Australian court: wind turbine noise a “plausible pathway” to disease

Court finds an established association between annoyance (used as a medical term) and some diseases that result from prolonged stress

Pathway to Disease: Australian court links wind turbine noise with possible diseases
Hamilton Spectator
Natalie McGregor
15 February 2018

In a World first, Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has declared that the “noise annoyance” caused by wind turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound “is a plausible pathway to disease”.

At the AAT hearing in Adelaide, the impacts of wind farm noise were considered by a senior Federal Court judge; the most thorough medial and scientific inquiry on the subject matter conducted in Australia to date.

The Tribunal’s findings were based on the “established association between noise annoyance and some diseases, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, possibly mediated in part by disturbed sleep and/or psychological stress/distress”.

In its summary, and with unanimous support from relevant experts, AAT found that there were numerous recorded instances of wind turbine noise exceeding 40 dB(A) — a recognised threshold for annoyance/sleep disturbance.

“Even if it is not audible, low-frequency noise and infrasound may have other effects on the human body, which are not mediated by hearing but also not fully understood,” the summary reads.

“Those effects may include motion-sickness-like symptoms, vertigo, and tinnitus -like symptoms.”

It was also established that the current method adopted by windfarms to measure noise — the dB(A) scale was not suitable for the task, because a significant proportion of sound emitted by wind turbines is in the lower frequency range, where the scale cannot accurately identify the presence of frequencies or the peaks and troughs of their occurrence.

Instead, the dB(A) scale averages out the sound levels, masking the occurrence that could be causing harmful health side-effects.

The dB(A) weighting system is the basis of every wind turbine noise guideline in operation throughout the world.

With majority support from relevant experts, the Tribunal found that the most accurate way of determining the level and type of sound present at a particular location is to measure the sound at that location.

In conclusion, AAT noted the World Health Organisation stance that there is “sufficient evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the populations exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects”.

A Moyne shire resident living next to the MacArthur windfarm outlined the health impacts she has experienced since the wind farms were established.

“Severe ear pressure and pain, it’s actually in the inner ear; head pressure and headaches; my heart goes bananas, my whole body burns, and I feel sick,” she said.

“And (the symptoms) just come back immediately when in direct proximity to low-frequency emissions, it can happen anywhere, and it’s not just mild, it’s really debilitating.”

AGL started the consultation process with the community surrounding the proposed Willatook windfarm, raising concerns from residents about the proliferation of turbines in the area.

Community members met with South West Coast MP Roma Britnell over the weekend to voice concerns.

“Really (the meeting) centred around the fact that they will be surrounded, some of them, by the wind farms,” Ms Britnell said.

“They felt that it was a cluster effect and that it was unfair, that just because the power line goes through one area, they shouldn’t have to be the ones to had to take all the load of the 220-metre from tip- two-base structures in their backyard.”

Ms Britnell expressed no strong opinion in favour or against wind energy, simply saying we need to “get it right”.

“I am all for getting the renewable energy balance right, and wind is part of the solution, but wind is not the answer where there is no ability to store it,” Ms Britnell said.

“I’m afraid I still can’t meet the demand for supply when I want to milk my cows or have my shower when the wind isn’t blowing.

“Wind is not meeting the baseload and the biggest restriction I hear from community members is the supply issue, and that’s what the government is really not addressing.”

Tony Edney, director of the water foundation — an advocacy group for properly conducted, multidisciplinary research into health problems reported by people living in the vicinity of wind turbines and other industrial uses — told the Spectator that not every windfarm would necessarily generate problems.

“The location, topography, layout and design of the installation of factors that combine with climactic conditions to produce sound generating profiles of potential harm for some receiver sites,” Mr Edney said.

“And not everyone is adversely affected by wind farm noise. It is in part a matter of individual sensitivity or propensity, think of seasickness, and how we are not impacted equally by that malaise.”

Mr Edney said it was “simply no longer possible” for the industry to say that its technology was “clean, green and completely harmless”.

“Country people deserve to know what exactly they are dealing with when talk starts up about our windfarm proposed for their district,” Mr Edney said.
Hamilton Spectator

Quebec court: municipalities must protect citizens’ water

A municipality fighting back against a corporation has won its defence of a lawsuit, and its rights to defend citizens’ water has been upheld. The Precautionary Principle must be applied. This case will be important to Chatham-Kent area residents whose wells have failed during wind turbine construction activity.

March 1

Gastem continued Restigouche Southeast for $ 1 million to have adopted a regulation prohibiting drilling within 2 km of the sources of drinking water.

Oil and gas developer Gastem sued municipality Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est for $ 1 million for adopting a regulation prohibiting all drilling within 2 km of its drinking water sources. Photo: Radio-Canada

From ICI Radio Canada

Restigouche-South-East: Gastem dismissed

 

The Superior Court dismissed the motion of Gastem, which sued the Municipality of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est for $ 1 million.

A text by Joane Bérubé with the collaboration of Sylvie Aubut and Ariane Perron-Langlois

The oil and gas exploration company claimed that the municipal by-law protecting drinking water had forced it to stop its exploration activities in the area.

In her decision, Justice Nicole Tremblay states that the by-law “is the result of serious work” and that “Restigouche must ensure the protection of watercourses in accordance with government rules”.

The judge ordered Gastem to pay Restigouche-Partie-Sud-Est $ 154,000 within 30 days of the decision.

The company will also have to pay $ 10,000 for part of the costs incurred by the Municipality to defend itself. The trial took place in September in New Carlisle, Gaspésie.

A relieved municipality

Restigouche-Part-Southeast welcomes with relief the decision of the court. For four years, the small municipality of 157 inhabitants tried to raise funds to finance his defense against Gastem. The Restigouche Solidarity campaign raised more than $ 340,000.

“Today, we raise our glass of drinking water to the health of Quebec’s water and to all those who supported us! “Said the mayor of Restigouche-Part-South-East, François Boulay.

According to Mayor Boulay, the bill for the expenses incurred by the Municipality amounts to $ 370,000.

The money that Gastem has to pay will be welcome. Should Gastem waive its recourse rights, the surpluses will be transferred to another case for drinking water in Quebec, says Mayor Boulay.

The Municipality, however, prefers to wait to hear Gastem’s decision on his right of appeal before disposing of it.

François Boulay, Mayor of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est.

François Boulay, Mayor of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est Photo: Radio-Canada

The case was very important for other municipalities, since it involved their power to legislate to protect drinking water. The judgment also contains several references to the duty of municipalities to protect the environment and the duty to subscribe to the precautionary principle.

Gastem’s reaction

Raymond Savoie, president of Gastem, says he is disappointed with the judgment. “We read the document, we try to understand; for the moment we are there, “says Savoie, who refuses for the moment to comment on the decision.

Mr. Savoie does not rule out the possibility that the company can appeal the decision, but prefers to wait for a more detailed analysis of the judgment.

In the region, Sylvain Roy, MNA for Bonaventure, is pleased with the verdict.

Impacts on other municipalities?

The deputy Roy believes that this is a “great victory for democracy and territorial sovereignty”. Mr. Roy hopes the decision will serve as case law for similar cases.

The lawyer of the Municipality, Jean-François Girard, is not surprised at the amounts that will pay Gastem in Restigouche-Part-Southeast. “We had,” he said, “very carefully pleaded the abusive nature of the appeal and the fact that it was up to Gastem to reimburse us for these costs. ”

The fact that the court recognizes this element of law is also very important, according to Mr. Girard. “It will force companies who want to sue municipalities to think twice if it is not legally sound,” he says.

For the lawyer, the victory is indeed that of a small municipality struggling with a pursuit that had no other purpose than to be punitive. “You have to think about it, there are 84 taxpayers in Restigouche! Says Girard.

The latter also sees the victory of the municipal world. “This judgment,” he adds, “recognizes the role of municipalities and the fact that municipalities can take up the cause according to the interest of their citizens, interest in the health and well-being of their population. . ”

Mayor Boulay also believes that the judgment brings very important elements on the municipal competences in environmental matters.

The president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM), Jacques Demers, also welcomes the fact that the judgment reaffirms the municipal powers and their duty to intervene in the protection of the environment. “However, we must not forget that these powers must be exercised in compliance with the legislative framework in force,” says Demers.

MOECC’s Chappell to appear before West Grey Council

Ontario public servant and MOECC manager Rick Chappell (4th from left) at a meeting in December: adverse health effects are “a matter of opinion.” The MOECC mandate is to protect the environment and human health. [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]

District Manager for Owen Sound Rick Chappell (and apparent designated point person for issues on complaints and compliance) will appear before Council for the Municipality of West Grey, on Monday, March 5.

The Council meeting begins at 10 a.m. but  we have learned Mr. Chappell’s presentation is scheduled for 1:15 p.m.

The West Grey invitation is the latest in a series of Ontario municipal council invitations to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, asking for an explanation to hundreds — thousands — of unresolved complaints about wind turbine noise.

Mr. Chappell previously appeared before Council in Kincardine. A video record of his appearance, in which he states that the MOECC’s position is that infrasound has no effect on health, is here.(Start at minute 12)

Mr. Chappell has also stated that he understands “annoyance” is a result of exposure to wind turbine noise emissions, but he commented that the annoyance was like hearing barking dogs, and not related to serious adverse health effects. He is not correct: the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency both acknowledge “annoyance” as a medical term denoting stress or distress, which can in turn result in adverse health impacts.

Rick Chappell also appeared recently before the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group. Following his presentation, representatives of the Working Group wrote to Chappell and stated that in their view, the MOECC was misleading the public. See a report on that meeting and read the letter here.

“Your presentation was disappointing. It appeared to be designed to mislead the public into thinking there are no health problems. You presented a rosy picture of a government that is busy working  on our behalf. But our experience shows that it is not.

You admitted at the meeting that you are aware that some people living near wind turbines are getting sick. You agree that IWTs cause annoyance and that leads to health issues. It is time to accept this and move forward— to protect the public so that they are not adversely impacted.”

In recent appearances, Mr. Chappell described the current situation in Ontario in which few wind power projects actually have completed a full I-emission audit which is needed to check compliance with the noise regulations; when there are noise complaints, he said, the response would be to check against an audit, but if there isn’t one, the MOECC simply requests that the power developer/operator complete the audit. (Any resemblance to a hamster wheel for Ontario residents living next to wind turbines is completely by design.)

Citizens from West Grey will be able to attend the meeting next week and observe. The Council meeting is also televised here.

Wind Concerns Ontario received information from the MOECC in 2017 on reports of excessive noise and vibration and learned that of the thousands of complaints received, more than half (54%) received no response at all from Ministry staff; a further 31% were noted as “planned” and 14% were “deferred” but only 1% were noted as a priority. The Ministry does not publicly report on “Spills” or complaints regarding wind turbine environmental noise.

Geologic engineer disagrees with MOECC on well water contamination

Former oil drilling roughneck now university professor says vibrations such as from pile-driving is well known to affect wells. The MOECC, however, relies on a report from the power developers’ consultant, which says it doesn’t. Choosing what to measure seems key.

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

Debate continues on water wells and contamination

Jeffrey Carter

Special to Ontario Farmer

February 20, 2018

Geological engineer Maurice Dusseault wasn’t surprised to hear that Chatham-Kent water wells were contaminated in the wake of pile driving for wind turbines.

“Pile driving emits a lot of low-frequency energy, and it is not at all surprising to me that there could be related groundwater effects. The concept of large-amplitude, low frequency excitation as an aid to liquid flow is reasonably well-known,” the University of Waterloo professor said.

“Low frequency deformation waves are absolutely known to lead to fluctuation in ground water levels as well as changes in the particulate count in shallow groundwater wells.”

In addition, Dusseault said affected residents were well-advised in having their wells baseline tested prior to construction last summer. It’s the type of evaluation he recommends.

Before and after tests sent by the Water Wells First citizens’ group to RTI Laboratories in Michigan show an exponential increase [in] turbidity among the 14 affected wells, including [a] large proportion that can be attributed to Kettle [Point] black shale particles that are known to contain heavy metals, including uranium, arsenic and lead.

That’s not the conclusion reached by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, as outlined in letters recently sent to affected well owners living near the North Kent One project in the northern part of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

While there’s been an admission that wells have indeed been contaminated, that contamination can only be attributed to “unidentified factors.”

Pile-driving activities associated with wind turbine development are not to blame, the MOECC maintains.

The MOECC, in coming to its conclusion, relied upon the vibration evaluations prepared for the developers Samsung and Pattern Energy, by Golder Associates Limited. Golder measured changes to particle velocity as a measure of vibration intensity created by pile driving.

“The ministry has reviewed Golder’s assessment and agreed with the conclusion that any pile driving -induced vibrations at your well would have been much lower than those created during common daily activities around the homes,” a letter to one of the affected families states.

The parameters used by Golder, however, may be flawed…. Read more

Chaos on Amherst Island

Road closures on February 7: concerns about safety and violations of road use agreements [Photo: Brian Little]

February 9, 2018

Of course, one expects there to be a certain amount of upset when a community is in the midst of construction, especially such a huge project as the (unwanted, unneeded) wind power project on Amherst Island.

But residents there are deeply concerned over unscheduled road closures, road blockages and more. On Tuesday, a resident reports, roads were closed so that people could not leave their properties at all—questions were raised about access by emergency vehicles, should they have been needed.

In a recent report by Global News, residents state that unscheduled road closures have meant missed ferry trips to the mainland, but there is more. The local mayor says the wind power developer is actually out of compliance with agreements and contract conditions.

Loyalist Township Mayor Bill Lowry says he’s exhausted and frustrated that promises that were made to the municipality have been broken. He says residents are voicing their concerns to council but their patience is running out.

“How long do we have to take this, how long does the island have to take this? It’s been far too long, we’ve been three months of being out of compliance,” Lowry, told Global News.

“I’m in communication last week and this week with the IESO, which is the Independent Electricity System Operations, which are basically responsible for the construction of these energy projects. I’m so frustrated with the province in the fact that they don’t have a ministry that’s coming to our aid.”

In a statement to CKWS News, Windlectric Inc. says in part, “there is an agreed upon Operations Plan that sets out how to best build the project in a way that is minimally disruptive for area residents. Our goal is for all aspects of the project to run smoothly.”

Where is the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change? Where is the IESO? Where is the Ontario Ministry of Labour?

Where are the government assurances of a better, safe environment for the people of Amherst Island?

 

#MOECC #IESO

 

Halt approval process on Otter Creek wind farm, citizens say

Samples of sediment laden water. “Cold-blooded MOECC” [Photo: Chris Ensing CBC]

“Black Water” in wells in nearby North Kent has residents concerned about water safety and wind turbine construction. The lesson from Walkerton is that the MOECC is responsible for water quality, they say

February 5, 2018

Citizens’ group Water Wells First is calling the Ontario government decision to allow temporary water tanks to be removed from North Kent homes without water supply is “cold-blooded.”

Last week, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) informed residents that the results of the Ministry’s own testing of the water that is so sediment-laden some samples appear black, showed that water quality has “deteriorated” but that there is no association with wind turbine construction and pile driving.

“It’s a strong arm tactic,” said Water Wells First Kevin Jakubec at a news conference held this afternoon at one local farm that has been without water for months.

Residents in nearby Wallaceburg are extremely concerned as the proposed Otter Creek wind power project will be on the same Kettle Point Black Shale geology as the North Kent project.

“The Ministry response to the damaged well in North Kent is not good enough,” says Violet Towell, spokesperson for community group Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns. “The deterioration of water quality in these wells didn’t just happen. As Mr Justice O’Connor confirmed in his 2002 report on the Walkerton water tragedy, the MOECC has responsibility for ensuring a safe water supply in Ontario — they should not stop investigating until they find out what is going on here.”

The Wallaceburg group says that the Otter Creek project should not receive a Renewable Energy Approval until the well water situation in North Kent is “thoroughly investigated and resolved,” says Towell.

It is a condition of Renewable Energy Approvals that “adverse effects” must be prevented; these are described in the Environmental Prevention Act, Section 1 (1) and include “adverse effect on the health of any person,” “impairment of the safety of any person,” “rendering any property or plant or animal unfit for human use,” and “loss of enjoyment of the normal use of property.”

To contact the Wallaceburg group: WAWC@kent.net

 

 

 

Wind turbine collapse raises safety concerns

The wind industry says such events are rare: but accident statistics from Europe say, they’re not

January 20, 2018

The collapse yesterday of a wind turbine in South Kent, in Chatham-Kent made for stunning photographs and multiple news stories (even in Toronto!).

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is said to be monitoring clean-up of the turbine site, to make sure the hazardous chemicals in the turbine are disposed of properly; the Ontario Ministry of Labour is also said to be looking into the incident.

Meanwhile, amid claims of how rare the incident is, the U.S.-based owner/operator is investigating the cause.

The wind power trade association and lobbyist, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) weighed in, saying Canada has thousands of wind turbines and such incidents are rare.

But the collapse of the CK turbine has raised questions. Especially when several other news stories appeared the same day such as a report from an international website that monitors wind turbine accidents which says many countries are considering new setbacks for safety. And, a report from the U.S. notes that wind turbines require more maintenance as they age: soon, the average age of U.S. turbines will be 11 years.

Why was the collapse not detected by the operator? It is rumoured that someone passing by saw the destroyed turbine and reported it.

What sort of maintenance is mandated for these huge power generators, and were there routine inspections?

What public reporting is there for wind turbine incidents? The companies are required by their Renewable Energy Approval to report any incidents such as blade failure or fire to the Ontario government and the appropriate municipality, but when there was a fire in the K2 project in 2017, the municipality was not notified until some time after — a news report at the time said a company representative did not know which turbine had burned, and was driving around with his car window open, trying to find it.

In another project in Ontario, the wind turbine was visibly leaning “off plumb” and was eventually secured with guy wires, prior to foundation repairs.

There is apparently a report that a turbine blade went through the roof of a house in Chatham-Kent in 2009 (we’re looking for that).

As for fires, the wind industry’s own journal, NA Windpower, published an article some years ago titled, “It’s not ‘if’ it’s when,” referring to the frequency of wind turbine fires.

Clearly, these incidents are not as “rare” as the wind industry would have you believe.

The Caithness accident report from Europe says that between 2013 and 2017, there were 167 accidents per year, including fires, broken blades, and injuries/deaths among workers. Blade failure is the most common incident, followed by fires.

Caithness concludes:

Some countries are finally accepting that industrial wind turbines can pose a significant public health and safety risk. In June 2014, the report of the Finnish Ministry of Health called for a minimum distance of 2 km from houses by concluding: “The actors of development of wind energy should understand that no economic or political objective must not prevail over the well being and health of individuals.” In 2016 Bavaria passed legislation requiring a minimum 2km distance between wind turbines and homes, and Ireland are considering a similar measure.         

The Ontario government continues to dodge its responsibility on wind turbine noise by relying on computer models and its notion of compliance, despite growing evidence and thousands of complaints of noise and vibration.

With yesterday’s event, the government needs to assure Ontario’s rural citizens that it is doing everything it can in the area of safety.

Other questions relate to the technical aspects of the wind “farm” approvals:

  • What sort of design safety margins are required with regards to the material properties?
  • What kind of stress, natural frequency and fatigue analysis is required to be submitted for these when an application is drawn up?

 

  • Who reviews the technical part of the application? What are the qualifications of the reviewer? Are those applications ever farmed out to professional engineers who have the appropriate experience to conduct the review?
  • What inspection procedures are used during installation and afterwards during operation? Who conducts these inspections? What inspection reports are filed and where are they filed? What are the qualifications of those who review the inspection reports?
  • How often do IWT inspections need to be done…. and how are they being done after it is up and running so that relevant data is actually acquired?
  • How many IWTs are out there of this design or similar?
  • What design specifications are being followed for the design and manufacturing? For example, do they require x-ray weld non-destructive examination for all tower welds?
  • The Ministry of Labour is now reported to be involved in the Chatham-Kent turbine failure. If this IWT failed for a reason that can’t be readily identified, what position has the Ministry of Labour taken (or needs to take) on behalf of all the workers who install and maintain these things?

Does it mean that these are unsafe for people to be anywhere near both during construction and afterwards during operation until such time as the root cause failure analysis is completed?

Many questions, few answers.

MOECC reps stun audience with views on wind turbine noise

Municipal officials told wind turbine noise no worse than barking dogs, no action planned

MOECC officials actually compared noise emissions from large-scale wind power generators, including harmful low-frequency noise, to barking dogs. A failure to regulate

December 16, 2017

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) position on wind turbine noise is that they don’t pose a health problem.

That’s the conclusion from remarks made by Owen Sound District Manager Rick Chappell and District Supervisor Andrew Barton, speaking to the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group in Chesley this past week.

The two MOECC managers said repeatedly indicated that they are just messengers: the MOECC’s Technical Assessment and Standards Branch is responsible for establishing the Ministry’s position on wind turbine noise and providing “advice” to local District staff when they respond to queries.

Bottom line: we don’t believe you

In their presentation and responding to questions from municipal officials in the Multi-Municipal working group, the MOECC officials outlined key elements of the MOECC position on wind turbine noise.

  1. They agree that wind turbines can cause annoyance. Contrary to medical literature, however, they do not use “annoyance” as a medical term denoting stress or distress. They actually compared annoyance caused by barking dogs to residents’ reactions to wind turbine noise. *
  2. The MOECC managers insisted the literature did not demonstrate any direct health effects from wind turbine noise, when asked about health studies and reviews on turbine noise. Despite evidence of indirect health effects raised, the staff comments repeatedly indicate the MOECC is narrowly focused on direct health effects.
  3. The MOECC takes a one-sided view of the Health Canada study which according to these officials only found that there was no link between wind turbine noise and health impacts. This statement ignores the second half of the findings which confirmed a link between reported health effects experienced over 12 months and wind turbine noise. They also do not seem to be aware of the findings released to WCO which indicated that annoyance starts at 35 dBA, not the 40 dBA used in Ontario.
  4. Their view of the Council of Canadian Academies report was similarly selective. They downplayed the key finding of this review which was that there is sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and annoyance in the medical sense. Also not mentioned were the issues highlighted about measurements of wind turbine noise using A-weighted tools which fail to capture low frequency components of wind turbine noise. The Council noted that averaging measurements over time does not convey changes in sound pressure levels occurring in short periods.
  5. In terms of low frequency noise and infrasound, the MOECC representatives relied on a statement from Health Canada that levels of these emissions were found to be below levels that would expect to result in harm to human health. When questioned, however, they were not able to quantify what the MOECC considered “safe” levels of infrasound, or when the MOECC would be acquiring equipment that is capable of measuring emissions at frequencies below 20 Hz.
  6. Members of the Working Group countered by referring to research that conflicted with the MOECC statements. The response from Chappell and Barton was that the Technical Assessment and Standards Development branch reviews emerging research, but limits its assessments to peer-reviewed articles in “respected” journals.
  7. In the MOECC presentation, staff said the 2016 Glasgow International Wind Turbine Noise Conference supported their position on infrasound and health effects. This prompted the Technical Advisor to the group — who actually attended the conference — to inform them that he sent 14 papers presented at this conference to the Ministry, because the conclusions do not support the Ministry’s position.
  8. Chappell and Barton did not seem to be aware of the work of Dr. Neil Kelly at NASA in the mid-1970s on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines, even though it was published in respected peer-reviewed journals and presented at U.S. wind industry conferences.
  9. Residents affected by wind turbine noise were present in the audience. One from Grey Highlands asked when the Ministry was going to respond to the noise assessments at his home that had been provided to the Ministry. No response timeline was provided. Another asked for the position of the MOECC on people who had to move from their homes because of the impact of the noise from nearby wind turbines. The response was that the MOECC has no position except to repeat that there is no direct link between wind turbine noise and health issues.

Members of the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group did not appear to be satisfied with the answers provided by the Ministry officials; several follow-up activities are planned.

MOECC failing as regulator: WCO

Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson says these remarks are either a sign of “stunning ignorance, or a calculated policy by the MOECC to ignore and even demean what is happening to people in Ontario.”

Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says there is a great deal of evidence in the health literature about the range of noise emissions produced by large-scale wind turbines, and growing international concern about adverse health effects.

“Of course there are health effects,” Wilson said. “That’s why we have setbacks between turbines and homes in the first place. This Ministry refuses to acknowledge it has a problem and take appropriate action — it is failing the people of Ontario as a regulator.”

MOECC managers Rick Chappell (4th from left), Andrew Barton at December 14th meeting: their answers didn’t satisfy the committee [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]

*CanWEA in a 2011 news release acknowledged that a percentage of people can be annoyed by wind turbines, and the trade association said that when annoyance has a significant impact on quality of life, “it is important that they consult their doctor. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also describes noise-induced annoyance in legislation as a situation that “can have major consequences, primarily to one’s health.”

Environment Minister’s response on altered well water: “generalities”

November 23, 2017

MPP demands that wind power projects be cancelled over concerns about Black Shale and polluted wells

 

MPP Monte McNaughton presents a bottle of well water to Minister Chris Ballard, compliments of the people of Chatham-Kent. The Minister’s response: “generalities”

 

In Question Period on November 20, Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex rose to ask the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change what action was being taken for people in his riding whose well water has been rendered “undrinkable swill” during construction for a nearby wind power project.

Minister Ballard responded with, in his own words, “generalities” and specifically skipped over answering the question about the quality of well water to say that “renewable energy projects are a necessity.”*

Here, from Hansard, is what the Minister said in response to Mr McNaughton.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question today is for the Minister of Energy. In my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, your ministry is pushing ahead with two new industrial wind turbine developments, the North Kent 1 and Otter Creek wind farms. These wind farms will generate electricity we don’t need and contribute to pushing hydro bills even higher than they already are.

These developments include turbines almost 200 metres high with foundations that require pile driving into black shale bedrock, rock containing heavy metals. This bedrock carries water of the aquifer. Since the start of construction on the North Kent project, 14 water wells have become turbid and undrinkable.

Mr. Speaker, we’ve seen the impact of pile driving into black shale from the North Kent project. Why is the minister allowing construction to continue there, and why is he jeopardizing the drinking water of another community by going forward with the Otter Creek project?

Hon. Glenn Thibeault: To the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Hon. Chris Ballard: I’m happy to speak in some generalities around the need for wind turbines, and the very vigorous process that our government puts in place to make sure that the turbines are sited safely and that there is good, strong consultation with the community.

Speaker, we take the concerns regarding the environment and human health very seriously. I’ll say that we adhere to a very strict renewable energy approvals process.

Thanks to clean air and clean energy—and let me speak to the fundamentals for a second—Ontario has saved more than $4 billion in annual health and environmental costs because of this government’s commitment to clean energy.

Unlike the PCs, we can’t sit idly by. Renewable energy projects are a necessity and a crucial part of our low-carbon carbon switch, and we’re not going to back down from our—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. I stand, you sit.

Supplementary.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Minister of Energy: These wind farms will forever end food production on some of the best agricultural land in our country. And we are talking about an environmentally sensitive area, home to 24 species at risk, and within a major flight path for migratory birds. It is fragmenting the bedrock, turning clear, clean water into dirty, undrinkable swill, yet the project is going ahead even though the government has suspended the large renewable procurement II process because there is no need for additional electricity.

When the minister made that announcement in September 2016, I said that North Kent 1 and Otter Creek should be cancelled as well. Had the minister cancelled these two projects, the long-term savings would amount to $570 million. If stopping turbine construction makes economic, environmental and public health sense, why would the Minister of Energy sign off on continuing to build industrial wind farms in my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please. Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister?

Hon. Chris Ballard: Thanks for the opportunity to follow up on the North Kent wind farm. Again, I’m going to reiterate that our government takes these concerns regarding groundwater quality very seriously. The renewable energy approval process, in fact, requires these proponents to undertake extensive consultation with municipalities, indigenous communities and the public. Additionally, we have taken a very cautious, science-based approach when setting the standards for renewable energy projects in order to protect the health of the Ontario people.

Speaker, the proponent in this case has done extensive monitoring prior to construction, and we’re going to require them to continue to monitor the vibration data closely during construction and operation of the wind turbines. We require the company to conduct additional water quality assessments and we’re keeping an eye on this.

Minister Ballard with some not-Chatham-Kent water

 

*WCO note: one of the key parts of the decision on the Ostrander Point wind power project, where the approval was rescinded by the Environmental Review Tribunal, is that wind power is not a “necessity” and does not trump everything. The approvals of wind power projects must achieve balance between the development of renewable energy and preservation of the environment.

Wind turbines to blame for well water problems: hydrogeologist

November 12, 2017

Well water problems continue in Chatham-Kent with neither the wind power developer consortium, the municipality (which is part of the developer consortium), or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment responding to citizens’ concerns about altered well water. People have complained about Black Water coming from their wells, or so much sediment that the wells stop working entirely.

Here is an excerpt from the current edition of Ontario Farmer, which contains interviews with two experts on water wells.

Of concern to Wind Concerns Ontario is not only the lack of acknowledgement, explanation or effective resolution but also the fact that yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology is being considered for approval. Ontario needs answers as more projects on fragile hydrogeology are pushed forward.

Water in Chatham-Kent wells is cloudy, even brown: not our fault says Samsung-Pattern [Photo: Sydenham Current]

Hydrologist blames turbines for well water issues

By Jeffrey Carter, ONTARIO FARMER

November 7

Ontario’s MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change should have already stopped the North Kent project in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, according to hydrogeologist Bill Clarke.

It’s clear many wells have been compromised due to the vibrations created by wind turbine construction and by their operation, he said. Less clear is the level of risk for the people drinking the water. There are just too many unknowns to make a definitive statement on the matter.

Clarke, who is near retirement after a 40-year career in Ontario, has been working with Water Wells First citizens’ group that stands in opposition to wind farm development in the area, given the fragile nature of the aquifer.

“There are 13 families who are seeing a change in their water supply,” he said.

“Quantity is the issue now but not necessarily water quality. What’s happening is that particulate matter is getting loosened up at the base of the wells. In my opinion, there is well interference — there is no doubt.”

Clarke said well interference is something covered under the Ontario Water Resources Act and the situation should have raised a red flag for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (#MOECC).

Proponents of the North Kent Wind project, consultants hired by the developers, have said that turbine construction has had no impact on the wells, despite the visual evidence that suggests otherwise. In the case of the complaints, which now number 14 according to Water Wells First, problems only arose after turbine pile-driving operations began.

Clarke said the consultants are correct in one respect: sediment shaken loose below the area where the turbines are being erected is not a concern. However, few people, experts included, have recognized the extreme delicate nature of this particular aquifer. The vibrations from pile-driving, and even from those created by the rotation of the huge turbine blades, are an issue at the well locations themselves. This accounts for particles from the underlying bedrock — Kettle [Point Black Shale] — being found in the contaminated wells.

The aquifer is very fragile

“The aquifer is very fragile and what we didn’t know before this all began is how fragile it is … They [the ministry] are being reluctant to get involved and, subsequently making a decision,” Clarke said.

Filtering systems have proven ineffective. Some have quickly clogged up within days or even hours of being put into operation. This may explain why the wind farm developers have offered to supply municipal and bottled water to affected well owners, though liability is still denied.

Also weighing in on the nature of the aquifer was Craig Stanton, executive director of the Ontario Groundwater Association. He said it’s long been known that when water is drawn too quickly from the area’s aquifer, cloudiness can become an issue.

“A lot of those wells are only good for a gallon or two per minute because if you were to pump harder, you would disturb that till with water pressure,” he said.

Kettle [Point Black Shale] is the bedrock underlying much of Southwestern Ontario. Across the northern part of Chatham-Kent, it’s located within 50 to 70 feet of the soil surface.

The “sweet water” lies in a layer of glacial till just above the bedrock. Particles of the bedrock are mixed into the aquifer layer.\

Clarke, while convinced that water wells have been compromised by the wind far development, said the level of risk from a human safety perspective, is unknown at this point.

In a well water evaluation conducted for Peter Hensel, just south of Wallaceburg*, uranium, barium and selenium were all flagged under the Ontario Water [Resources Act]. Unfortunately, due to test limitations, the level of uranium and selenium detected could not be determined. The level of barium did exceed the standard but only marginally.

Questions sent to the MOECC concerning the potential health threat from Hensel’s 2016 results were not answered. Hensel has not yet supplied the MOECC with his 2016 results although a copy was given to Ontario Farmer. The MOECC has also not answered why, in its own 2017 test of Hensel’s water, metals were not included in the evaluation.

The same questions sent to the MOECC were sent to Ontario’s environment minister Chris Ballard’s office. So far, there’s been no reply from the minister’s office.

They should have known …

According to Stainton and Clarke, an evaluation of metal content is a standard part of most water tests.

“Why would you test for just part of the Periodic Table, and who made the decision (at the MOECC) on what they would or wouldn’t test for?” Stainton asked. “It certainly seems to me suspect, and they should have known these things are in the black shale.”

Stainton and Clarke are both puzzled by the MOECC’s reluctance to investigate the situation further,. Especially since concerns were raised prior to the start of construction on the North Kent Wind project.

“I believe if they had been listening, they never would have allowed North Kent to move forward because they should have learned their lessons in Dover. There should have been so many red flags going up that they should have said no,” Stainton said.

… a spokesperson with the MOECC [told Ontario Farmer] that the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health has determined there is no risk from the particulates in the water in the absence of bacterial contamination.

*The MOECC is now contemplating approval of yet another wind power project on the same hydrogeology, the Otter Creek wind power project. A citizens’ group has formed: the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns.