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 added our name to pages of signatories on a letter going to the World Health Organization concerning the review of environmental noise guidelines, on behalf of our membership.
WCO also wrote a letter directly to the WHO, which was sent last week. In our letter we reviewed the findings of the Health Canada wind turbine noise study and its shortcomings; despite design flaws and significant data gaps, Health Canada persists in claiming the study is “the most comprehensive” study of wind turbine noise done to date, in the world.
The international letter has been signed by health professionals, researchers and concerned individuals fro around the world including Dr Robert McMurtry and Carmen Krogh of Canada, Dr Sarah Laurie of Australia, Dr Alun Evans of Scotland, and acoustician Jerry Punch of the United States, among many others.
The World Health Organization recently announced that it is revising its guidelines for environmental noise, for Europe, and this time will include consideration of the noise emissions from utility-scale or industrial-scale wind turbines.
Wind Concerns Ontario has provided a comment document to the WHO.
“We told them, the current guidelines for environmental noise have been adopted and used by other countries to apply to turbine noise,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The problem is, they don’t work. Our experience in Ontario is that they are not sufficient to protect health, and they need to be updated with the results of recent research.”
While Health Canada claims its 2014 study is the most “comprehensive” in the world, WCO says, the study was criticized from the outset for its design and was in fact never supposed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between turbine noise and health problems. That said, Wilson explains, the Health Canada study does show an association between the noise emissions and reports of distress.
“There’s a lot of other research, like the Cape Bridgewater study in Australia, for the WHO committee to consider,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse and health writer/editor.
“For example, we now know that simply using dBA to measure turbine noise is only giving part of the picture. More needs to be done to protect health.”
The WHO guidelines for Europe are important because other world jurisdictions, like Ontario, rely on them for their own policy decisions.
The following points are based on the learning from the Ontario experience, says WCO:
Application of the WHO Night Time Noise Standard to wind turbines is not appropriate.
Limiting exposure to audible noise above 40 dBA is not sufficient to protect health
Standards for low frequency noise and infrasound noise emissions from wind turbines, using appropriate measures, are required.
The current models used to estimate noise emissions are not accurately predicting the actual noise emissions produced by wind turbines. Different and more complex models are required but these need to be validated with real life experience before they are certified for use in regulatory processes.
It’s established that wind power projects pose a risk to endangered species like the Little Brown Bat and Blandings turtle; now there is evidence that the construction activities and the vibration from operating industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines is having a serious effect on nearby wells.
A citizens’ group worried about the potential impact on groundwater from wind turbine vibrations is calling for the provincial minister’s resignation.
Water Wells First placed protest signs on Monday at the Windsor, Sarnia and London offices of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, said group spokesman Kevin Jakubec in a media release..
“Water Wells First no longer sees the MOECC as credible stewards of the environment.
We are asking for the immediate resignation of Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray,” he said.
Last week, Water Wells First held a demonstration at a Chatham Township farm to show how difficult it would be logistically for farmers and their livestock to use bottled water, if it was required.
Jakubec said the management of the Renewable Energy Program could jeopardize the health and safety of Ontario’s livestock when “the MOECC put forward the impractical use of using bottled water to resupply livestock farms” that have lost their water wells due to wind farm construction and operation.
The proposed North Kent 1 Wind Project, which calls for 40 to 50 wind turbines to be constructed in the area, had some residents worried that the vibrations could result in dirty water.
“Water Wells First will protest the actions of the MOECC until the MOECC recognizes that groundwater must be protected as the first line of defense against climate change,” Jakubec said.
Last month, the group held an initial media conference to help raise awareness about the issue.
In an e-mail on Monday, the ministry stated that it was taking the necessary precautions.
“The MOECC takes all public concerns very seriously. That is why MOECC included an extremely stringent series of conditions on the proponent for the North Kent Renewable Energy Approval,” it stated.
Two separate Ontario communities sought to appeal the Ontario government’s approval of local wind “farms” based on the idea that there is no research available that confirms the noise emissions from industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines are safe. Currently in Ontario, the government’s renewable energy policy allows for wind power projects to be located as close as 550 metres from homes; the Wynne and McGuinty governments have assumed an “innocent until proven guilty” while communities are asking for a more precautionary approach on siting the power projects.
WIND GROUPS DISMAYED WITH COURT RULING
Grey Highlands/Plympton-Wyoming, July 4, 2016 – Two citizen’s groups, situated hundreds of kilometres apart in Ontario, who are both opposed to wind turbine developments, are disappointed with the decision of the Superior Court in London released on June 28th, 2016, to confirm the decisions made by the Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT) on their respective wind projects. The two groups had joined forces to appeal their respective ERT decisions.
Gary Fohr of Grey Highlands stated one of the concerns. “The Green Energy Act puts the burden of proof on citizens to prove that wind turbines are harmful. We were asking the court to consider that wind turbines have never been proven safe. There is no scientific evidence to support the government’s claim that industrial wind turbines do not cause harm.”
The groups appealed based on the ruling made by the Divisional Court in an earlier case (Dixon). In that decision the court stated: “There is a difference between a negative determination that serious harm to human health has not been proven and a positive determination that engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will not cause serious harm to human health. Although no party raised as an issue on these appeals the failure of the Tribunal to confirm the decisions of the Directors, it is important that a tribunal follow its statutory mandate.”
We interpret that to mean the Tribunals are required to confirm that the evidence presented at the hearing provides proof that there will be no harm to human health.
At the Fohr ERT hearing, an expert medical witness for the project developer acknowledged that the current scientific evidence is insufficient to prove that wind projects will not harm nearby residents, and that additional scientific study is still needed in that regard.
In effect, the provincial government has been approving wind projects without definitive scientific evidence that the projects will NOT cause harm.
We believe this is not in keeping with the intent of the Environmental Protection Act which requires the developer for any non-renewable project, such as a mine or cement plant, to provide definitive proof that their project will not harm human health or the environment. Only in the case of renewable energy projects is the onus reversed; the residents must prove serious harm before the project can be stopped.
Many people living close to turbines continue to complain about adverse health effects. The scientific evidence is growing to support their claims. Apathy is turning to empowerment, as affected residents are encouraged to organize together and speak with one voice.
We’re not against renewable energy, but we believe such projects should NOT be located where they will cause serious disturbances and adverse health effects to nearby residents in their homes. This is not acceptable collateral damage, and it’s unfortunate this has to be such a painful lesson.
While we’re disappointed with this decision, we are not discouraged from our ongoing efforts to advocate for the responsible implementation of these projects.
In sworn testimony at an environmental review tribunal, a Health Canada official confirmed industrial wind turbines — large, noise-emitting devices — are regulated by the Radiation Emitting Devices Act. So why isn’t it responding to hundreds of citizen complaints?
The federal government’s inaction on wind turbine noise is making Canadians sick.
It’s been a year-and-a-half since Health Canada’s $2-million study determined low-frequency acoustic waves from industrial wind turbines cause community annoyance.
According to the World Health Organization, unwanted noise, even at a moderate level, can lead to a myriad of adverse health outcomes, including stress-related symptoms such as sleep disturbance, elevated blood pressure, cardiac events and depression.
It’s a “green” form of radiation sickness.
Canada’s Radiation Emitting Devices Act (REDA) is supposed to regulate the design and operation of devices that emit radiation, such as microwave ovens and tanning beds. In sworn testimony at an environmental review tribunal, a Health Canada official confirmed industrial wind turbines — large, noise-emitting devices — are regulated by REDA.
REDA requires a manufacturer or importer of such a device to “forthwith notify the Minister” upon becoming aware its device is emitting radiations not necessary for the performance of its function.
On June 15, Barbara Ashbee of Mulmur, Ontario, together with hundreds of other Ontarians, sent an open letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott, asking why Health Canada has not insisted wind energy corporations report citizen complaints about noise radiation. She wants the minister to meet with her and representatives of citizens suffering from turbine noise radiations.
Ashbee wrote: “Many in Ontario and elsewhere have logged serious health complaints with proponents/operators of wind turbine projects, provincial and federal government ministries as well as wind turbine manufacturers … As previous ministers and current Minister Philpott have been informed, the adverse effects of wind turbines are not trivial.”
Access to Information records indicate wind energy corporations have reported no complaints.
Why is Health Canada not forcing wind turbine operators to report citizen complaints, as required?
Is the wind industry lobby that strong?
Why were Canadians not told wind turbine corporations are required to report citizen complaints to Health Canada? Were wind energy companies also not told about the REDA?
Why did Health Canada’s Wind Turbine Noise and Health study exclude people under age 18 and over age 79, the most vulnerable segments of Canada’s population?
Why do REDA regulations not include standards for the design and operation of wind turbines, as they do for microwave ovens, etc.?
Prior to the 2015 federal election, Canadians for Radiation Emission Enforcement (CFREE) asked candidates in wind turbine-affected Ontario ridings: “Will you support a moratorium on new wind turbines within 2 km of residences, until REDA regulations are updated to clearly stipulate wind turbine operators must comply with REDA, and to include scientifically proven safe setback distances?”
The survey revealed equal support from candidates of all four parties for a wind turbine moratorium. Only three candidates opposed it, but none were elected. In Ontario, the turbine setback is only 550 meters from residences.
Other countries are extending setbacks to safer distances. In Poland, the setback is now ten times turbine height. In closely settled Bavaria, it is now two kilometres. But there is no such action from Health Canada. No moratorium. No change in setbacks. No standards in REDA. More wind projects are planned. More Canadians are getting sick.
Openness and transparency are supposedly important to the federal Liberal government.
What will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau do about Health Canada’s inaction on wind turbines?
Several speakers from Canada were invited to make presentations at the recent Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Spring Meeting. Speakers from around the world were present at the event, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the last week of May.
Health researcher and retired pharmacist Carmen Krogh delivered a paper co-authored with Ontario epidemiologist Jeff Aramini, titled “A case study in Canada: exploring research challenges of industrial wind turbines and health.”
The Krogh-Aramini paper stated that the topic of adverse health effects associated with industrial wind turbines (IWT) is controversial and debated worldwide. Some residents living in proximity to wind energy facilities report symptoms of sleep disturbance, annoyance, headaches, ear pain/discomfort, mood disorders, stress, cardiac and blood pressure effects, reduced quality of life and other adverse effects. In some cases, research initiatives have been the result of individuals’ complaints. The research is challenged in part by the complexities and numerous variables associated with this subject. A range of IWT research approaches, sometimes in combination with each other, has been used including self-reporting surveys, investigations and acoustical measurements.
Health Canada study not designed to find cause and effect
There are gaps in the research today, Krogh said. The $2-million study done by Health Canada was a large-scale, cross-sectional, randomized, epidemiological wind turbine noise and health study which the government department stated at the outset had limitations, would not be definitive, and would not permit any conclusions to be made with respect to causality. Krogh reviewed some of the inherent challenges of studying health effects associated with wind energy facilities and will consider the role of those individuals reporting adverse health effects. She identified several gaps in the Health Canada research.
Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, now a professor in radiology at McGill University, presented a paper, “Industrial wind turbines and adverse health effects: Where we are, where we need to go, and the need for regulations and predictive models to recognize human physiology”.
Research over the past few years in several areas of human physiology has progressed, Dr.Nissenbaum said. We have begun to reveal “the mechanisms by which sleep disturbances result in adverse health effects, over both short and longer durations,” Dr. Nissenbaum said. However, he added, current government regulations have not kept up with the new learnings.
Regulations not current with research
“Local regulations regarding noise (Soundscape) limits and methods of measurement were designed prior to current understandings of human sensory and reactive physiology,” Dr. Nissenbaum said. “Instrumentation and modelling geared towards satisfying those regulations are by implication lacking because they do not capture or predict physiological responses to IWT noise. According to the principles of Soundscape, and given the subtleties of human physiology, humans remain the best instruments available for detecting objectionable noise and identifying adverse health effects. Regulations, measurement methods, and predictive models must adapt to current understandings of human physiology to best protect human populations.”
Research must begin with people, said Dr. Robert McMurtry, professor of medicine at Western University. His presentation, “Patient-Centred Medicine and Soundscape” focused on the need for care and research to start with people and their experiences with wind turbine noise.
“According to Bray (2012),” Dr. McMurtry said, “exposed people are ‘objective measuring instruments whose reports and experiences must be taken seriously and quantified by technical measurements’.” Health care providers need to consider applying patient-centred medicine in evaluating the impact on those exposed to wind turbine acoustical energy.
Dr. David Michaud of Health Canada also presented a paper, “An evaluation of how nightly variations in wind turbine noise levels influence wrist actigraphy measured sleep patterns” based on a study of sleep experience among over 250 people living between .25 and 1 km from a wind turbine. Michaud advised the audience that Health Canada is conducting a more refined analysis to assess wrist actigraphy measured sleep patterns regarding nightly variations in wind turbine operations. He also commented that some of the feedback relating to research gaps was valid.
A case study in wind turbine noise emission evaluation was presented by Andy Metelka of Acton, Ontario, principal in Sound and Vibration Solutions Canada Inc., in a paper “Measurements of infrasound blade pass frequencies inside multiple homes using narrowband analysis”.
Previous measurements in homes near wind turbines indicate higher pressure levels below 10Hz than audible pressure levels measured at the same time and location (ASA Vol 20, 2013 Dooley &Metelka), Metelka said. Long-term measurements of Infrasound pressures appear inside multiple homes as wind speed and wind direction vary. Metelka took data from four Ontario homes and compared broadband infrasound levels from wind to tonal infrasound Blade Pass Frequencies. In both cases broadband infrasound and blade-to-tower pressures increase with wind.
Other speakers at the international conference included Steven Cooper of Australia, who conducted the Cape Bridgewater study, and Paul Schomer.
Wind Concerns Ontario will provide links to the papers when they are available publicly.
The Ontario Liberal government claimed that concern about the impact on water quality was behind its decision to cancel wind power projects in the Great Lakes, not lost Liberal votes. The trouble is, there is no research being done on this issue. No surprise: there was never any research on the onshore 550-metre setbacks either…
Ontario wanted to be a leader in both onshore and offshore wind power development (Illustration: www.boem.gov)
Not only has the Ontario government ordered almost no research into wind farms on the Great Lakes since it banned them so it could do more research, it’s done none whatsoever on the worry that prompted the ban: the risk of poisoning Ontario’s drinking water with gunk stirred up from the lake bottoms.
The province has previously been very vague about what research it’s waiting for, and it’s now pretty clear why. There’s no indication that research is coming anytime soon.
Back in 2011, the province killed numerous projects to put industrial windmills out on the waters of Ontario’s big lakes, where the wind is strong and it’s easier to build really large wind farms — potentially generating as much power as a nuclear reactor — without enraging as many neighbours as wind farms on land can. The world had wind farms in oceans but not in freshwater lakes, and the government wanted more science done on how to build them safely, the province said at the time.
It was the second time we froze Great Lakes wind farms, after a shorter ban imposed before the 2007 election. The government lifted that one in 2008; the newer one is still in place.
Offshore wind farms were once a pillar of Ontario’s green-energy plans. We were going to spend some money and take some chances and become world leaders and reap the rewards. Officially, they still are — we just aren’t allowing any.
Plus the government is facing a $500-million lawsuit from one would-be wind-farm developer called Trillium Power, a roughly $500-million claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement from another called Windstream, and now an Ontario Provincial Police investigation over the alleged deletion of documents related to the decision to impose the second moratorium. All without a windmill to show for it.
Since 2011, the government’s received three studies on freshwater wind farms that it had underway at the time, and waited four years before commissioning two more in 2015. Together, the five studies look at protecting fish habitat, how windmill noise carries over water, a review of existing “coastal engineering” research on offshore wind farms, and what to think about when we eventually have to take worn-out windmills down.
None of them has much to do with what the Liberal environment minister who imposed the 2011 moratorium, John Wilkinson, says concerns him most about wind farms in the Great Lakes.
Wilkinson laid it out in a formal witness statement entered in the NAFTA case at an international tribunal in The Hague, which went into vastly more detail than the public announcement of the moratorium. That just cited a need for more scientific research generally, not on any specific subject.
“While I was briefed on many environmental concerns related to noise emissions, disturbance of benthic life forms, navigation, potential structural failure, safety hazards and decommissioning, the issue that heavily influenced my decision was the effect the construction of an offshore wind facility might have on drinking water,” his signed statement says. The Windstream project would have stirred up the bed of Lake Ontario in 100 places and “I was concerned about how this might displace the historically contaminated sediment on the lakebed and whether it would end up in the drinking water system.”
The statement elaborates for pages, talking about protecting both Canadian and U.S. water supplies and invoking Ontario’s experience at Walkerton, where a badly run municipal water system got contaminated with bacteria that killed seven people.
The ban was absolutely not about saving Liberal-held lakefront seats, it says. “It was a Solomon decision,” the statement says.
Wilkinson stands by the judgment.
“There’s a century of toxic industrial waste in the Great Lake sediments,” he said in an email exchange this week. “My decision was based on the principle we would not allow folks to disturb that pollution until we could reasonably predict the consequences and ensure no threat to drinking water, both ours and our American neighbours.”
He pointed to annual algae explosions in Lake Erie believed to be fed by phosphorus in fertilizer. Some kinds of algae release toxins that conventional water treatment can’t remove.
“Sediments at the bottom of the Great Lakes contain the cumulative phosphorus from agricultural runoff that has settled there over decades. If left undisturbed, it cannot feed an algae bloom. But there was no way to construct hundreds of proposed offshore wind turbines without stirring up the phosphorus and other contaminants,” Wilkinson said, and in his view the existing rules on protecting drinking water didn’t properly cover construction way out in the lakes.
On the face of it, that’s a totally reasonable thing to worry about. But here’s the thing. If you were worried about sediment and drinking water, you’d have somebody study sediment and drinking water, right?
Wilkinson was environment minister for eight months after he imposed the moratorium, until he lost his southwestern Ontario seat in the election later in 2011.
“I can’t tell you what happened regarding the science after I left government, since I don’t know,” Wilkinson says. “What I can say is my decision left the door open to small pilot projects to develop the science. I do recall that proponents, after I made the decision, rejected building pilot scale projects, citing economics.”
The current environment minister, Glen Murray, wouldn’t say whether he shares Wilkinson’s concerns about drinking water, because of the NAFTA case.
Huron Board of Health Chair Tyler Hessel says more information is needed
Thursday, May 26, 2016 4:44 AM by Peter Jackson
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(Huron County) -The Chair of the Huron County Board of Health says a study on the perceived health effects of wind turbines is not necessarily dead.
As we told you yesterday, the group Concerned Citizens for Health suggested the study was likely killed, and not just suspended.
Board of Health Chair Tyler Hessel says additional information is needed before the study can move ahead.
He tells Bayshore Broadcasting News that the Board is waiting for a staff report on additional information.
Hessel says questions were raised at the Board’s most recent meeting on May 12th that need to be answered.
One of the Board’s concerns is the possible duplication of other studies that are being done, including one the province is conducting in Grey-Bruce.
Hessel mentions that the Board need to be sure it’s following provincial guidelines properly.
He says the Board couldn’t make a final decision on how to proceed with the study, partly because members hadn’t seen a report that had been released publicly and they needed to get up to speed on the document’s contents.
A major consideration Hessel points to, is the cost of the study.
He says it wasn’t contained in the Board of Health budget, and members need to know the exact cost before moving forward.
Today, April 28, is the Day of Mourning, when people who have died in workplace accidents are remembered. Writer Karen Hunter says that union Unifors is demonstrating hypocrisy when it promotes the Day of Mourning, while ignoring hundreds of complaints about noise emissions and ill health, stemming from its turbine at Port Elgin, Ontario.
Wind turbine highlights Unifor’s hypocrisy on noise hazards
The National Day of Mourning sends “a strong message to all governments of their obligation and responsibility to strongly enforce health and safety laws and regulations,” says Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, formerly the CAW.
There’s a “serious lack of commitment,” Unifor says of the provincial government, “to enforce the health and safety protections that we have fought for,” so “unfortunately, the suffering continues.” One of the hazardous dangers flagged by the union on its website notice is noise.
Meanwhile, a new onlinepetition targets Unifor for its failure to comply with provincial health and safety protections, specifically noise regulations.
Unifor owns and operates the controversial CAW Wind Turbine, located on its property in Port Elgin, Ontario on the shore of Lake Huron. The turbine began operation in 2013 to generate money for the union. At the time, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) approved the turbine on the condition that the Union would conduct noise audits within the first two years of operation and provide MOE with the results.
Now, as the turbine begins its fourth year of operation, the tests and results are, at a minimum, two years late.
140 noise complaints prompted town council to pass a motion asking the CAW to honour President Ken Lewenza’s commitment to shut down the turbine if it harmed residents.
MOE knew — as did everyone else — how important noise monitoring would be. Unifor’s turbine is located just 210 metres from the nearest home, less than half of the 550-metre distance required by provincial noise regulations. MOE approved Unifor’s turbine after the union had the community’s zoning changed from a rural tourist/recreational classification to city semi-urban to allow for increased noise.
To further address noise levels, the union stated that its powerful 800kw turbine would operate at just 500kw (despite reduced revenue generation) and that it would self-monitor its operation. Since its startup, Unifor and MOE have received hundreds of noise complaints, day and night, from the nearly 200 families who live within the turbine’s 550-metre radius. Still, the noise testing has not been done.
Back in 2013, during the turbine’s first six months of operation, 140 noise complaints prompted town council to pass a motion asking the CAW to honour President Ken Lewenza’s commitment to shut down the turbine if it harmed residents. The union dismissed the request.
In the turbine’s second year of operation, the district MOE office asked the union to hire an independent acoustic consultant, conduct tests to determine if the turbine is exceeding ministry standards, and provide the results to the ministry. The test results have still not been received.
In the turbine’s third year of operation, town council asked Unifor and MOE to meet and discuss the community’s ongoing noise problems plus documents (obtained through a Freedom of Information request) that reveal incidents where the turbine’s noise exceeded government standards. Unifor declined to attend.
Unifor’s turbine is now in its fourth year of operation without the required tests showing proof of compliance. Nearby residents have even tried to conduct their own professional tests. But their efforts have been thwarted by MOE guidelines that require Unifor’s participation. So, the families continue to suffer from the turbine’s noise. And both Unifor and MOE are well aware.
The families hope their petition will generate enough public pressure to force Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, to enforce the noise tests and result in Unifor doing them. So far, nothing else has worked.
Will the union-promoted National Day of Mourning convince the provincial government to enforce legislation that protects health and safety? If so, what will it take to convince Unifor to comply?
No municipality would ever put wind turbines beside an airport, says Simcoe-Grey MPP Wilson
April 21, 2016
Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson is not letting up on his campaign to halt the Fairview wind power project which would put wind turbines hundreds of feet tall next to the very busy Collingwood airport.
The power project is now being appealed by a record six appellants, including all the relevant municipalities, the community group, and the aerodrome owner.
Thursday, Wilson demanded the government reverse the contract with WPD in the Legislature, and also held a news conference in which it was revealed that wind power developer WPD has now restructured ownership of the project and will develop it as “WPD Fairview.”
“This is a shell company with no assets,” said Clearview resident Chuck Magwood in the news conference. The company will be able to walk away from any legal action or requirements of it: “It’s better than bankruptcy,” he charged. Magwood is known for being CEO of the company that developed and built Toronto’s Skydome.
Preliminary hearings have already been heard in the appeal, which begins mid-May.