government and a rigged consultation process, authors of a new paper demonstrate that legally, the fix was in via Ontario’s biased Green Energy Act. What will government do now?

January 9, 2021

A new paper has been published by several Ontario authors that paints a grim picture of the province’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act, passed in 2009 by the McGuinty government in order to quash any opposition for its renewable energy plans.

“Access to Justice: Recommended Reforms to the Ontario Justice System Using the Green Energy Act as an Example” was researched and written by three residents of Prince Edward County, where multiple wind power projects were proposed, and where the community spent more than a million dollars to protect the environment from industrialization by grid-scale wind power projects.

After the act was passed, wind power projects in Ontario were “rapidly approved by the government across rural areas” say the authors, despite the many environmental and health concerns raised. Legal appeals were filed, with few successes. Following the commencement of the projects’  power generation operations, thousands of complaints were reported to the Ontario government related to noise, adverse health effects, shadow flicker or strobe effect, killing of wildlife, and disturbance of people’s water supply. The authors refer here to Wind Concerns Ontario’s own reports on citizen complaints.

Following a complex review of the process and the aftermath, authors Alan Whiteley*, Anne Dumbrille and John Hirsch conclude that  there was “legislative bias in policy and consultation that reduced the ability of the public to object to the policy” and “administrative bias, where decisions are perceived to favour industry over citizens.”

The authors make a series of recommendations in the interest of preventing such damaging policy and legislation from occurring again, but also note that the various governments post-Green Energy Act failed to respond to written expressions of concern.

“Are letters from citizens received by senior officials?” they ask. “Are they read and seriously considered?” Worse, are senior officials actively “discouraged from responding to letters on controversial topics?”

(Our experience many times over is that when responses are received at all, they often come from staff writers on the correspondence unit, employing boilerplate answers to questions.)

Although the goal of the Green Energy Act may have been to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment, the authors say, the result was a reduction in access to justice and limited citizen rights.

What can be done to change that?

Read the paper here: (3) (PDF) Access to Justice: Recommended Reforms to the Ontario Justice System Using the Green Energy Act as an Example (researchgate.net)

 

 

*lawyer Alan Whiteley died in September 2020.