Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Wind Concerns Ontario has been urging people experiencing noise, vibration and other effects from being exposed to wind turbine noise emissions to report these to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
We have just received a letter that underscores the need to continue reporting.
In a letter from the District Manager in Ottawa regarding a wind power project in Eastern Ontario, he writes “… additional complaints in the area were not received by the ministry.”
And, he said, the wind power developer did not hold Community Liaison Committee meetings further than the mandated four events because of a “lack of participation by members of the public.”
While the latter statement is not accurate (the power developer said at its very first meeting that it never intended to hold more than four), the message is clear: no reports of excessive noise to the ministry means NO PROBLEM.
Again, if you have experience with excessive noise, sound pressure, vibration, shadow flicker, or altered well water, please call the MOECC Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 or, if you have the District Office telephone number and you are calling during business hours, call that.
Be prepared to give your location, any observations about weather, wind speed if you have it (you can get this from your cell phone), and any other observations about what you are experiencing.
Be sure to get an Incident Report number and keep a log of your calls.
If you do nothing, you are one-hundred-percent guaranteed nothing will be done.
Residents of Chatham-Kent who are concerned about reports that as many as 12 water wells may have been affected by pile driving activity during construction of the North Kent II wind power project continue their demonstration at the site today.
The power developer filed for an injunction against them last week, citing concern for the safety of construction workers. The demonstration has been peaceful, and was conducted through the Labour Day holiday weekend.
The campaign has been organized by local community group Water Wells First, which filed an appeal against the power project. The appeal was withdrawn when the appellants were not allowed time to have experts review a hydrology report submitted by the developer.
Chatham-Kent has asked the Ontario government to halt construction until the situation has been reviewed, and property owners affected have been offered free water testing by independent laboratories.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has taken no action.
For more frequent updates on the demonstration, please check on our Facebook page, and/or at Water Wells First.
This past spring, Wind Concerns Ontario conducted an analysis of Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) response to reports of excessive noise and vibration(MOECC) and concluded the process for responding to citizen complaints is deeply flawed and largely ineffective. Global News ran a two-part investigative report on this information, which featured Ontario families who have been complaining about turbine noise for years, with no resolution.
More documents recently released under Freedom of Information (FOI) and correspondence with Ministry staff reveal problems with the Cornwall office that are further examples of a poor strategy for response. The documents and email also are a clear indication that the MOECC has completely abdicated its role as a regulator, and leaves resolution of any problems up to corporate wind power developers.
The Cornwall office up to now has only had to deal with any reports of excessive noise stemming from the 30-megawatt South Branch power project in and around Brinston, Ontario. Documents show that noise complaints were made even before the project began commercial operation in March, 2014.
No report number means no records?
Our initial request for information resulted in three records, which did not match Wind Concerns Ontario members’ experiences with this power project. It turned out, the Cornwall office had not been giving Incident Report numbers to people reporting, as is procedure, so their complaints were not recorded or tracked. On the advice of insider, we re-filed a request, this time asking for “investigative” reports and a handful — again, at odds with our members’ real-life experiences–was turned over.
In the records was an email from the Senior Environmental Officer to the power developer EDP Renewables, in which the MOECC staff member actually apologizes for passing along a complaint. [Emphasis ours]
Tuesday July 22, 2014
Hi Ken [Ken Little , EDPR project manager for South Branch]
Sorry about this …
I received a noise complaint last week –not specific to any particular time last week, but a complaint of noise when the winds are from the west or south west. The resident lives [redacted] and is bothered by the noise from the turbine [redacted] The caller stated he cannot open his winds when the winds are from that particular direction due to the noise. …
Do you have any acoustic results for that specific turbine yet?
Excerpts from other complaints
May, 2014: There have been several nights when I am awakened with the window closed. I shudder to think of having the windows open all the time now …
March 20, 2014: I have had several sleepless nights when the wind is in the east direction as the sound waves of the turbines kept me awake from 12:30 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. until morning. [Redacted] Is there any way we can control the wind turbine motion for daytime hours only as [sic] they do not run from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.?
And, in one actual Incident Report:
June, 2014 IR 5006-9KYK5D: ..caller report last night was the 7th night since start-up of wind turbines as SBWF that she has been unable to sleep for the noise …Noise is described as drone of an airplane — very loud with windows closed.
MOECC noted: “acoustic monitoring conducted by tech support July 14-18 2014, report under review with noise engineer”
This summer, a Brinston area resident wrote to Minister Murray about the complete lack of response to her reports of excessive noise (she has had to sleep in her basement on occasion because of the noise and vibration), and an officer with the Cornwall Office telephoned her.
Here’s what she was told.
*Ministry staff were completely unprepared for wind turbine noise complaints.
*They still don’t really know what to do.
*They “lost” her records — even though she had so many reports that the MOECC actually installed equipment and did noise measurement for several days.
*Last, it was too bad they lost everything pertaining to her situation and reports but it didn’t really matter, she was told because “You’re the only one complaining.”
“Lost” records? Citizen complaints under the regulations “don’t matter”? And she was “the only one”, which is completely false?
Outrageous behavior for a regulator
Wind Concerns Ontario wrote a letter to new MOECC Minister Ballard, stating “This is outrageous treatment of a citizen of Ontario, who is simply following the process communicated to her by both the Government of Ontario and the wind power developer, who is mandated under its Renewable Energy Approval to act on and resolve any complaints of excessive noise.”
Moreover, WCO noted in its letter to the Minister, the Cornwall office is not ensuring compliance to conditions of the Renewable Energy Approval, specifically results of the compliance audit, which must be posted on the wind power project website, but are not. The response from the Cornwall Office (August 10, 2017):
“Copies of the acoustic audits can be obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. I haven’t had a chance to check, but some reports have been included in the SBWF website– I assume you’ve already checked there. Let me know if you are interested in pursuing an FOI request and I’ll direct you to the form and process.”
When WCO responded that the report is supposed to be public as per the protocol released by the MOECC in April 2017, the Senior Environmental Officer replies [emphasis ours] on August 10, 2017:
“Ah…I haven’t had a chance to review this new protocol in its entirety…there are some changes worth noting. Thank you for bringing my attention to this. I will be requiring the SBWF to post their reports on their website. I’ll keep you apprised.
“This is completely inappropriate behaviour for a regulator,” WCO president Jane Wilson wrote to Minister Ballard.
“The people of this particular area are now facing approval of a 100-megawatt power project by the same developer, this one close to TWO communities,* and they have no assurance whatsoever that the Cornwall District Office is prepared, or even competent, to respond effectively to noise complaints.
“On behalf of our members, we ask that you investigate this situation. Government staff should be prepared to fulfill the department’s mandate, and carry out their responsibilities to the people of Ontario.”
As of September 4, 2017, the mandated compliance report is still not on the South Branch Wind Farm website.
We have just been informed by the MOECC that the EDP documents have been reviewed and found to be incomplete and cannot be posted at this time.
This project has been in operation for three years.
There is news in the ongoing tragic tale of the single turbine owned by Unifor at its Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
It’s not good.
The wind turbine — which would not be permitted under today’s regulations, lax though they are — has resulted in hundreds of noise complaints. Promises of noise measurement have been made but little or no real action has taken place, and members of the community are still suffering from sleep disturbance and anxiety as a result of the noise emissions.
Recently, Unifor had a deadline to produce a compliance audit. Here is correspondence from this week between the MOECC and Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, sent to Wind Concerns Ontario.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is committed to seeing that renewable energy projects are developed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment, and takes noise concerns very seriously. The ministry needs conclusive E-audits and I-audits in order to determine compliance with applicable noise conditions.
On April 28, 2017, following finalization of the revised Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise, Unifor undertook the commencement of the acoustic audit as required by the ministry. Insufficient data was collected in the spring to make a valid assessment in accordance with the ministry’s Compliance Protocol. Unifor will reinstall the sound level monitoring equipment in September, when ambient noise will be lower to collect additional data so a valid assessment can be made.
To date, the ministry has not determined that the Unifor Wind turbine is operating outside of the terms and conditions outlined in their Certificate of Approval, nor has the ministry confirmed any adverse effects due to the operation of the facility. If the ministry determines the facility to be in non-compliance with our legislation, ministry staff will take appropriate action through application of appropriate compliance and enforcement tools. Actions taken by ministry staff are assessed on a case-by-case basis and based on many factors, including an evaluation of risks to the environment and human health.
Although the ministry has not identified any non-compliance related to noise, Union Building is voluntarily derating and shutting down the wind turbine under certain conditions.
I understand that the [citizens filing a noise complaint] were sent the complaint numbers they requested this morning, complaint numbers are assigned automatically when a complaint is logged within the ministry’s IT system. Sincerely,
District Supervisor, Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
You cannot permit this to continue while people suffer
From: Luke Charbonneau Sent: Monday, August 21, 2017 1:13 PM
I am, unfortunately, all too aware of the information in your email. UNIFOR’s voluntary derating and shutting down of the turbine has been in effect for many years now – it has not abated the negative impact on neighbouring property owners. UNIFOR’s ‘voluntary’ acoustic audit has been promised for four years now. They have failed to deliver it because you consistently fail to demand it. The Ministry has not determined that the turbine is operating out of compliance because you have failed to investigate in spite of four years of ongoing complaints from the neighbours who are experiencing “unconfirmed” adverse effects.
You are a regulator and you failing to regulate.
You cannot permit this years long delay and procrastination to continue while people continue to suffer.
I again ask you to order the turbine shut down until the often promised (never delivered) audit can be completed – this, in the interest of public safety and your legal and moral obligations.
Wind Concerns Ontario received documentation on wind turbine noise reports 2006-2014 earlier this year via a request through the Freedom of Information Act. Many of the Master Incident files (i.e., files that had so many individual complaints they were bundled into larger “master” files) were related to the Unifor turbine, so many in fact that the single turbine ranked fourth in the number of complaints after multi-turbine projects Melancthon, Enbridge, and Talbot wind farms. In one report dated 2014, the MOECC staff recorded: “extremely loud swooshing and raking sound from the turbine blades – also a banging noise from the turbine vibrations could be felt.” The complaint, as others, was referred to Unifor for action.
Once again, with problems like these ongoing and without proper action by the ministry, no new wind power contracts should be approved. This government needs to acknowledge the problems and take action, immediately.
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY TO REPEAT WIND POWER MISTAKES
August 22, 2017
Wellington, Ont. —
Applications for approval of new, huge wind power projects now being filed with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate should be denied, says Wind Concerns Ontario.
“There have been so many problems and mistakes with the government’s wind power program that not a single new project should be approved,” says Wind Concerns’ president Jane Wilson.
Recently, problems with well water have been revealed in the Chatham-Kent area, where vibrations from turbine construction and operation have disturbed the shale bedrock resulting in toxic heavy metals such as arsenic contaminating water, making it undrinkable.
On August 21st, Chatham-Kent council voted to demand a halt to construction of a new wind power project.
The Otter Creek project by French power developer Boralex is proposed to be built on the same geologic formation and there are questions as to whether it could also create water problems.
Turbine noise is an ongoing concern: Wind Concerns received MOECC documents earlier this year showing that the ministry has had thousands of complaints about excessive noise and vibration from operating wind turbines, but has not resolved any of the problems. Complaints about noise emissions from the turbines continue, often beginning as soon as the power projects begin operation. Citizens affected report sleep disturbance for weeks at a time, and other health problems such as headaches, dizziness, and cardiovascular symptoms.
“The Ministry doesn’t seem to be learning anything from reports of problems created by wind power projects,” says Wilson. “Their own field officers have documented issues with existing noise regulations and observed health effects, and now we have people with formerly pure well water turning black, but the MOECC continues to receive and approve these huge power projects based on the same regulations that have proven to be flawed.
“If the MOECC were a private business, they would acknowledge these mistakes and problems, and work to resolve them — that’s not what this government is doing.”
Wind Concerns filed a document recommending the Otter Creek project, now in review, not be approved. The turbines proposed have never been used and there are no actual noise output measurements for them, WCO says of the project which will operate immediately north of Wallaceburg.
“The modelling documents filed with their approval request are just estimates based on estimates,” says Wilson. “That’s not good enough to assure citizens of Wallaceburg their health will be protected.”
WCO says that projects not built yet should also be halted, such as the North Kent II, where water problems persist, and Amherst Island, to name two, where a tiny island community will be exposed to noise emissions from 26 50-storey high wind turbines and endangered wildlife will be affected.
The damage to the environment and to human health is inexcusable, WCO says, especially when the power projects are not needed. According to a report by the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, 70 percent of Ontario’s wind power is wasted as it is produced out of phase with demand, and Ontario has a surplus of electrical power.
An Open Letter to the newly appointed Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Chris Ballard. “You have work to do”
July 31, 2017
To the Honourable Chris Ballard
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Queen’s Park, Toronto
Welcome to your new position as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Unfortunately, Minister Glen Murray has left you an extensive list of action items requiring your immediate follow-up. We highlight the key issues for you in the following list, related to Ontario’s energy policy and wind power projects.
White Pines – Withdraw the Renewable Energy Approval for this project as developer wpd cannot meet the terms of their contract. There are significant environmental concerns with this project that remain, even after a successful appeal by citizens before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Amherst Island – Rescind Renewable Energy Approval for this project which is planned for the tiny island heritage community. Significant environmental risks are present including the serious impact on migrating birds that congregate in this area; Ontario does not need the power from this project.
Saugeen Shores – The single wind turbine at the Unifor educational facility has been fraught with problems and engendered hundreds of complaints about excessive noise. This turbine would not be allowed under present regulations. You can immediately address the failure to meet a June 30 deadline for submission of a compliance audit report.
K2 Wind – This is another wind power project, a large one, with many problems in its relatively short history. You can deliver on Minister Glen Murray’s mid-May commitment to Black family, and others, to provide a solution to wind turbines that MOECC testing indicated were not compliant with Ontario regulations to protect the environment and health.
Address Concerns Raised at Request of Minister Murray – Many people across Ontario took Minister Murray at his word when he said that there were no complaints reaching his office and that he would ensure his officials responded quickly to address the issues. They wrote to him and are still waiting for action on their issues.
Complaint Tracking Process – Complaint records released to WCO in response to an FOI request indicate that the MOECC does not respond to most complaints about wind turbine noise. These complaints should be a source of learning for the Ministry rather than being ignored as currently appears to be the case. A full revision of the process is needed to ensure that complaints are actually resolved with procedures that allow the Minister’s office to track resolution. MOECC records indicate little or no resolution of more than 3,100 formal Pollution Reports made by Ontario citizens between 2006 and 2014.
REA Approval Process – Increase setbacks from residences to reflect learning from MOECC complaint records that include staff reports that confirm that current regulations are not sufficient to protect health of residents living in wind projects. Last week, the Supreme Court set out standards for consultations with communities which are substantially more rigorous that the standards used for Ontario Renewable Energy Projects.
MOECC Noise Modeling Procedures – implement new noise modeling procedures based on MOECC internal testing that demonstrates wind turbines routinely exceed predicted levels.
Otter Creek – Retract decision to deem this application “complete” for the Renewable Energy Approval process. The proponent is unable to provide noise emission data for the turbine equipment proposed. The noise report submitted with the application for a REA is not grounded in fact but rather is estimates based estimates. Also, a full MOECC investigation of the impact on well water is required.
LRP I Contracts – suspend REA process for remaining LRP I projects until full review of requirements based on internal complaint records is completed.
Noise Compliance Audit Protocol – Expand the wind speeds covered under the protocol to include wind speeds below 4 metres/second which are the source of a substantial portion of complaints about excessive noise. Even MOECC testing shows these wind speeds are the source of noise levels exceeding 40 dB(A), which completely undercuts the credibility of this audit process.
REA Enforcement – REA terms make the project operator responsible for addressing the concerns raised in each complaint to ensure that it does not recur. The MOECC needs to follow up on all operating with projects to ensure compliance with these terms and take action where it is not occurring.
Shadow Flicker – The flickering shadows produced when a turbine is positioned between the rising or setting sun is a major irritant for residents. It is not considered in the REA approvals and is easy to address by turning off the turbine for the times when it is casting moving shadows on a house. In some projects, these changes have been implemented by the wind company but in other MOECC staff is telling residents no action is required, even though the REA requires the wind company to address complaints like these.
Infrasound – Expand MOECC testing to include the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines as independent testing shows the presence of elevated levels of infrasound in homes where residents have had to leave to protect their health.
Health Studies – The Ministry has been telling residents that its policy is based on the “best science” available since the first turbine projects were built. MOECC records clearly show that this is not correct, but the Ministry continues to be willfully blind to input from both residents and its own staff, quoting dated and selective literature reviews in a field where the science is rapidly evolving. The need for noise studies and other investigation has been highlighted in numerous reports but never undertaken. It is time for some serious field studies of the problems being caused by wind turbine projects in rural communities across Ontario. This was an information gap identified in 2010 by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Last, it is important that as you prepare for this major portfolio, you understand that industrial-scale wind power generation offers no significant benefit to the environment.
Wind power generation on this scale is a high-impact development for little benefit, if any. Two Auditors General for Ontario recommended that Ontario undertake a cost-benefit and/or impact analysis — that has never been done.
We ask you to approach this issue with honesty and honour, and respect the wishes of the citizens of rural Ontario.
Wind Concerns Ontario
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on Ontario’s economy, the natural environment, and human health.
Letters to Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Minister and wind power developer about disturbing strobe effect go unheeded
July 31, 2017
Wherever Environment Minister Glen Murray is this morning, we’re sure this isn’t what he’s seeing in his home.
The video is of shadow flicker experienced in a home in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Ontario, produced by a wind turbine in the K2 wind power project.
The family is just one of several complaining of shadow flicker or strobe effect produced by nearby wind turbines. It is disturbing and annoying, and can be a safety factor for anyone operating heavy machinery while it’s going on.
Fixing it is a simple matter: but the company won’t and despite their mandate of protecting the public, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change won’t insist that they do.
The family has sent letters to Minister Glen Murray*, the Spills Action Line, the K2 power developer, and Owen Sound District Office director Rick Chappell — no action.
It may be a good morning in downtown Toronto, but in rural Ontario, another day or torment is just beginning…
*Minister Murray resigned yesterday evening, July 30.
Government promises help on water issues, no action on noise pollution
July 30, 2017
Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Chatham-Kent and was met by protesters with a variety of complaints about her government, including high electricity bills, and the problems with water quality possibly due to vibrations produced by wind turbines in the area.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault also met with citizens in Chatham-Kent, and promised that complaints would be dealt with by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
This is the same government, indeed the same ministry, that promised to deal with reports of noise and other effects from industrial-scale wind turbines.
In 2009, then Premier Dalton McGuinty said that if there were “real concerns” about environmental issues, then they must be brought to the government and “we must find a way to address those.” (Toronto Star, February 11, 2009)
The fact is, according to the MOECC’s own records, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario under Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation, the government knew in 2006 there were problems being experienced by people living near wind turbines. During the years 2006-2014, more than 3,100 formal reports were recorded, many of which entailed so many complaints that large “Master” files were created.
The result? NO action in 54% of the files, “planned” action in 31%, and deferred action in 14%. Only one percent of the files got “priority” response.
To this day, compliance audits are not filed, resident reports of noise pollution and health impacts (noted by MOECC staff in 59/100 master files) are not acted on, and instead of listening to and acting on citizen concerns as promised by Premier McGuinty, the MOECC’s “client” is the wind power industry …. not the people of Ontario.
Despite claims by Minister Glen Murray that there few actual reports, and a promise of action on the ones he does have, little substantive action has occurred since the release of our report May 31, and the airing of a Global News investigative report in June.
Moreover, in a clear demonstration of willful blindness, the government persists in granting more contracts and approvals to new wind power projects.
Glasses of black water in Chatham-Kent make it easy to see that there is a problem, but we still see no accountability in this government, or the MOECC.
Read the WCO report on wind turbine noise complaints and how the government manages the issues while not responding, here: NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May9
Ontario’s plan to double its wind energy capacity will make a bad situation worse, according to a report published by the Council for Clean and Reliable Energy.
There is already so much intermittent wind [power] generation in the Great Lakes Region that demand is over-supplied, prices are collapsing and generation must be curtailed, said the report released in June by the council, a non-profit organization formed by volunteers from universities, public sector business leaders, and labour.
The report’s author Marc Brouillette, a principal consultant at Strategic Policy Economics, calls on the province to reconsider its commitment to ongoing deployment of wind resources.
“Analysis shows that wind intermittency makes it an unproductive and expensive choice that doesn’t meet customers’ needs and also undermines the price of electricity exports,” says the report titled Ontario’s High-Cost Millstone.
The opportunity to pull back from the plan to expend wind energy comes this summer when Ontario updates its long-term energy plan.
A key part of the problem with wind energy, according to the report, is that it is misaligned with demand because of its intermittent nature.
Ontario’s energy use is highest in the winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall.
“This is almost a mirror image of wind production patterns: wind is highest in the spring and fall, when electricity needs are lowest, and lowest in summer when electricity demand peaks,” the report notes.
The result is that two-thirds of wind [power] generation is surplus to demand and must be wasted or dissipated either through forced curtailment of hydro and nuclear generation, or by increased exports to Quebec and the United States, generally at low prices.
… Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of citizens’ groups critical of Ontario’s wind energy program, said the report underscores what two Auditors General told the McGuinty and Wynne governments — they should not have launched the program without any cost-benefit analysis.
“Now, Ontarians are paying four times as much for wind power which is very invasive and has had a huge impact on rural communities for very little benefit. The need for more fossil fuel natural gas to back it up means it is not even achieving the simple environmental goals.
“For people living with the noise and vibration of the huge turbines interfering with their lives, this is outrageous,” Wilson said.
No new wind power approvals should be granted, and development of projects not yet in operation should be halted, she said.
Brandy Gianetta, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said the report fails to fully recognize that wind energy is making a significant contribution to Ontario’s electricity supply needs today and this contribution will only grow in future years.
CanWEA contends that Ontario should be securing the lowest [cost] non-greenhouse gas emitting electricity to fill the gap and ensure it can meet its climate goals.
“Wind energy, which is now the least-cost option for new electricity generation available in Ontario, is the best available resource to meet both of those needs, Gianetta said in an email.
FACT CHECK: wind power contributes about 6% of Ontario’s electricity supply, at four times the cost of other power sources; wind power is not the “lowest-cost” option—the turbines are cheap to build but there are many other costs associated with wind power and its intermittency; wind power cannot replace hydro and nuclear—the fact is, coal was replaced by nuclear and natural gas, a fossil-fuel-based power source. Ms Gianetta did not trot out the usual wind industry myth of massive job creation in Ontario because that has proven not to be true, here as in other jurisdictions. Jobs are short-term and related to construction activity, in the main. Other costs associated with wind power such as property value loss, effects on tourism, and human costs in terms of effects on health, have never been calculated.
Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.
“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.
In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.
Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.
In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.
No action to revise regulations
In a 27-page report based on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.
Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.
“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.
Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.
Computer modeling, not real-life measurement
As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.
“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.
A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.
Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.
“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.
Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.
Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects