Thousands exposed to wind turbine noise in Ontario: Wind Concerns Ontario survey

Home in Huron County surrounded by turbines, many within 1500m –setbacks inadequate [Photo Gary Moon]
April 4, 2019

In a recent meeting with senior officials in the Ontario Ministry of Health, members of Wind Concerns Ontario executive were told that “not that many people” are affected by wind turbines in Ontario.

We launched a research project to estimate the numbers of people now forced to live with wind turbines and discovered:

THOUSANDS Ontario citizens are living near turbines, and inside turbine arrays in wind power generation projects.

Going back over project documents and wind power developer noise impact estimates, we learned that in fact, there are over 30,000 homes located within 1,500 metres of a wind turbine in Ontario. Applying a conservative figure of 2.5 people per residence, that means that 91,300 people are exposed to the highest levels of noise, vibration and other wind turbine noise emissions.

In other words, the number of people being exposed to wind turbine noise is equivalent to the population of the City of Pickering.

“This puts an end to the notion that there are only a few people in Ontario living next to these industrial power generators,” says Jane Wilson, RN, president of the Wind Concerns Ontario community group coalition. “We know from the calls and emails we get that there are many people in Ontario suffering from exposure to the noise. At a minimum, they have sleepless nights from the noise they can hear. At worst, they have other problems including severe headaches, vertigo and cardiovascular symptoms.

“This is a major public health problem that is being ignored.”

Wind turbine noise regulations* only apply to homes within 1,500 metres; the government has assumed that beyond this distance, people will not experience any effects of wind turbine noise emissions.

Records of noise complaints dispute this, however, and even the poorly designed Health Canada report on wind turbine noise indicates that problems persist beyond the 1,500-metre distance.

So, what does that mean in terms of the likelihood of adverse health impacts from the noise produced by the huge power generators?

Strong health impacts

According to a paper published in 2012 by the Acoustic Ecology Institute, “up to 20 percent of nearby neighbours [of turbines] are strongly impacted with sleep disruption, stress issues, and their sense of home and place is forever changed.” The paper notes that some impacts may be “extreme” and result in noticeable changes to health status.

The Ontario government was aware of this very early on in its wind power program, when a report by consultants under contract to the McGuinty government contained this statement:

“The audible sound from wind turbines is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed.** As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound for wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress-related health impacts in some persons …”

Today, the Ontario government has records of thousands of reports of excessive wind turbine noise and vibration, which are largely unresolved. In a review of Master Incident Reports prepared by Provincial Environmental Officers, Wind Concerns Ontario discovered that 35 percent of the files contained notations from the officers about adverse health effects from the noise emissions reported.

Burden on healthcare system

Many people seek medical attention for the symptoms being experienced due to the exposure to wind turbine noise, and often have many interactions with our healthcare system. For example, one member of one family reported multiple visits to the family physician who arranged both MRI and CT scans and consultations with audiology, ear, nose and throat, as well as neurology specialists. The cost to the healthcare system to investigate the physical effects of exposure to wind turbine noise in just one person is considerable.

The Nation Rise power project in North Stormont will add hundreds more people exposed to wind turbine noise, with virtually every resident in a nearby hamlet living within 1,500 metres of a turbine. The project is being appealed currently to Environment Minister Rod Phillips.

 

Sample of Ontario wind power projects and the number of receptors within 1,500 metres

Project # of turbines # of “receptors”/houses # of People
Melancthon 1 and 2 133 3,286 8,214
Grand Bend 48 2.527 6,318
South Kent 124 2,138 2,138
Niagara Region Wind 77 2,129 5,323
Jericho 97 1,329 3,323
Belle River 41 968 2,420
Wainfleet 5 954 2,385
Unifor (CAW) 1 681 1,703
Nation Rise 35 543 1,358
Amherst Island 26 487 1,218

Note: Receptor numbers based on Noise Reports prepared by the proponent as part of the REA approval process. Population estimates were reached by applying a factor of 2.5 per residence. Vacant receptors were not included in this survey. Source: Wind Concerns Ontario

Copyright: Wind Concerns Ontario

*Section 6.2.4 of Ontario’s Noise Guidelines for wind power facilities

**”Annoyance” in this context is used as a medical term denoting stress or distress.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca or president@windconcernsontario.ca

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

February 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

Here is an excerpt from the article:

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


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


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

Read the full article, here.

 

North Stormont citizen appeal dismissed

Courage undiminished in community resolute to protect the environment and health

New information on environmental and health effects of wind turbines was presented in the appeal. It wasn’t enough in a system stacked in favour of the developers. [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]
January 6, 2018

Although the people of North Stormont, just south of Ottawa, introduced many new concerns about wind turbine construction and operation –including evidence that has never before been presented at an appeal in Ontario –it wasn’t enough to meet the strategically constructed impossible test set up by the Green Energy Act.

The onus is on a community to prove that the power project “will cause” serious harm to human health and “will cause serious and irreversible harm” to the environment.

Never mind that the huge turbines will be built on what the province has designated a “highly vulnerable aquifer”.

Never mind that some of the turbines could be constructed and operate on unstable soil conditions including Leda or “quick” clay, in an earthquake zone. No seismic evaluations were ordered, or done.

Never mind the fact that two engineers testified about wind turbine failures in Ontario and the dangers of blade failure and ice throw. (The Tribunal’s answer to that was, OK, sure, maybe, but nobody has died yet, have they?)

Never mind that there are records of thousands of reports of excessive noise, sleep disturbance and adverse health effects filed with the Ontario government.

It is a credit to the people of rural Ontario that in the face of moneyed interests, a public service that is still entrenched in the previous Liberal government’s unfounded green energy ideology, and a set-up system stacked against people and communities (to say nothing of the environment), that they continue to fight.

The people of North Kent still want action on the damage done to their water wells; the people of Prince Edward County are still fighting to have an unnecessary and now cancelled wind power project actually removed; the people of Ontario living with turbines continue to file reports of excessive noise, despite government inaction.

And the people of North Stormont have vowed to fight on.

“We couldn’t just sit back and let the project go up without fighting it,” community group leader Margaret Benke told the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder in an interview. “We have options open to us, and that is the direction we’ll be going in now.”

Read the decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal here: http://elto.gov.on.ca/tribunals/ert/decisions-orders/  Case 018-028

Please help.

To contribute to the legal fight in North Stormont use GoFundMe here: https://ca.gofundme.com/stop-wind-turbines-in-northstormont

Or send a cheque to the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont in care of Wind Concerns Ontario, PO Box 509 250 Wellington Main Street, Wellington ON  K0K 3L0.

 

Acknowledge wind turbine health impacts: environmental health specialist to Ford government

Doctor reviews ‘potential hazards’ of exposure to wind turbine emissions

Dr. Riina Bray

December 11, 2018

A physician who is a specialist in environmental health has written a letter to the Ontario government demanding action on the health impacts of Ontario’s industrial-scale or utility-scale wind turbines,

Dr. Riina Bray, Director of the environmental Health clinic at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, listed various health impacts from wind turbine noise emissions and electricity issues, providing background resources for her statements. Her comments were directed specifically at the Niagara Region wind power project but are applicable throughout Ontario.

Dr. Bray said research has shown that noise emissions and other products of wind turbine operation can have multiple effects on human health.

“This cumulative effect of these various health impacting factors combined with the prevalence of IWTs across the province suggest that significant steps at various levels and in various areas need to be taken to:

1) widely acknowledge the potential risks that IWTs represent

2) fully respond to the thousands of demonstrated complaints of adverse effects of IWTs across the province

3) carefully measure noise, infrasound, and electromagnetic emissions in and around all of Ontario’s IWT installations

4) follow mitigative steps around electromagnetic pollution (high frequency distortion, ground current/stray voltage) as suggested by the wind industry’s own publications and by other noninvested experts

5) re-site IWTs to other locations without human populations when mitigation cannot be effectively undertaken.”

Dr. Bray, who is also an assistant professor in community health at the University of Toronto, concluded that “The risks for the short and long-term health of Ontarians of not undertaking such mitigating and remediating steps is significant.”

The letter was addressed to Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West, several medical officers of health in Ontario, and officials at Hydro One Networks.

Read the letter here: Riina_Bray_IWT_Niagara

 

Turn off C-K wind turbines to assess turbine-water wells link, says geological engineer

But the wind power operators won’t and the Ontario government won’t force them

Water in Chatham-Kent wells is laden with sediment. Turn off the turbines and see what happens says an engineering professor [Photo: Sydenham Current]
November 25, 2018

In a recent article by Jeffrey Carter in Ontario Farmer, Maurice B. Dusseault, professor of Engineering Geology at the University of Waterloo, says that the contamination of water wells in Chatham-Kent following construction and operation of a new wind power project there is likely caused by the power project. “I believe there is a reasonable cause to believe pile-driving (and turbine operation) is leading to the disturbance,” professor Dusseault told Carter.

Gagnon has been working with citizens’ group Water Wells First; the group has invested many hours and thousands of dollars “putting together multi-stage filtration systems” at several properties “to remove sediments and shale gas.”

The water runs clear after being treated although a disagreeable smell and taste remains, Ontario Farmer reports.

The engineering professor plans to compare changes to the sedimentation in the well water over time, he says, relating the data to changes in the direction and velocity of the wind, which drives the turbines. Finding a relationship in that information would be solid evidence that the turbines are the problem.

There is another course of action: shut down the turbines to see if the sedimentation problem goes away. However, that’s not something either the Ontario government or the wind power operator is willing to take.

Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Essex has said the Ontario Chief Medical Officer has been directed to review data from past sample collection and follow up on the water situation for Chatham-Kent families.

Acknowledge the problem

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr David Colby is steadfast in his belief that the sediment-laden water may be “unappealing” but “there is no health hazard from undissolved particles in water.”

The sedimentation means well water systems cannot function, Ontario Farmer reports. There are three wind power projects with a total of 94 wind turbines, and Water Wells First members say as many as 50 wells have been affected in the former Township of Dover alone.

University of Windsor researcher Joel Gagnon, who is also working on the well water problem, says more people could come forward but they are prevented by confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses in their lease agreements with the wind power operators.

There may be solutions to the problem, he told Ontario Farmer, but right now, the first step is official admission that there is a problem.

 

 

Documentary from Germany on wind turbines and infrasound: what you can’t hear can harm you

November 18, 2018

[Photo: ZDF.de]

 

A documentary aired on ZDF, the national public television broadcaster in Germany, featuring multiple interviews with scientists on the topic of wind turbine noise emissions, specifically infrasound.

See the transcript here–open in Google for a translation.)

Here are some excerpts from the report.

Interviews (in German) include conversations with a geoscientist, cardiovascular surgeon, and an expert in noise measurement.

 

Introduction

The natural sources of infrasound include, for example, earthquakes and sea surf. Technical sources are – to name just a few – combined heat and power plants, airplanes and also wind turbines. In recent years, doctors and scientists have increasingly dealt with infrasound from wind turbines. Because with the energy turnaround and the expansion of wind power, the load from these sources increases.

People who live near wind turbines often complain of sleep disorders, dizziness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Not infrequently dismissed as crazy, they usually have nothing left but to leave the area. Because in the common opinion frequencies below 20 Hertz are not audible and therefore can not cause any health damage.

Perception below the hearing threshold

But is it really like that? Professor Christian-Friedrich Vahl, Director of the Clinic for Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz feels reminded in such an argument to the early radiologists who experimented with X-rays, but “because they did not see that, only much later realized that they cause cancer. ”

Medical and scientific evidence is increasing that not only some animals, but also humans are able to perceive infrasound below the hearing threshold. No wonder actually, because “infrasound is an energy,” explains Prof. Vahl, “And every energy has physical effects, whether you hear it or not.”. For two years, he and his team have been addressing the question of how infrasound affects the power of the heart muscle. They have already completed two series of experiments investigating the acute effects of infrasound on human cardiac muscle, and the results are available: “In both series of tests, a clear reduction in cardiac muscle strength has been observed with infrasound signals,” says the cardiac surgeon , Something that you do not consciously perceive, So you can still get sick. Or at least have an effect.

Effects on the brain

Investigations by scientists of the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)also show effects of infrasound on the brain. They found that infrasound presented below the individual threshold of hearing activates certain regions of the brain. Interestingly, regions that are involved in the processing of stress and conflict. Why this is so is still unclear, but Professor Simone Kühn of the UKE has a hypothesis: “We have speculated that if you hear something consciously and know there is something, you can perhaps better hide it. […] But with things that are so semi-perceptible, you may not have the directive to say, that’s what I’m ignoring now. “Unconsciously perceived things may put you in stress, at least when it’s not. A follow-up study by the UKE is now looking into the question

Worldwide attempts by the military to use infrasound as a non-lethal weapon are another indication that this low-frequency noise can have a negative effect on humans.

Experts estimate that between ten and thirty percent of the population can feel the symptoms of infrasound.

Different measuring methods

Nevertheless, to this day there is no standard for the frequency range below 20 hertz, which would represent the noise level of wind turbines unadorned. On the contrary, on the part of the authorities, a measurement standard is used that partially filters out the infrasound emissions of wind turbines. Frequencies below 8 hertz are completely ignored. By averaging (third-octave analysis) so-called “tonal peaks” are largely smoothed out, which means that certain high rashes are not visible in the result.

The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) already showed in 2004 how the emissions from wind turbines in the infrasound sector really look like and how far they reach them. The BGR is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty ( CTBT). Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) to control. For this purpose, the Federal Institute operates several measuring stations, of which two stations register infrasound. To avoid disturbing the measurement, the BGR determined the distance the wind turbine measuring instruments must have and concluded: ”

As a rule, a distance of about 20 kilometers between the station and the wind farm should be maintained to ensure an undisturbed registration and detection of transients acoustic signals. ”

A distance from which the neighbors of wind farms can only dream.

Changes to wind farm regulations not wide enough: WCO

Proposed changes to Regulation 359/09, which covers wind turbine siting, noise, and how project appeals are allowed, don’t begin to cover the landscape on Ontario’s problems with wind power projects, says Wind Concerns Ontario. For one thing, there is no protection for health and safety.

 

Regulation 359/09 doesn’t align with experience and research, and doesn’t protect health, safety or the environment

November 9, 2018

Proposed amendments to Regulation 359/09, infamous in rural Ontario subjected to wind power projects as being THE regulation responsible for the abuses of democracy and social justice, don’t begin to make the changes needed, Wind Concerns Ontario says in a comment document filed this week with the Ontario government.

“The wider provisions of the regulation do not align with the experience in Ontario and current research on the impact of wind turbines on communities,” president Jane Wilson wrote in a covering letter attached to the formal comment document.

“The conclusion of experience and research is that many aspects of the current regulation are not sufficient to protect the health and safety of residents living near the wind power projects. Significant changes are required.”

The document was filed with the government on November 5th.

Affected by wind turbine noise, vibration and well water disturbance, or have experience with effects on the environment and wildlife? Send the document to your MPP with your personal comments.

Read it here: 359 09 Comment WCO-FINAL-Nov5

 

 

Green Energy Act meant serious problems for rural Ontario: WCO

New draft bill doesn’t go far enough to address change needed to undo damage

October 30, 2018

Citizens of Dutton Dunwich oppose a wind power project–under the Green Energy Act, their concerns had no weight. A new bill doesn’t seem to change that.

 

In a presentation before the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Wind Concerns Ontario described the wide range of problems caused for all of Ontario, and especially rural and small-town communities, by the Green Energy Act.

Bill 34, which aims to change aspects of the Green Energy Act, is at the committee stage, before receiving final approval by the Legislature.

Presenting for the coalition of community group members and individuals and family members of Wind Concerns Ontario was executive vice-president Warren Howard, a former bank executive and municipal councilor.

He reviewed the problems with wind turbine noise and disturbed water wells; the removal of local land-use planning for municipalities; and the fact that municipalities are now being called upon by residents for help with these negative impacts of the wind power projects, but that they are helpless to do much. In some cases, he said, municipalities tried to take action to protect the health of their residents, but were met by threats of expensive legal action by wind power developers.

The rules for the approval and operation of wind power projects are not based on solid science, Howard said, and are today, out of line with rules in other jurisdictions.

Wind Concerns Ontario obtained documents showing thousands of official records of complaints of excessive noise and vibration from wind turbines, he said, but the response rate from the former Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change was poor.

In more than a few cases, people across Ontario have abandoned their homes because of the impact of wind turbine noise emissions.   Even though the Ministry’s Spills Action Line operates on a 24 hour-7 day per week basis and had the capability to respond on an emergency basis to other environment issues, the only response to wind turbine complaints was to advise the District Office who would respond in a day  or  so.  There is no evidence of action being taken on requests by frustrated residents that turbines be turned off so that they could sleep.

The new Bill does not go far enough in making the necessary changes required to repair the damage done to Ontario by the Green Energy Act, Howard explained to the committee. There is no change, for example, in the role of municipalities to approve wind power projects, and there seems to be no provision for enforcement of existing noise regulations, which need to be improved.

Wind Concerns called for retraction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health statement published in 2010, denying that health issues are linked to wind turbine noise. The document is incomplete and outdated, yet it is being relied on as the foundation for environment ministry response.

Wind Concerns also called for regulation 359/09 be rewritten and action be taken to address the 4,562 complaints about wind turbine problems.

The official submission to the Standing Committee on Social Policy is here: Social Policy Committee October 30 FINAL.

Risk of turbine construction, operation high for Nation Rise project: geoscientist

October 15, 2018

ERT chair Maureen Cartier-Whitney hears evidence on groundwater. Geoscientist said it is possible there is no effective mitigation for the vibration produced by turbine construction and operation.

Finch, Ontario — The Nation Rise wind power project, which received Renewable Energy Approval in May, poses a significant risk to people and the environment due to vibration connected to the construction and operation of the wind turbines, a geoscientist told the Environmental Review Tribunal when the citizen-funded appeal resumed today.

Angelique Magee said that the project area is located on the former Champlain Sea and the nature of the soils plus the presence of Leda or “quick” clay represents a “high potential” for landslides. She provided details of landslides that have occurred in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, including one that resulted in loss of life. She also recounted the story of the village of Lemieux which was evacuated due to risk of a landslide because of Leda clay and which subsequently did slide into the Nation River, causing a loss of land, killing fish and destroying fish habitat.

Leda clay is prevalent throughout the region, Magee said. The soil is such that when it is disturbed by vibration, it can become liquid, thus causing the landslides. The risk is high, McGee said, and would pose a serious risk to human health and a serious and irreversible risk to the environment.

She mentioned the fact that Eastern Ontario also has many earthquakes which would add to the risk, due to seismic vibration. She was asked if mitigation is possible, and answered that the proponent is supposed to identify all the wells in the project area, but has not fulfilled that requirement of the Renewable Energy Approval. “There is no assurance of the quantity or quality of water.”

The project area is situated on a “highly vulnerable aquifer” she noted and the wells serving homes, businesses and farms are often shallow or “dug” wells as opposed to drilled wells. The proponents’ information on wells is out of date, she added. The proponent’s lawyer, John Terry, asked if it isn’t true that there are many areas of vulnerable aquifers in Ontario. “Yes,” she responded  “but it is important to consider local characteristics. In this case, that means the presence of the shallow wells, which would be affected.”

A third risk factor is the presence of karst topography which is characterized by fissures and can lead to contamination of groundwater in certain situations, construction vibration included.

The geoscientist was asked about the use of quarries in the proponents’ environmental assessment, which she said was not appropriate. The turbines would cause constant vibration, she said, which different from blasting occasionally.

When asked if the conditions of the REA would prevent harm, Ms Magee said, no. The measures proposed would not necessarily prevent a landslide or contamination of the groundwater, and the proponent has not conducted the proper identification of the water wells in the area, or done a proper assessment of the impact of seismic vibration on the soil and aquifer.

The only mitigation that would ensure no harm to people or the environment would be to not locate turbines in vulnerable areas such as this, McGee said.

In his cross-examination, lawyer Terry suggested that Magee’s interest was simply that she owns property in the Nation Rise project area, and her real concern was the value of her property. “My concerns are primarily based on geology,” she answered, “and yes, if the wind turbines affect the wells then I am concerned that homes will not be sellable.” Mr. Terry also tried to suggest that Ms Magee used Wikipedia as a source of information to which she responded that she used scientific studies and papers to prepare her evidence, the same papers that may have been used in the Wikipedia entry. She said, she may have used the Wikipedia entry I order to use language non-scientists could understand, she said.

The hearing continues October 16, and closing arguments will be presented in Toronto on November 23rd.

The proponent has not fulfilled a requirement to identify all wells in the project area. Signs demanding water testing line a street in Finch, Ontario.