Why complaints about wind turbine noise are important (and why Ontario is failing to use an important public health tool)

February 21, 2019

Many organizations act on consumer or user complaints because they know those complaints are an important indicator of the success — or failure — of a product or program.  The Ontario government now has records of thousands of complaints dating back to 2006 regarding excessive noise and shadow flicker or strobe effect. The detailed files on these complaints, which contain notes by Provincial Officers with the ministry of the environment, also contain comments on adverse health effects stemming from exposure to the noise emissions.

While organizations like Health Canada act on reports of adverse effects from medications or problems with medical devices, the Ontario government instead maintains all complaints about wind turbines under the environment ministry and, to the best of our knowledge, does not even share these complaints and records with the provincial health ministry.

An article titled “Wind Turbine Incident/Complaint Reports in Ontario, Canada” was published recently in an international open-access library; the paper reviews the Ontario situation in the context of other public health reporting tools, and refers to documents Wind Concerns Ontario received via requests made via Freedom of Information legislation.

Conclusion? Ontario instituted a complaint process with the purpose of assuring citizens health and safety will be protected … but they’re not using it.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Documentation of citizen noise reports received from the government shows that in the beginning, staff of the province’s environment ministry made an attempt (though apparently without resolution) to respond to the reports of excessive noise and other effects of wind turbine noise emissions. This may have conflicted with the government’s “green energy” policy as the efforts appear to have changed from response to issues management as the response rate to complaints declined to 6.9 percent in 2015-2016, from 40 percent in 2006-2014 ([9], p. 4).


Copies of staff training materials in Ontario which were received in the  [Wind Concerns Ontario] FOI request show that employees were given specific directions from management as to what action, if any, to take. For example, in one PowerPoint training session, staff was directed not to treat wind turbine noise as tonal (
[9], p. 9). It is possible the reason for this, could have been that according to the government noise measurement protocol, a 5 dBA penalty would have to be applied to noise measurements in the case of tonal or cyclical noise emissions, in which case a turbine might have been found non-compliant with regulations.


Notes from staff in summary reports of Incident Reports also indicated that staff recommendations to middle and upper management to issue orders for
noise abatement or other actions were ignored (
[10], p. 12). It appears that the process of filing wind turbine Incident Reports and its purpose for addressing concerns about effects on health and safety may have resulted in more reports than expected and may have been dissonant with stated
government policy objectives to promote “green” energy.

Read the full article, here.

 

Cut red tape, enforce wind turbine noise rules: WCO to Ford government

Ontario rural residents caught on a ‘hamster wheel’ of emails and phone calls to government, and endless testing for wind turbine noise — but nothing ever gets done

February 18, 2019

One of the cost-cutting initiatives of the now eight-month-old Ontario government is the “Red Tape Reduction” plan, spearheaded by Government and Consumer Services Minister Todd Smith.

Last week, Wind Concerns Ontario wrote to Minister Smith (who is also the MPP for Prince Edward County where citizens have been fighting wind power projects for over 10 years) to suggest that reviewing to wind turbine noise compliance protocol and actually enforcing Ontario’s noise regulations could go a long way to cutting “red tape.”

“The Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise is a costly and ineffective process,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson wrote in a letter that accompanied a box of printouts of noise complaints and Master Incident Report summaries that are government records collected since 2006. “Rather than requiring the project operators to address complaints to the satisfaction of local residents, the focus of enforcement has shifted to proving compliance with audible noise levels using this protocol. While the original Ministry compliance actions were focused on the actual complaints about the project, the new compliance process has no direct connection to the complaints registered with the Ministry about the turbine operations.”

“That is complex and costly for both the government and the power operators,” Wilson said.

This process is incredibly problematic, Wind Concerns Ontario asserts: staff time is being used to receive and respond to complaints coming in to the Ministry via its complaints tracking process (the Spills Action Centre and District Offices), staff is involved in liaising with wind power operators over the audit process, and now, an enormous backlog of long overdue audit reports is also being dealt with by staff. And meanwhile, complaints about the adverse effects created by wind turbine projects are not being resolved.

“This is the very definition of inefficiency,” Wilson said.

In one example provided to the MInister, a family in the Windsor area has been complaining about wind turbine noise and adverse health effects for more than eight years. According to documents received via Freedom of Information request, in one year the family had more than 50 interactions with government staff, staff with staff, and staff with the power operator. Ministry staff made two site visits with no action taken. Meanwhile, one member of the family visited the family’s doctor multiple times and underwent diagnostic testing including MRIs and acoustic testing, all of which place a burden on Ontario’s healthcare system.

“The fact is, the government and the power operators are relying on this protocol instead of listening to resident’s actual complaints, some of which clearly indicate the presence of other than audible noise. These complaints need to be addressed, the noise emissions need to stop, and the enormous cost to the people of Ontario can be identified,” said Wilson.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Environment ministry lawyer avoids reality in Tribunal arguments

You expect lawyers to defend their clients. But shouldn’t a government lawyer always act in the public interest?

November 29, 2018

Last Friday in Toronto, the appeal against the Renewable Energy Approval for the “Nation Rise” wind power project—an appeal launched and funded by the community—heard closing arguments from the citizens’ group appealing the approval, the multi-billion-dollar Portuguese wind power developer, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The latter was represented by Ottawa-based lawyer Paul McCulloch. His job is to defend the Wynne government’s hasty approval of the 100-megawatt power project, south of Ottawa.

Question: Should a government lawyer not be also responsible for defending the residents of North Stormont from the adverse effects caused by a wind power project?

What happened though, was that Mr. McCulloch made astonishing comments in response to evidence brought forward on the risk to human health.

Mr. McCulloch alleged that “no” wind power project has ever been tested and found out of compliance in Ontario. This is patently false. To name just one example, the Unifor turbine in Port Elgin has resulted in hundreds of noise reports, it was found out of compliance and is now under a power reduction order and noise abatement plan (though noise complaints have not stopped).

Similarly, there were many noise reports for the Melancthon wind power project between 2006 and 2009, that the environment ministry did inspections and testing and concluded “the sound discharged into the natural environment from the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect.” * The company was ordered to reduce noise levels, and remodel several of the turbines; when that was not entirely successful, the ministry further worked with the operator to employ a noise abatement plan and in 2011, implemented a “noise reduced operating plan” according to a ministry report obtained under Freedom of Information request by Wind Concerns Ontario.

So, yes, turbines have been found out of compliance and abatement orders issued; the reality is, many others are caught up in a seemingly endless round of audible noise testing through a flawed protocol.

Mr. McCulloch also dismissed government records of complaints from residents presented by Wind Concerns Ontario as evidence of problems and especially adverse effects from wind turbine emissions, saying no conclusions can be drawn from self-reported complaints.  However, “assessment” of noise/adverse effects complaints has not been a requirement of the process, so there would not be such records of medical opinions. And the ministry doesn’t follow up on reports of adverse effects, or even refer them to the Ministry of Health. The MOECC (now MECP) also does not collect information on academic credentials of the people as part of the complaint tracking process. The reality is, trained healthcare and medical professionals are among those who have filed complaints about the impact of wind turbines on their health, and others have had their assessments confirmed by healthcare professionals.

Government lawyer Mr. McCulloch, however, essentially stated that unless people registering complaints with the MECP provide medical proof, their reports are of no consequence. Does this mean that the thousands of provincial records of noise complaints are meaningless? That adverse health effects being reported to government are ignored? That is a terrible message for the people of rural Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s comments may also have undermined a community health investigation being carried out at the request of Huron County citizens, funded by Ontario taxpayers. The investigation was initiated by public health officials in the Huron County Health Unit in response to clusters of health complaints related to wind turbines. It is being carried out under authority of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act.

But now, is all hope for this project dashed? At the hands of a government lawyer? Mr. McCulloch, a public servant, demeaned the investigation process and criticized the fact that it relied on information solicited from “volunteers.” By “volunteers” he meant Ontario citizens, the same citizens who have been dutifully filing complaints with the environment ministry since 2006, with little or no action.

Contrary to Mr. McCulloch’s remarks on the methodology in the investigation, it is modeled on the Health Canada community study, and received ethics approval from a university. Various challenges in the community (non-disclosure clauses in wind turbine lease agreements, distrust of more “study,” and despair at the lack of government action) have led to a lower participation level than expected by the investigating health professionals.

In recent weeks, the Medical Officer of Health and the staff epidemiologist have been in the media, renewing invitations for citizens to participate.

Who will participate in that important ongoing community health project now? Speaking apparently on behalf of the government, lawyer McCulloch essentially said any results will mean nothing to the MECP.

The lawyer also told the Tribunal that current Ontario setbacks and noise limits reflect the “consensus view” of the impact of wind turbines on health. That statement purposely ignores a report prepared by the Council of Canadian Academies for the federal government that demonstrated the basic measurement tool Ontario uses to assess wind turbine noise is inadequate, as well as the report issued by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbine Noise, and recent announcements from the World Health Organization recommending a more stringent noise standard for wind turbines in Europe than is used in Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s statements to the Environment Review Tribunal were misleading.

The environment ministry should clarify his remarks immediately, in order for the Tribunal to be informed with the truth.

 

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

*Master Incident Report 7465-8KCC68, pages 2-3

For information on the Huron County community investigation: https://www.huronhealthunit.ca/reports-and-statistics/investigations/wind-turbine-study/

 

Wind power project with 100s of complaints deemed ‘compliant’ says Environment ministry

Residents near the Underwood turbines have been waiting for a long time to get help for disturbing noise … they’re not getting it.

Ontario environment ministry has more than 500 reports of excessive noise — but nothing is being done. Why?  Computers say everything is OK.

August 13, 2018

Residents forced to live inside the 110-turbine Underwood wind power project operated by Enbridge have been waiting patiently to find out what the results were of a long-awaited post-operational acoustics audit.

Their wait is now over, but they’re not happy.

Residents received telephone calls recently from the Owen Sound Office of the (now) Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to the effect that the Underwood project audit report concludes it complies with Ontario wind turbine noise regulations.

In a letter dated July 27th, Owen Sound District Manager Rick Chappell wrote:

“The report states that based on the results of the assessment, the Underwood Wind Project is in compliance with applicable sound level limits at your location.”

Chappell then apologizes for the “stress” caused by the assessment process, but makes no mention of the many reports filed with the ministry by the family, or of the adverse health effects possibly experienced.

The acoustics audit was prepared by Aercoustics Engineering, a firm that does acoustics assessments for many wind power developers, and also helps them prepare noise assessments for their applications for approval.

The assessment was first done in 2015, under the government’s previous noise protocol, but was not accepted. Aercoustics explains how the data was prepared (recycled) for the new report.

As an alternative, Aercoustics proposed that the turbine electrical power threshold be
replaced by a threshold based on rotational speed. These findings and recommendations
were presented to the MOECC in a memo dated November 15, 2017. This memo, along
with the correspondence with the MOECC, is attached to this report in Appendix F.
With the alternative assessment methodology, based on turbine rotational speed rather
than power output, a full dataset was possible using Aercoustics’ measurement data at
R144 from July 8 to September 7, 2015. Valcoustics’ measurement data was used for
receptor R145 spanning May 1 to September 30, 2015; the added data was required due
to the wind direction during the summer months invalidating most of the measurement
data at R145. (Source: Aercoustics Assessment Report Project 15143.01, January 30, 2018, page 5)

The audit was done on two of the project’s 110 wind turbines, in response to noise complaints from the residents. The revised report was produced three years after the original.

The audit also assumed that a single turbine was worthy of assessment and shut the other turbines down, in the fallacious/convenient belief that multiple turbines do not have an accumulated effect.

Complaints lodged, no action taken

Wind Concerns Ontario has copies of Incident Reports and Master Incident files provided under a Freedom of Information request from the then Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The collection of documents from 2006 to 2016 show that there are 515 reports of excessive noise related to the Underwood wind project.

In one report dated April 2011, ministry staff notes say that the caller was told there would be an audit by Valcoustics and a report provided, equipment was installed from November 2009 to April 2010 , but no results were ever provided to the caller. Staff note a report (number 66) was made to a Bob Simpson of Enbridge; the closing note says “noise modeling indicates no exceedances.”

In another report, also dated 2011, the caller to the ministry Spills Action Line reports “loss of sleep due to wind turbine noise” –this adverse effect is recorded again through several more calls. The ministry staff person notes “advised the caller that he should contact the Grey Bruce Health Unit… regarding health concerns.”

Aercoustics actually states in the 2018 report that because the monitoring towers were placed closer to the turbines than the residents’ homes, there was “a measure of conservatism … actual turbine-only sound at the receptors is expected to be lower than those measured at monitoring locations.”

In the case of one turbine assessed, that distance was only 38 metres.

Table 2: Receptor Measurement Locations

Receptor Location UTM Coordinates Distance to
Turbine [m]
Predicted Sound Level*
R144 Receptor 17T 458093mE
4907987mN
537 39
Monitor 17T 458092mE
4908028mN
  499
R145 Receptor 17T 459854mE
4907073mN
453 39.8
Monitor** 17T 459931mE
4907082mN
  375

Predicted level taken from Table 4 of the Revised Environmental Noise Assessment [1], sound
level at 6 m/s.
Predicted level taken from Table 3 of the Revised Environmental Noise Assessment [1], sound
level after
wind direction adjustment. * UTM coordinates for R145 monitor taken from Aercousticsmonitoring equipment, which was
erected less than 10 meters from Valcoustics monitoring equipment

 

“This determination of compliance in the face of hundreds of complaints about this project, which has been operating since 2008, is nothing short of outrageous,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.

“It is a violation of the government’s own Environmental Protection Act to have allowed this many noise complaints to go on for so long, especially with the staff notations of adverse health effects. All the ministry does is talk about testing and compliance—they are not responding to the real problems that people are reporting to them. Acceptance of this whitewash report is a complete failure of their mandate to protect.”

To read the Aercoustics report, click here: http://www.enbridge.com/~/media/EF4720063692403B82FD1AA859689E0F.ashx

If the link does not work for you, follow these directions from Enbridge:  www.enbridge.com, and then go to ‘An interactive experience:  Our North American assets map’ on the home page.  Click on see the map, and zoom in to find the Underwood Wind Farm (aka Ontario Wind Power Project).  Click on the wind symbol and you will see a link that says ‘Click here to read Aercoustics Engineering’s acoustic immission audit on the Underwood wind farm’. 

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

 

Huron County health investigation: most bothered by wind turbine noise

Home in Huron County: Finally, tracking wind turbine noise complaints — the government isn’t doing it [Photo Gary Moon]
July 31, 2018

The Huron County Health Unit has released an interim report on its public health investigation into wind turbine effects, which was launched earlier this year.

The investigation, approved by the Huron County Board of Health, was in response to the hundreds of complaints filed by residents over excessive wind turbine noise and vibration or sensation. Huron County has some of the largest wind power projects in Ontario.

The public health investigation is being carried out under the authority of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.

In the interim report (the study is ongoing until the end of the year), the preliminary results are described:

“Of the 40 people who have completed a Registration Survey so far, half are male and most are not leaseholders for a wind turbine company. Approximately 60% of respondents reported they have been bothered, disturbed or annoyed by noise, vibration, light and/or sensations from the wind turbines. Noise was most commonly reported.”

Although the epidemiologist supervising the investigation says the research team has enough participants, they would like more, Dr. Erica Clark told Ontario Farmer last week. Residents can sign up to participate until October 31.

Wind Concerns Ontario has documents from the former Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, received via a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which shows that the Ontario government received more than 4,500 official reports of excessive wind turbine noise and vibration from 2006-2016. The government responded to few of those reports, and in 2015-2016, responded to only about 6.9%.

Meanwhile, Provincial Officers in the Master Incident Reports, which include excerpts from calls made to the government hotline, noted adverse health effects in 35% of those reports.

“That violates both the Renewable Energy Approvals and the Environmental Protection Act,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson, who is a Registered Nurse. “The approvals state that the wind power operators are supposed to investigate every complaint of noise and make sure there is not a repeat —clearly, with some of these Master Reports containing hundreds of calls, that isn’t happening.

“It is a violation of the EPA, section 1 (1) to allow anything, in this case noise, to enter the environment and cause adverse effect,” Wilson says.

“The government has a clear case for enforcing the rules.”

While the Health Unit can carry out the investigation into wind turbine noise and any adverse effect, it will not be able to issue an order to shut down turbine operations, Dr. Erica Clark says.

Under the Green Energy Act, sole responsibility for the wind turbines was given to the Ministry of the Environment, even in matters of human health.

To sign up for the study please go to the Huron County health Unit website here: https://www.huronhealthunit.ca/reports-and-statistics/investigations/wind-turbine-study/

or for more information about the study, please contact Dr. Erica Clark at 519.482.3416 or 1.877.837.6143 extension 2022 or eclark@huroncounty.ca.  You can also contact her by mail at:

Dr. Erica Clark
Huron County Health Unit
77722B London Road RR5
Clinton, ON N0M 1L0

In the meantime, residents experiencing noise, vibration, sensation, or flashing lights/strobe effect/shadow flicker should report these incidents. Please call the Spills Action Centre at 1-866-MOETIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number at then time of your call, and keep a record yourself of the time of your call, and what you reported.

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

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

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