Ontario Environment ministry under fire over Chatham-Kent water wells

Ontario Groundwater Association warned about the effects of wind farm development over sensitive hydrogeology — but was ignored

 

Experts are lined up against the MOECC in their views on what’s happening in Chatham-Kent [Photo: Council of Canadians]

In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is a report on the status of Chatham-Kent wells which residents say have been contaminated by sediment; they link the failure of the wells to wind turbine construction.

Here are excerpts from the article in Farmers Forum  by Jeffrey Carter.

With opposition parties and others calling for an official health hazard investigation, the Ontario government finds itself under increasing scrutiny over groundwater complaints in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

According to [community group] Water Wells First, upwards of 20 wells in the former townships of Dover and Camden have been impacted. The group blames wind farm development in the area for the problem and feel they have the evidence to prove it — before and after measurements of turbidity specific to the North Kent Wind project led by Samsung Renewable Energy and Pattern Development.

It’s the type of approach supported by University of Waterloo geological engineer Maurice Dusseault who questions the parameters used by Golder and Associates, a consulting firm hired by Samsung and Pattern, to conclude turbine construction an operation could not possibly have impacted groundwater in the area.

Low-frequency vibration created by piledriving during wind turbine construction and operation may have led to turbidity issues, Dusseault said, something it appears Golder and Associates did not measure.

Under scrutiny as well is the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), which approved the wind farm developments. The MOECC has repeatedly cited the opinion of Dr. David Colby*, the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health over concerns wells may have been compromised.

{Colby] has not seen any of the results from water tests conducted by Water Wells First that show exponentially higher levels of turbidity following the construction and operation of North Kent Wind turbines.

“I don’t want to come across as unsympathetic but really there’s no connection to wind turbines,” Colby said.

The executive director of the Ontario Groundwater Association Craig Stainton gives little weight to Dr. Colby’s opinions on the matter and said the MOECC response to the well water complaints has been sorely lacking. Had the MOECC heeded warnings that wind farm development posed a threat to the groundwater of the area, the current controversy would likely have been avoided, he said.

Third-world conditions

“If the MOECC were doing what they should be doing, what they’re supposed to be doing, they would have known what these developments would do. When you get into the science, and there’s reams of it, this has been going on in Europe for years and they are years ahead of us.”

“It’s despicable. They have created third-world conditions for those homeowners.”

The aquifer in the north part of Chatham-Kent is well known to well drillers operating in the area. It is both shallow, roughly 50 to 70 feet below the soil surface, and fragile, and is located just about the Kettle Point Black Shale formation common to the area.

Stainton is concerned that even if the operation of the turbines is ended, the aquifer may have been permanently damaged.

 

TEST RESULTS

Tests paid for by Water Wells First and conducted by an independent lab showed elevated levels of particulates and heavy metals including:

  • lead
  • arsenic
  • mercury
  • uranium

 

*WCO note: Dr Colby has acted as a paid advocate for the wind power industry, and has published a paper for both the Canadian and US wind power lobby groups

 

Ontario government approves new wind farm over “vulnerable aquifer”

May 8, 2018

The Ontario government announced late in the day last Friday it had given Renewable Energy Approval (REA) to the 100-megawatt “Nation Rise” wind power project, proposed by Portugal-based EDP Renewables.

The project is proposed for North Stormont, between Ottawa and Cornwall.

Many comments were received by the government during the comment period for the power project, many of which related to the unusual geology of the area.

In fact, according to a map of the project, almost every single wind turbine will be located over what is designated as “vulnerable aquifer.”

Ontario has already seen the results of wind turbine construction over fragile hydrogeology (though denied by the government), in Chatham-Kent where water wells have been disturbed such that at least 20 families do not now have water from their own wells. Several parties are now calling for a public health investigation.

Nation Rise map: the fine pink striped area is all “vulnerable”

In the case of the Nation Rise project, the ministry responded in the notice (emphasis is ours):

Impacts to groundwater
Concerns were raised that ground-borne vibration generated during construction (pile-driving) and operation of turbines (blade rotation) may impact well water quality. These concerns were based on allegations and complaints that ground-borne vibration generated during pile driving and blade rotation of wind turbines in another area of the province has impacted well water quality. Concerns were also raised regarding the potential for other project-related activities to contaminate groundwater.

Upon review of the groundwater aspects of the application, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has decided to include a series of conditions in the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) related to groundwater and ground-borne vibration monitoring. Among these conditions is the requirement for the proponent to: not commence pile driving or blasting activities until groundwater monitoring and ground-borne vibration monitoring plans are submitted to and approved by the MOECC; implement groundwater monitoring and ground-borne vibration monitoring during various project phases; and implement a well water complaint response plan/protocol and contingency plan, as necessary.

and

Geological/geotechnical concerns and impacts as a result of natural hazards
Concerns were received regarding the viability of installing the project within leda clays and the potential impacts of the project as a result of natural hazards, such as landslides and earthquakes. Concerns were also received regarding the potential for the project to facilitate the development of a landslide.

To ensure that the project will be safely constructed in this geological setting, as a condition of the REA the proponent will not be permitted to commence construction of turbine foundations and access roads until a detailed geotechnical report has been submitted to and approved in writing by the MOECC.

One would think that, given the seriousness of these concerns, and irreversibility of any damage to the aquifer, the Ministry would have required these reports before issuing an approval.

Residents have other concerns including effects of being exposed from the noise emissions from that many wind turbines which will also be among the most powerful in the province. That concern is magnified by the fact that this new wind power project did not have to abide by Ontario’s newest set of rules for wind power generators, but was able to opt for the less strict, older guidelines. It is possible that many turbines will be out of compliance with new regulations the minute they begin operation.

If the project goes ahead.

The community is now pondering next steps, which could include an appeal of the approval.

For more information, contact Concerned Citizens of North Stormont : http://concernedcitizensofnorthstormont.ca/

or Wind Concerns Ontario at contact@windconcernsontario.ca

#MOECC

Ontario Environment Minister served with summons on violation of the Environmental Protection Act

“We had no choice” : Wind Concerns Ontario on taking legal action regarding wind turbine noise reports

NEWS RELEASE

Citizens’ group charges Environment Minister with violation of Environmental Protection Act

May 1, 2018, Toronto, 10:00 EDT – The president of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO), a volunteer-led coalition of 30 community groups and many Ontario families, has filed a private prosecution against the Honourable Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), for violating Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

Private prosecutions are important tools in empowering private citizens to hold those persons in power to account.

The EPA prohibits anyone from permitting the “discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect.” Adverse effects listed in the EPA include “an adverse effect on the health of any person,” “harm or material discomfort to any person” and “loss of enjoyment of normal use of property.” (Section 14 subsections 1 and 2)

“We don’t take this step lightly,” says Jane Wilson, WCO President and a Registered Nurse, “but with the MOECC not responding to thousands of reports of excessive noise from wind turbines, which is affecting sleep and health for Ontario families, we had no choice. These are examples of adverse effects that Minister Ballard should not be permitting to continue.”

WCO recently received MOECC documents under a Freedom of Information request that showed thousands of unresolved reports of noise, many with staff notes about sleep disturbance and health impacts. Between 2006 and 2016, there were more than 4,500 recorded reports, 35% of which contained staff notes about adverse health effects; between 2015-2016, the MOECC response rate to the reports of excessive noise was less than 7%.

“Citizens report going without sleep for days, weeks, even months,” said Wilson. “Sleep disturbance is linked to other health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Mr. Ballard, as steward of environmental protection in Ontario, is responsible for allowing this environmental noise pollution to continue.”

On April 30, 2018, Mr. Ballard was served with a summons to appear before the court on May 17, 2018.

CONTACT: Jane Wilson  president@windconcernsontario.ca

www.windconcernsontario.ca

 

Excerpts from Ontario resident wind turbine noise reports:

“You have done nothing to help myself or my family. How many times [do we have to complain] before the MOECC will do something?”

“Another week has passed with no response from you. It has been terrible here off and on the past week …continue to be unable to get a good night’s sleep.”

“When will you reopen our file and help us?”

“We just want to sleep…”

“After a week of east wind and no sleep in our house this has become intolerable … it is up to you to address this”

 

Read Wind Concerns Ontario’s reports on the MOECC pollution Incident Reports here.

The 2017 report on noise complaints 2006-2014 NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May1

The 2018 report on noise complaints 2015-2016 Second Report Noise Complaints February 2018-FINAL

 

Legal foundation for a private prosecution

Ontario Private Prosecution

 

#MOECC

Is the MOECC interpreting Environmental Tribunal rulings?

A recent letter from the Minister contains troubling language

Breaking all the rules and getting away with it, in Prince Edward County and on Amherst Island (Photo: Brian Little)

April 24, 2018

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently responded to a citizen of Prince Edward County, who wrote with concerns about German-based power developer WPD’s published construction schedule. The schedule appears to ignore stipulations put in place by the quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal to protect the endangered Blandings Turtle, which is resident in the County, and the area where nine industrial-scale wind turbines are under construction.

The letter said:

“The REA restricts construction and maintenance activities within Blanding’s Turtle habitat to between October 15 and April 30 where possible. If construction and maintenance activities between May 1 and October 14 are unavoidable, the company must ensure additional measures are in place to avoid the Blanding’s Turtle and that its actions do not cause an adverse effect to the natural environment, including the Blanding’s Turtle.

“Construction of the nine turbines began on September 18, 2017. On September 21st and, in reference to the REA, the MOECC requested that construction stop in areas of Blanding’s Turtle habitat until October 15th, unless wpd White Pines Wind Inc. was able to prove the work was unavoidable.  Construction continued in areas not identified as Blanding’s Turtle habitat per the REA.

“Construction has proceeded throughout the site as permitted by the REA. The company has proposed a construction schedule that will complete all construction in Blanding’s Turtle habitat between October 15, 2017 and April 30, 2018 with the exception of erecting one turbine which is in Blanding’s Turtle habitat.  The proponent has successfully demonstrated to the MOECC that erecting the one turbine is unavoidable.”

“Requested”? “Unavoidable”?

Not very clear language from the MOECC, whose job it is to protect the environment, not aid and abet power developers.

On Amherst Island, the same situation is playing out. There, the Environmental Review Tribunal dismissed the appeal of the approval of the “Windlectric” power project brought forward by citizens, but stipulated certain conditions to protect the endangered turtles there. (Never mind the birds, apparently they keep up with this via social media and will avoid the turbines, eventually.)

However, those conditions are being ignored, so the Protect Amherst Island community group has written to the Ministry demanding that their own rules be enforced.

Once again, Ontario citizens are fighting to protect the environment from the Ministry of the Environment.

#MOECC

To write the MOECC use the contact form here: https://www.ontario.ca/feedback/contact-us?id=26985&nid=72714

You may also use Twitter @ONenvironment and #MOECC

 

 

Information event details concerns about stray voltage and wind turbines

April 24, 2018

Report from a member of the organizing committee for a recent public information event

Saturday afternoon over ninety members of the public attended an electrifying community information session on “Understanding Stray Voltage and Industrial Wind Turbines” held at Covenant Christian School in Smithville.

The keynote speaker was Mr. David Stetzer, an electrician with 30 years of experience. Mr. Stetzer specializes in power control in industry, municipalities, and motor control centres. For the last decade, he has focused his attention on power quality analysis and troubleshooting. He is a senior member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers), has qualified as an expert witness in litigation suits in ground currents and power quality, is co-author of peer-reviewed papers in journals, as well as being a producer of the documentary ‘Beyond Coincidence: The Perils of Electrical Pollution’.

Stetzer attributes much of the dirty electricity — frequently referred to as “stray voltage” that exists in Ontario — to the overloading of the single return wire in our power supply. Eighty percent of the power that returns to the substation is “dumped” onto the ground. We do not see, hear, feel, taste or smell electromagnetic energy. Yet the proliferation of electrical pollution creates problems for people who have a biological reaction to the poor power quality that is generated by industrial wind turbines, power transmission lines and distribution lines.

Any power generator in Ontario has an obligation to transmit “clean” power. …

Read the whole report by Catherine Mitchell, here: Report – Stray Voltage Event – April 2018

Environment Commissioner dead wrong on wind turbine health impacts

A pro-wind lawyer, now Ontario’s Eco Commissioner, makes unsupported statements on the health impacts of wind power generation facilities

The ECO ignored international evidence on wind turbine noise and health, and has failed the people of Ontario

April 10, 2018

Ontario’s Eco Commissioner or ECO, environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe, long known for her support of wind power development, has issued a very unusual and interestingly timed report.

Making Connections: straight talk about electricity in Ontario is an unabashed defence of the Ontario government’s energy policy, even with its criticism that government has not done enough.

We will leave it to others to comment on the statements about electricity demand, the supply mix, and whether selling off surplus power actually costs Ontario taxpayers and electricity ratepayers, but when it comes to the issue of the health impacts of wind turbines, we have no choice but to call out the Commissioner’s (deliberate) exclusion of the facts.

While acknowledging that there are some negative impacts from wind turbine construction and operation, such as the building of access roads, and the effect of turbines on bird and bat populations, when it comes to effects on humans, the ECO relies on a lawyer’s view of the evidence, which to her, is strictly the results of appeals before the quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT.

“After extensive expert evidence, and having considered numerous studies from around the globe, the ERT has consistently dismissed appeals based on alleged harm to human health,” says the ECO. “The noise impacts of wind on people are controlled through noise limits in the REAs, and through mandatory setbacks established by the Environmental Protection Act.” (page 153)

What ECO Saxe neglects to say is that the basis on which to win an appeal on health before the ERT is virtually impossible.

One of the prime effects of exposure to the range of wind turbine noise emissions is sleep disturbance or sleep deprivation, which is widely acknowledged as a source of health problems such as high blood pressure, altered blood sugar levels, and annoyance or distress, which is in itself an adverse health impact. The situation in Ontario is that the moneyed wind power interests could afford to hire expert witnesses to support their side, while the appellants in these cases could usually only manage to have beleaguered citizens with their anecdotal reports of health effects. Any health care professionals who did venture forth to support these claims were badgered and had their professional qualifications questioned, sometimes merely on the basis of where they lived.

ECO Saxe asserts that there is extensive evidence and that there are numerous studies from around the world supporting the claim that there is no link between wind turbine noise and health effects.

This is false.

One expert witness, Dr Alun Evans, a professor emeritus, testified before the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines in Australia, and noted “A recent systematic review considered 154 published studies, eventually including 18 on the basis that they examined the association of wind turbines and human distress and were published in peer-review journals in English from 2003-2013. All found between wind turbines and human distress with levels of evidence of four and five (Bradford Hill Criteria). In addition, two of these studies showed a dose response relationship between distance from wind turbines and distress. Thus there is a consistent relationship between the proximity of turbines and human distress.”

In Ontario, Wind Concerns Ontario obtained thousands of reports from people living near wind turbines (in some cases, among them) via a request under the Freedom of Information Act process. WCO received over 4,500 records (though this number is almost certainly not complete) of complaints filed with the government since 2006.

The number of complaints is significant, but so too are staff notes in these documents. In total, explicit reference to the presence of health impacts from wind turbine noise emissions or environmental noise from the turbines was present in 35 percent of the reports we received.

We cannot help but question the political nature of this document. The ECO actually says, “the ECO strongly believes that fossil-fuelled generation, including the gas-fired generation that operates in Ontario, is more harmful to the environment than other electricity sources.” (page 150) In other words, there might be some problems but we have to accept them because the alternative is worse.

This is preposterous and flies in the face of the government’s mandate to protect both health and the environment.

Indeed, as a team of academics noted in their 2016 paper published in Nature Energy on how wind power problems were handled in Ontario, Ontario “public policy takes an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ view of [wind turbine noise and health] evidence rather than a more precautionary approach. … there is epidemiologic evidence t sustain various interpretations of wind turbine impacts on well-being.) Fast et al, Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, page 2).

One of the ECO’s goals is to ensure that the government of Ontario receives “fair, balanced and accurate information”.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has failed in that goal, and failed the people of rural Ontario who have been forced through political ideology to live in the midst of huge power plants that do produce environmental noise, and are linked to serious health impacts.

 

To contact the ECO: commissioner@eco.on.ca  or 1075 Bay Street, Suite 605, Toronto, ON M5S 2B1

To contact us: Wind Concerns Ontario contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Port Elgin residents still in a wind turbine noise experiment

Port Elgin residents continue to be lab animals as the MOECC now waits to see if an abatement plan for a wind turbine with 5 years of problems actually works [Photo: Shutterstock]

Noise abatement plan accepted, but what does it really mean?

March 19, 2018

Port Elgin residents forced to live near the single wind turbine operated by the union Unifor, which has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints since the moment it began operating, were “vindicated” recently when the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) announced that noise testing revealed the turbine was not in compliance with regulations.

See a report from CTV London reporter Scott Miller, here.

The MOECC told Unifor that as the turbine operator, they would have to put a noise abatement plan in place by today.

Wind Concerns Ontario has learned that the plan was submitted and has been approved by the Ministry. Noise testing will now continue, said MOECC District Manager Rick Chappell, to confirm compliance with regulations. The Ministry expects the new Imissions Audit or I-audit by the end of June.

Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz says the admission of non-compliance is vindication for residents who have been complaining for years, but the fight is not over. And many serious questions remain.

“If ongoing tests show non-compliance for a second time, does that result in the MOECC permanently revoking the operating certificate?” he asks. “Will resident complaints filed during the abatement period and ongoing testing be confirmed, or do they not count? And why did it take so long from report dates to release [of the information]?”

The engineering report was filed with the MOECC in January, and the MOECC did not announce the status of non-compliance until March … and then to the wrong municipality.

Documents received by Wind Concerns Ontario via Freedom of Information requests show that the MOECC received 236 reports of excessive noise up to the end of 2014, and more during the 2015-2016 time period. People complained of noise “like a helicopter” overhead, and of sleep disturbance at night, which in turn produced other health effects.

Read the report by engineering consultant firm HGC here.

#MOECC

 

 

 

 

Enercon turbine shreds in Germany

Shredded blades on Enercon turbine [Photo Gudrun Ponta/EDR]
March 12, 2018

Eder Dampf Radio in Germany is reporting a spectacular incident in which the rotor blades of an Enercon wind turbine shredded, and threw fiberglass particles over a half-kilometer.

The report follows (translated using Google Translate):

Borchen / Paderborn (Gudrun Ponta / nh). 

Two rotors of a new ENERCON E-115 wind power plant in the district of Paderborn are torn to pieces and cause extensive contamination with innumerable sharp-edged glass fiber particles.

At 7pm on March 8th, two rotors of a brand-new ENERCON E-115 wind turbine were completely torn apart – the parts flew over 500m.

Neither builder ENERCON nor operator WestfalenWind have informed the public or the police after the incident, although there was danger to their lives due to flying debris. After an Ettelner citizen informed the police, the area around the damaged wind energy plant was cordoned off on a large scale.

The barriers of the accident site reached almost to Etteln . On March 6, the wings were mounted, the system was not connected to the mains. Obviously [it] overrun and the wings could not be stopped. It is said that the wings only turned at 19 km / h when they were torn to pieces.

ENERCON / WestfalenWind play down the incident – the rotors were merely “broken off” and dropped directly to the ground, it was said in first reports – how can it be that parts have flown over 500m? It is just a lucky coincidence that no one was injured in this spectacular accident of a brand new wind energy plant in Borchen-Etteln.

This latest incident again raises concerns about safety around wind turbines, particularly where turbines are located close to highways, as in Chatham-Kent-Essex.

UPDATE: Windpower Monthly has a newer version of the story, which may be found here. The wind industry publication notes that an anti-wind power citizens’ group has posted photos of the turbine failure, and claimed debris spread 800 metres—in fact, the group said 500 metres.

#MOECC

 

Prince Edward County citizens ask Enviro Commissioner for review of White Pines environmental impact

Blandings turtles: still in danger [CBC photo]
March 12, 2018

The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (Wind Concerns Ontario community group member APPEC) and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) submitted a Joint Part IV Application to the Environmental Commissioner’s Office (ECO), regarding the White Pines wind power project.

The power project has faced numerous appeals and legal actions over the years, and has been reduced from 29 turbines to 27, and is now at nine. The community had thought that the reduced capacity would result in cancellation of the contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) but the IESO simply cut a new contract for the power developer.

Concerns about environmental impact remain, however.

“Basically, we are asking the ECO to conduct a formal review based on the concerns and evidence we have provided relating to the Blanding’s turtle, the Little brown bat and migratory birds,” says APPEC Chair Gordon Gibbins.

“It was important for us to submit the Part IV Application before going forward with any appeal to the Divisional Court.  Our Application sets this process in motion, and in fact includes almost all the same issues we had planned to raise at the ERT hearing before our appeal was dismissed,” Gibbins explains.

“The ECO has everything it needs to make a decision on whether or not to conduct a review.   We’ve been told that the ECO will forward this evidence to the MOECC and to the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) as well as make their own conclusions.”

The White Pines project has also been fraught with accusations of violations of its Renewable Energy Approval, as the power developer engaged in land clearing and road use outside of signed agreements.

For more information, go to: https://appec.wordpress.com/

#MOECC

 

 

Unifor turbine not compliant: MOECC

Noise abatement plan to be in place by March 18

Unifor turbine: Years of procrastination and failure of the regulator to regulate

March 5, 2018

Owen Sound District Manager for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Rick Chappell told West Grey Council and a packed room of citizens today that the controversial single wind turbine in Port Elgin owned and operated by Unifor, is not compliant with provincial noise regulations.

A noise abatement plan has been ordered by the Ministry and must be in place by March 18.

The Unifor turbine has resulted in hundreds of complaints of excessive noise over the years, several TV news stories, and statements from the local municipality to the effect that the MOECC is failing in its role as a regulator.

West Grey Council, which had asked Chappell to appear to answer questions about why wind turbine noise complaints were not being resolved, accepted the news, and one councilor demanded that the MOECC now personally call everyone who had filed a report, and give them the news.

Councillors remarked that the decision to test the Unifor wind turbine noise output was the result of citizen complaints; a councilor advised residents to “keep complaining.”

Wind Concerns Ontario has reports provided by the MOECC that show 236 reports were filed up to the end of 2014. In the years 2009-2014, over half of the noise reports received by the MOECC got no response.