Water worries behind Ontario halt to offshore wind farms, but no research being done

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)
Ottawa Citizen, May 27, 2016

By David Reevely

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.

Read the full article here.

Huron County turbine noise investigation paused, not dead says Board of Health

Huron Board of Health Chair Tyler Hessel says more information is needed

Thursday, May 26, 2016 4:44 AM by Peter Jackson

Bayshore Broadcasting
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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.

 

Union’s hypocrisy on health evident on Day of Mourning

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

Huffington Post blog, April 27, 2016

Wind turbine highlights Unifor’s hypocrisy on noise hazards

Karen Hunter

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 online petition 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?

Return planning powers to municipalities, MPP demands Wynne government

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.

 

 

 

Grey Highlands wind farm appeal begins in London

Onus of proof that there is no harm should be on the wind power developers, say appellants

London courtroom moments before the appeal began at 10 a.m., April 19th: seeking fairness
London courtroom moments before the appeal began at 10 a.m., April 19th: seeking fairness

News release from Grey Highlands Wind Concerns

WIND TURBINES NEVER PROVEN SAFE!

Municipality of Grey Highlands, April 18, 2016 – Lawyers for Gary Fohr will appear before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in London on Tuesday April 19, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. to argue an appeal of the Environmental Review Tribunal’s decision to affirm the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change’s decision to approve the Grey Highlands Clean Energy industrial wind turbine project in the Municipality.

Mr. Fohr is a resident of the Municipality of Grey Highlands and a member of the local advocacy group, Grey Highland Wind Concerns (GHWC). Falconers LLP of Toronto is representing Mr. Fohr.

GHWC’s appeal is based on the assertion that the Environmental Review Tribunal made an error in law that misinterpreted an earlier Superior court ruling. The Superior court ruling stated that the Tribunal must follow its statutory mandate and make a positive determination that a wind turbine project will not cause relevant harm prior to confirming the approval of the project. The Tribunal found that there is presently no scientific basis to prove that industrial wind turbine installations are safe for Ontario residents.

“The expert witnesses who testified at the ERT for the government and the wind company agreed under cross examination that there are no long term peer reviewed studies to prove that wind turbines are safe for citizens of Ontario living in the vicinity of the wind projects.” said Gary Fohr, the appellant in this appeal as well as the original ERT appeal.

Mr. Fohr is the president of the Brewster Lake Home Owner’s Association and a member of GHWC. “The Ontario government requires citizens to prove that wind turbines are harmful to human health and/or the environment yet the big wind companies and the Ministry are incapable of proving the safety of large industrial wind turbines for people or the environment. For example, drug companies are required to prove the safety of their products before releasing them to the public, yet the Ontario government does not hold the wind industry accountable for the safety of industrial turbines,” said Mr. Fohr.

Doug Dingeldein, a spokesperson for GHWC, agreed. “To date, the onus has been on citizens to provide proof of harm to human health and/or the environment. That’s an almost impossible hurdle for any citizen to overcome. We know from lots of anecdotal evidence that people are being harmed. If a Superior Court decision shifts the onus to establish safety onto the wind companies, then perhaps there will finally be some relief for embattled citizens and municipalities,” Mr. Dingeldein said.

The nine-turbine project will be located less than one kilometer from the community of Brewster Lake in the Municipality of Grey Highlands. The 130 residents in the community are concerned that the turbines will cause the same negative health impacts already experienced by citizens in other Ontario communities who live near industrial wind turbines.

Grey Highlands Wind Concerns

See related story here.

Crusading Medical Officer of Health dismissed in Huron County

Dr Janice Owen was about to investigate the health impacts from wind turbine noise, under the responsibilities she has with the Health Protection Act. Now the mayor says, “we have parted ways”

Dr. Janice Owen

Dr Janice Owens: taking health protection seriously

London Free Press, April 15, 2016

John Miner

Huron County and its acting Medical Officer of Health have “parted ways,” the latest in a string of abrupt departures of senior officials from the county’s health unit.

Bluewater Mayor Tyler Hessel, chair of the Huron County Board of Health, confirmed Friday that Dr. Janice Owen was no longer in the position.

Owen was appointed a year ago.

In 2013, then Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nancy Cameron was dismissed by the board.

In 2008, the county fired the executive director of the health unit for ‘philosophical differences.’

Hessel declined to discuss reasons for Owen’s departure.

“We just parted ways, that’s all I can say,” Hessel said.

“Huron County Board of Health and Dr. Owen have now parted ways, but everything is going to continue moving forward as usual,” he said.

Owen could not be immediately reached for comment.

One of the health unit’s initiatives since her appointment has been a study of the possible health effects of wind farms in Huron County, which has some of the largest turbine installations in the province.

Hessel said Owen’s departure was unrelated to the wind farm issue and that work would be carried on by health unit staff.

 

Read the full story here.

No point measuring infrasound if province doesn’t care, says Kincardine councillor

New noise studies will show infrasound from wind power projects, but why spend money to protect residents when province doesn’t regulate low frequency noise, Laura Haight says.

Ostrich

560 CFOS News, April 11, 2016

At least one Kincardine Councillor thinks it may be time to put the lid on spending for wind turbine noise studies.

Laura Haight says the municipality has already done a study on acoustics in an area that will have turbines operating and another study is scheduled now that the turbines are operational.

Haight says it’s likely there will be more infrasound in the “after” study but it means nothing to the province.

She says the Ministry of Environment doesn’t consider infrasound in its approval process, so she questions why they should spend money to prove the issue.

Haight says with the municipality facing myriad capital projects and an infrastructure deficit, she wants to know when the turbine studies will come to an end.

The issue came up after Central Grey Bruce Wind Concerns Ontario spokesperson, Rachel Thompson, questioned the scientific criteria of a study done for Kincardine recently.

Thompson would like to see another study done with the correct Request for Proposal parameters being spelled out.

She says with a correctly-done study, it will put the province in a position not to ignore the results.

Staff will return with a report on the issue for Councillors to discuss at a future meeting of council.

Meanwhile, Council has given its support to a study of health problems being done in Huron County on residents living close to turbines.

Mayors, citizen groups meet with Environmental Commissioner on wind farms

Citizens, municipal and provincial politicians and environmental groups met with Ontario Environmental Commissioner yesterday, detailing environmental, health and economic impacts from wind power projects and thousands of complaints about turbine noise. The Commissioner says she can’t do anything

Prince Edward County councillor Steve Ferguson and Mayor Robert Quaiff, and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario at the meeting table in Toronto yesterday [Photo: Todd Smith MPP]

April 5, 2016 TORONTO—

Wind Concerns Ontario was one of the presenters at a meeting in Toronto Monday with Ontario’s new Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe. The meeting was organized and led by MPP Lisa Thompson,  environment critic for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) introduced its presentation by stating that our members of the coalition of community groups and individuals are about the impact of industrial- or utility-scale wind power development on the economy, environment and human health. “That sounds like three things, but it isn’t,” President Jane Wilson told the Commissioner. “The environment is everything: it is the economy, it is the natural environment, and it is health.”

Warren Howard, in speaking for WCO, detailed the fact that Ontario’s noise regulations are inadequate to protect health, which is borne out by research including the Health Canada noise study and the Cape Bridgewater study, to name two. He said that WCO learned from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change that there are more than 2,700 files of noise complaints. Details have been requested under Freedom of Information from the Ministry but not produced after a year; the matter is now in the hands of Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner.

Wind Concerns told the Commissioner that it is not merely audible noise that is the problem but infrasound/low frequency noise that produces unique sensation among some individuals exposed to the emissions. The group referred to several individual locations as examples of problems such as Prince Edward County where an eminent acoustics specialist testified before the Environmental Review Tribunal that virtually everyone in that community would be exposed to the turbine noise emissions. WCO also mentioned the Niagara project where thousands of homes will be within 1.5 km of 77 industrial-scale turbines. By conservative estimates, as many as 1,000 people could be affected by exposure to the noise emissions.

WCO concluded its presentation by asserting that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is not fulfilling its mandate of ensuring a “healthy environment” for Ontarians. Wind Concerns asked the Commissioner for a full review of Ontario’s noise regulations under Section 61 under the Environmental Protection Act.

Other presenters made striking presentations including Barbara Ashbee of Victims of Wind, City of Kawartha Lakes councilor Heather Stauble, Prince Edward County councilor Steve Ferguson and  Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, and Deputy Mayor Dutton-Dunwich, Bob Purcell. Representatives of citizens’ groups from Bruce County and Huron County also presented reports of environmental and health problems. There have been so many complaints of poor health from turbine noise emissions in Huron County, people told the Commissioner that, where the Health Unit has launched a formal investigation .

Mayor Quaiff detailed several environmental concerns about the two wind power projects proposed for Prince Edward County, saying that not only were the power plants to be built on land where endangered Blandings turtles and Little Brown Bats are found, the sites are also on important migratory pathways for birds. “Questions are not being answered,” he said, about the effects of materials used in turbine construction such as the reinforced steel bars and concrete foundations, which will leach into the water table. He added that the turbines will have a negative impact on the wineries locally, and the bird-watching areas. “The South Shore is the last undeveloped shoreline on Lake Ontario,” he said. “I think it should stay that way.”

MPPs Todd Smith, Laurie Scott and Jeff Yurek were also at the meeting.

In her closing remarks MPP Lisa Thompson said that while everyone wants to do the right thing for the environment, key parts of the wind power process are “not working.” “What is working,” MPP Thompson said, “is we have an Environmental Commissioner and I hope we can move forward.”

Commissioner Saxe said that her office is dealing with hundreds of issues and can realistically handle only five or six a year. She acknowledged “the passion” expressed in the meeting today but in the short term, she couldn’t do anything, and in the long term “we’ll have to see.”

MPP Thompson said that this serious issue is affecting “so many communities” that she hoped the Commissioner’s office would review all the information in the submissions presented.

(C) Wind Concerns Ontario

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

Crusading mayor says he is game for a fight over wind power

Image result for free image boxing gloves

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins told the audience for a noon-hour public affairs show yesterday that he is “game” for a fight against wind power projects … and he is gathering steam among other municipalities to “bring it on.”

Although North Frontenac missed a contract in the recent announcement by the IESO, he is under no illusion that his community, where the majority of residents are opposed to a wind power project, is safe.

“Those bids” will just roll over into the next round, he said, and his community is not only ready, they are striking out for change. Last week, North Frontenac Council passed a resolution asking the provincial government to make municipal support a mandatory requirement in the new bid process, not just a means to score higher in points for wind power developers.

In spite of declarations by more than 90 communities in Ontario that they were “Not A Willing Host” to the power projects, the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO) awarded contracts to unwilling communities anyway.

Higgins’ issue is not only are community wishes overruled by the current process, the fact is wind power doesn’t live up to the hype. “It isn’t really ‘green’,” he said, citing studies which list concerns about the need for fossil-fuel back up and the possibility that greenhouse gas emissions actually increase with wind power.

The Ontario government never did any studies on cost-benefit analysis, Higgins said, echoing two Auditors General in Ontario, and the real impacts of industrial-scale wind power development are not known. But there are enough concerns about damage to the environment, health impacts due to the noise and vibration, and the alteration to North Frontenac’s scenic landscape to worry him.

“Here in North Frontenac,” he said, “we never take action without studying everything … the province didn’t do that.”

Listen to the interview on Rideau Lakes radio station Lake88 here: https://t.co/rfub3uVCyo

See the North Frontenac Resolution here

Big Wind attacks new Australian wind turbine noise study

“A waste of time and money”

The Guardian, March 22, 2016

An Australian research council has given two grants worth $3.3m to research the impact of wind turbines on human health despite concluding last year there was no evidence turbine noise was harmful.

Prof Anne Kelso, the chief executive of the National Health and Medical Research Council, said it had made the grants because “existing research in this area is of poor quality and targeted funding is warranted to support high-quality, independent research on this issue”.

A Flinders University associate professor, Peter Catcheside, will get $1.36m for a study that will compare wind farm noise to traffic noise to determine if low-frequency sound from wind farms could potentially disturb sleep through chronic sleep disruption or insomnia.

In February 2015 the National Health and Medical Research Council concluded there was “currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans”.

But it noted “the character of the emissions and individual perceptions of them are highly variable”.

“Given the poor quality of current direct evidence and the concern expressed by some members of the community, high-quality research into possible health effects of wind farms, particularly within 1,500 metres, is warranted,” it said.

The council then made a targeted call for research into wind farm noise and human health.

Kelso said: “These grants directly support the Australian government’s commitment to determine any actual or potential effects of wind farms.”

The Australian Wind Alliance’s national co-ordinator, Andrew Bray, said the grants were a waste of time and limited research funding.

Bray said: “The NHMRC’s own review failed to find reliable evidence that wind farms have a negative impact on health.

Bray said exhaustive international studies had also failed to find links between health and wind farms, including a $2.1m study by Health Canada that studied 1,200 households and measured 4,000 hours of wind turbine noise to calculate indoor and outdoor noise levels at different homes in the study.

The Australian Solar Council CEO, John Grimes, said claims of negative health impacts from wind turbines were “the worst pseudo science nonsense” and had been “completely discredited by reputable medical bodies here and around the world”.

Read the full story here.