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.
Former oil drilling roughneck now university professor says vibrations such as from pile-driving is well known to affect wells. The MOECC, however, relies on a report from the power developers’ consultant, which says it doesn’t. Choosing what to measure seems key.
Debate continues on water wells and contamination
Special to Ontario Farmer
February 20, 2018
Geological engineer Maurice Dusseault wasn’t surprised to hear that Chatham-Kent water wells were contaminated in the wake of pile driving for wind turbines.
“Pile driving emits a lot of low-frequency energy, and it is not at all surprising to me that there could be related groundwater effects. The concept of large-amplitude, low frequency excitation as an aid to liquid flow is reasonably well-known,” the University of Waterloo professor said.
“Low frequency deformation waves are absolutely known to lead to fluctuation in ground water levels as well as changes in the particulate count in shallow groundwater wells.”
In addition, Dusseault said affected residents were well-advised in having their wells baseline tested prior to construction last summer. It’s the type of evaluation he recommends.
Before and after tests sent by the Water Wells First citizens’ group to RTI Laboratories in Michigan show an exponential increase [in] turbidity among the 14 affected wells, including [a] large proportion that can be attributed to Kettle [Point] black shale particles that are known to contain heavy metals, including uranium, arsenic and lead.
That’s not the conclusion reached by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, as outlined in letters recently sent to affected well owners living near the North Kent One project in the northern part of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.
While there’s been an admission that wells have indeed been contaminated, that contamination can only be attributed to “unidentified factors.”
Pile-driving activities associated with wind turbine development are not to blame, the MOECC maintains.
The MOECC, in coming to its conclusion, relied upon the vibration evaluations prepared for the developers Samsung and Pattern Energy, by Golder Associates Limited. Golder measured changes to particle velocity as a measure of vibration intensity created by pile driving.
“The ministry has reviewed Golder’s assessment and agreed with the conclusion that any pile driving -induced vibrations at your well would have been much lower than those created during common daily activities around the homes,” a letter to one of the affected families states.
The parameters used by Golder, however, may be flawed…. Read more
Following the announcement last Thursday that four citizens’ groups* in Ontario are taking legal action against the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) over the noise from planned wind power projects, the groups involved have issued statements relative to each of their own local situations.
“We’re not taking this step lightly,” commented Bonnie Rowe, spokesperson for Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines, the applicant in this suit. “We estimate that these five proposed wind power projects will be out of compliance with noise levels as soon as they go online. In the Dutton Dunwich case, the majority of the proposed turbines, as well as the transformer, will likely produce noise over the MOECC maximum allowable levels. That is just unacceptable, especially to the many citizens living nearby, who will be forced to endure that noise.”
“The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont are in complete support of this legal challenge,” said spokesperson Margaret Benke. “Protection of the health and safety for more than 1,200 local residents is our main concern. We feel that the MOECC must be held to account.”
Julie Leroux, spokesperson for Save the Nation, says “By allowing the construction of the Eastern Fields project and using only outdated noise regulations, the MOECC would deny protection of health and wellbeing for hundreds of local residents, for the next 20 years. We strongly feel that this is unacceptable.”
“Based on what information the public has been provided so far, it appears most of the turbines [in the Otter Creek project] will be out of compliance” said Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns spokesperson, Violet Towell. “We believe many Wallaceburg and area citizens will suffer unnecessary hardship if this project is allowed to continue, and we fully endorse this judicial review.”
For more information on the legal action, contact lawyer Eric Gillespie at 416-436-7473 (phone/text)
The collapse yesterday of a wind turbine in South Kent, in Chatham-Kent made for stunning photographs and multiple news stories (even in Toronto!).
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is said to be monitoring clean-up of the turbine site, to make sure the hazardous chemicals in the turbine are disposed of properly; the Ontario Ministry of Labour is also said to be looking into the incident.
Meanwhile, amid claims of how rare the incident is, the U.S.-based owner/operator is investigating the cause.
The wind power trade association and lobbyist, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) weighed in, saying Canada has thousands of wind turbines and such incidents are rare.
But the collapse of the CK turbine has raised questions. Especially when several other news stories appeared the same day such as a report from an international website that monitors wind turbine accidents which says many countries are considering new setbacks for safety. And, a report from the U.S. notes that wind turbines require more maintenance as they age: soon, the average age of U.S. turbines will be 11 years.
Why was the collapse not detected by the operator? It is rumoured that someone passing by saw the destroyed turbine and reported it.
What sort of maintenance is mandated for these huge power generators, and were there routine inspections?
What public reporting is there for wind turbine incidents? The companies are required by their Renewable Energy Approval to report any incidents such as blade failure or fire to the Ontario government and the appropriate municipality, but when there was a fire in the K2 project in 2017, the municipality was not notified until some time after — a news report at the time said a company representative did not know which turbine had burned, and was driving around with his car window open, trying to find it.
In another project in Ontario, the wind turbine was visibly leaning “off plumb” and was eventually secured with guy wires, prior to foundation repairs.
There is apparently a report that a turbine blade went through the roof of a house in Chatham-Kent in 2009 (we’re looking for that).
As for fires, the wind industry’s own journal, NA Windpower, published an article some years ago titled, “It’s not ‘if’ it’s when,” referring to the frequency of wind turbine fires.
Clearly, these incidents are not as “rare” as the wind industry would have you believe.
The Caithness accident report from Europe says that between 2013 and 2017, there were 167 accidents per year, including fires, broken blades, and injuries/deaths among workers. Blade failure is the most common incident, followed by fires.
Some countries are finally accepting that industrial wind turbines can pose a significant public health and safety risk. In June 2014, the report of the Finnish Ministry of Health called for a minimum distance of 2 km from houses by concluding: “The actors of development of wind energy should understand that no economic or political objective must not prevail over the well being and health of individuals.” In 2016 Bavaria passed legislation requiring a minimum 2km distance between wind turbines and homes, and Ireland are considering a similar measure.
The Ontario government continues to dodge its responsibility on wind turbine noise by relying on computer models and its notion of compliance, despite growing evidence and thousands of complaints of noise and vibration.
With yesterday’s event, the government needs to assure Ontario’s rural citizens that it is doing everything it can in the area of safety.
Other questions relate to the technical aspects of the wind “farm” approvals:
What sort of design safety margins are required with regards to the material properties?
What kind of stress, natural frequency and fatigue analysis is required to be submitted for these when an application is drawn up?
Who reviews the technical part of the application? What are the qualifications of the reviewer? Are those applications ever farmed out to professional engineers who have the appropriate experience to conduct the review?
What inspection procedures are used during installation and afterwards during operation? Who conducts these inspections? What inspection reports are filed and where are they filed? What are the qualifications of those who review the inspection reports?
How often do IWT inspections need to be done…. and how are they being done after it is up and running so that relevant data is actually acquired?
How many IWTs are out there of this design or similar?
What design specifications are being followed for the design and manufacturing? For example, do they require x-ray weld non-destructive examination for all tower welds?
The Ministry of Labour is now reported to be involved in the Chatham-Kent turbine failure. If this IWT failed for a reason that can’t be readily identified, what position has the Ministry of Labour taken (or needs to take) on behalf of all the workers who install and maintain these things?
Does it mean that these are unsafe for people to be anywhere near both during construction and afterwards during operation until such time as the root cause failure analysis is completed?
A group of municipal officials sent a formal letter to the supervisor of the Owen Sound office of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) following a presentation by the MOECC on the subject of wind turbine noise, noise reports, and adverse health effects.
While thanking manager Rick Chappell for his presentation, Stewart Halliday and Mark Davis, deputy mayors speaking on behalf of the group, said it was disappointing, and designed to mislead the public into thinking there are not problems with wind turbine noise in Ontario.
It’s time to stop denying the health effects, the Multi-Municipal group said, and get on to the business of alleviating the real suffering.
The letter follows.
M U L T I – M U N I C I P A L W I N D T U R B I N E W O R K I N G G R O U P
Owen Sound, Ontario N4K 0A5 Dear Mr. Barton and Mr. Chappell,
RE: Your presentation to our meeting of 14 December, 2017
Thank you for taking the time to make your presentation to the Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group.
As councillors, we have had ongoing complaints from a significant number of residents living near wind turbines in our area who are suffering harm to their health. The video we presented to you documents the experience of some of those affected. It will also help you to understand the widespread anger and disillusionment with the MOECC’s failure to act on their behalf.
Much of the suffering could have been avoided had the local MOECC offices identified to their standards division that the public were adversely impacted (as confirmed by complaints and field monitoring) even when the turbines might have been compliant with the A weighted limits, since those limits were not appropriately corrected for the cyclical nature of the sound that is unmatched in nature, the tonality, the frequency spectrum, and the dominance of the sound above the local environment, and the other special characteristics of the wind turbine sound.
As recently revealed in FOI disclosure, there have been hundreds of complaints. Failure to resolve them, declining to shut down problematic arrays, and relying on proponent estimates of noise emissions only creates growing distrust of the MOECC.
Your presentation was disappointing. It appeared to be designed to mislead the public into thinking there are no health problems. You presented a rosy picture of a government that is busy working on our behalf. But our experience shows that it is not.
You admitted at the meeting that you are aware that some people living near wind turbines are getting sick. You agree that IWTs cause annoyance and that leads to health issues. It is time to accept this and move forward— to protect the public so that they are not adversely impacted.
The urgent need for action is confirmed by the recent decision of Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that declared: “We accept that the evidence points to an association and a plausible pathway between WTN and adverse health effects (of a physical nature) mediated by annoyance, sleep disturbance and/or psychological distress”.
The Ministry’s commitment to the Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) under the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) (1994) stipulates that it will use “a precautionary, science-based approach in its decision-making to protect human health and the environment” and that “it will place priority on preventing pollution [in this case harmful noise emissions] . . . minimizing the creation of pollutants that can adversely affect the environment. . . . The Ministry will ensure that staff involved in decisions that might significantly affect the environment is aware of the Ministry’s Environmental Bill of Rights obligations”.
You can no longer justify continued inaction by falsely assuming that “components of wind turbine sound including infrasound and low-frequency sound have not been shown to present unique health risks to people living near wind turbines”.
Scientific, peer reviewed work carried out on infrasound and wind turbines by NASA under the direction of the highly respected Dr. Neil Kelley between 1981 and 1988 demonstrated the infrasound component of wind turbine emissions and its adverse effect on nearby residents. The World Health Organization has issued warnings that “the evidence on low frequency noise is sufficiently strong to warrant immediate concern”; “low-frequency noise . . . can disturb rest and sleep even at low sound pressure levels”; “other primary physiological effects can also be induced by noise during sleep, including increased blood pressure; increased heart rate; … vasoconstriction; …cardiac arrhythmia”.
Ambrose and Rand (2011, 2012), Basner et al. (2014), Cooper (2014), James (2013), and Nissenbaum (2012) all related measurements of wind turbine emissions (including infrasound) directly to diarized symptoms reported by those living nearby. Thorne’s study (2013), which took place over seven years, collected acoustic data at a number of homes so that cumulative exposures could be estimated. It concluded that health is “seriously and adversely affected”. Swinbanks paper presented in Glasgow in 2015 did not support your position. The MOECC failed to refer to published peer reviewed documentation by Tachibana and Kuwano in the Noise Control Engineering Journal 62(6) 503-520 (2015): “Wind Turbine Noise (WTN) generally has dominant low frequencies and is easily transmitted into buildings, causing residents psycho-acoustical annoyance and sleep disturbance”.
We would be happy to provide you with these documents.
How did it get to this state of affairs that local residents have a greater understanding of the problems than the people whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers to protect us? We await some timely, responsible, diligent enforcement action from your office to alleviate the suffering of our residents.
Stewart Halliday, Deputy Mayor Municipality of Grey Highlands, Chair
Mark Davis, Deputy Mayor Municipality of Arran-Elderslie, Vice-chair
It is with deep sadness that Wind Concerns Ontario announces the passing of one of its staunchest members and Board member, Stephana Johnston.
Stephana had lived for years among the wind turbines in the Cultus-Clear Creek-Frogmore wind power project, developed by AIM PowerGen, and was one of the forst people in Ontario to experience symptoms from exposure to the vibration and noise emissions.
She fought back.
She presented information countless times to municipal councils, attended appeals before the Environmental Review Tribunal, and drove long distances to communities across Ontario to support people in their fight against the unwanted power projects. She was featured in numerous news articles including one published by the Globe and Mail.
A committed environmentalist, she ran for office as an MP for the Green Party in Haldimand-Norfolk, promoting “healthy communities” and “renewable energy.”
In a recent message to Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson, Stephana wrote:
” … bless all the unsung wind warriors who are still strong in their resistance to IWTs and the harm they heap on those surrounded by them.”
As soon as we receive the formal notice from the family, we will publish it here.
The Ontario government is still processing five wind power contracts awarded under the 2016 Large Renewable Procurement I (LRP I), despite concerns about the environment and health and the fact that Ontario has a surplus of power. With thousands of noise complaints recorded with the government unresolved, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) refuses to acknowledge that it has a problem, and refuses to look for causes, relying instead on its clearly inadequate set of regulations.
One of our favourite quotes in 2017 came from a hydrogeologist who pointed out, referring to the problems with water wells in Chatham-Kent, if you have a model that says you’re not going to have problems, then you experience problems, then it’s the model that is wrong.
The fact that wind power development on the industrial or utility scale has many significant problems — energy poverty, environmental damage, adverse health effects, negative impact on rural communities — is now better understood by the people in Ontario, and the media. In 2017, two major networks, Global News and Radio-Canada, carried multi-part investigative reports this past year. The three-part Global News feature spurred questions in the Legislature and forced the then-minister to act on noise complaints for several Huron County families.
The Huron County public health follow-up of noise complaints was finally launched by the Health Unit there; other health units are watching attentively. We believe 2018 will be the year when the Government of Ontario is forced to live up to its mandate and take steps to protect the health of its residents.
And, the legal battles continue, with actions taking place both inside the legislated appeal process for wind power projects, and in the courts. There have been victories: there will be more.
In her Christmas Message this year, the Queen spoke of the importance of “home”: ” … the idea of home reaches beyond a physical building, to a home town or city,” she said.
We in Ontario think of our “home” as being our communities, the landscape, the natural environment — indeed, the entire province and all the people in it. We will continue to fight for justice for the environment and for families this year.
WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO
Please join us: click on the Join/Donate button above.
Somebody at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change headquarters on St Clair Avenue in downtown Toronto must have thought this was funny … and a way to use Christmas (because Christmas is there to be used for political purposes, isn’t it?) in the government’s “use-tap-water-not-bottles” campaign.
Employing social media Facebook and Twitter, the MOECC came out with a retro graphic asking people to leave Santa a glass of good old Ontario tap water this Christmas… it’s so good, it’s better than milk!
The campaign betrays a complete lack of awareness and/or sympathy for the plight of people in Chatham-Kent, whose water wells have been damaged, possibly by nearby wind turbine construction. Their homes, and the wind power project, are located on Kettle Point Black Shale and now, particles of that bedrock, which contains arsenic and other elements that should not be ingested, are present in their water. So much so, the water in some areas resembles chocolate milk, and the sludge is so thick that filtration systems have failed.
In response, the MOECC relies on the power developer; the power developer says its consultant assures them whatever happened to the wells isn’t their fault. Meanwhile, experts differ. If you have a model that predicts you won’t have problems, but then you have problems, it is the model that is probably at fault, geologic scientist Keith Benn told a Wallaceburg audience at a public meeting recently.
So now, at Christmastime, at least 14 families cannot turn on THEIR taps for fresh, clean, Ontario water … but the government ministry in charge of protecting the environment and their health takes no action, and instead spends time thinking up Christmas jokes.
The government, and Minister Chris Ballard should be ashamed.
Municipal officials told wind turbine noise no worse than barking dogs, no action planned
December 16, 2017
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) position on wind turbine noise is that they don’t pose a health problem.
That’s the conclusion from remarks made by Owen Sound District Manager Rick Chappell and District Supervisor Andrew Barton, speaking to the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group in Chesley this past week.
The two MOECC managers said repeatedly indicated that they are just messengers: the MOECC’s Technical Assessment and Standards Branch is responsible for establishing the Ministry’s position on wind turbine noise and providing “advice” to local District staff when they respond to queries.
Bottom line: we don’t believe you
In their presentation and responding to questions from municipal officials in the Multi-Municipal working group, the MOECC officials outlined key elements of the MOECC position on wind turbine noise.
They agree that wind turbines can cause annoyance. Contrary to medical literature, however, they do not use “annoyance” as a medical term denoting stress or distress. They actually compared annoyance caused by barking dogs to residents’ reactions to wind turbine noise. *
The MOECC managers insisted the literature did not demonstrate any direct health effects from wind turbine noise, when asked about health studies and reviews on turbine noise. Despite evidence of indirect health effects raised, the staff comments repeatedly indicate the MOECC is narrowly focused on direct health effects.
The MOECC takes a one-sided view of the Health Canada study which according to these officials only found that there was no link between wind turbine noise and health impacts. This statement ignores the second half of the findings which confirmed a link between reported health effects experienced over 12 months and wind turbine noise. They also do not seem to be aware of the findings released to WCO which indicated that annoyance starts at 35 dBA, not the 40 dBA used in Ontario.
Their view of the Council of Canadian Academies report was similarly selective. They downplayed the key finding of this review which was that there is sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and annoyance in the medical sense. Also not mentioned were the issues highlighted about measurements of wind turbine noise using A-weighted tools which fail to capture low frequency components of wind turbine noise. The Council noted that averaging measurements over time does not convey changes in sound pressure levels occurring in short periods.
In terms of low frequency noise and infrasound, the MOECC representatives relied on a statement from Health Canada that levels of these emissions were found to be below levels that would expect to result in harm to human health. When questioned, however, they were not able to quantify what the MOECC considered “safe” levels of infrasound, or when the MOECC would be acquiring equipment that is capable of measuring emissions at frequencies below 20 Hz.
Members of the Working Group countered by referring to research that conflicted with the MOECC statements. The response from Chappell and Barton was that the Technical Assessment and Standards Development branch reviews emerging research, but limits its assessments to peer-reviewed articles in “respected” journals.
In the MOECC presentation, staff said the 2016 Glasgow International Wind Turbine Noise Conference supported their position on infrasound and health effects. This prompted the Technical Advisor to the group — who actually attended the conference — to inform them that he sent 14 papers presented at this conference to the Ministry, because the conclusions do not support the Ministry’s position.
Chappell and Barton did not seem to be aware of the work of Dr. Neil Kelly at NASA in the mid-1970s on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines, even though it was published in respected peer-reviewed journals and presented at U.S. wind industry conferences.
Residents affected by wind turbine noise were present in the audience. One from Grey Highlands asked when the Ministry was going to respond to the noise assessments at his home that had been provided to the Ministry. No response timeline was provided. Another asked for the position of the MOECC on people who had to move from their homes because of the impact of the noise from nearby wind turbines. The response was that the MOECC has no position except to repeat that there is no direct link between wind turbine noise and health issues.
Members of the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group did not appear to be satisfied with the answers provided by the Ministry officials; several follow-up activities are planned.
MOECC failing as regulator: WCO
Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson says these remarks are either a sign of “stunning ignorance, or a calculated policy by the MOECC to ignore and even demean what is happening to people in Ontario.”
Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says there is a great deal of evidence in the health literature about the range of noise emissions produced by large-scale wind turbines, and growing international concern about adverse health effects.
“Of course there are health effects,” Wilson said. “That’s why we have setbacks between turbines and homes in the first place. This Ministry refuses to acknowledge it has a problem and take appropriate action — it is failing the people of Ontario as a regulator.”
*CanWEA in a 2011 news release acknowledged that a percentage of people can be annoyed by wind turbines, and the trade association said that when annoyance has a significant impact on quality of life, “it is important that they consult their doctor. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also describes noise-induced annoyance in legislation as a situation that “can have major consequences, primarily to one’s health.”
A Kincardine area couple has filed hundreds of formal reports of excessive noise and vibration from nearby wind turbines with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), but has never had any resolution of the problem.
CTV’s Scott Miller interviewed the Walpole family and learned of their plight. The vibrations in the home are so strong, they said, light bulbs come loose in their sockets.
The Walpoles have filed more than 200 reports with the government and are told testing is ongoing, but somehow, the tests are never completed, and the problem continues.
The Municipality of Kincardine is frustrated by the MOECC’s apparent inaction and failure to resolve residents’ problems, says the Mayor in the CTV interview.
Last week, a representative of the MOECC appeared before Kincardine Council to answer questions on the situation. Rick Chappell, manager in the Owen Sound District Office, claimed there was a backlog in the Ministry’s processing of reports.
The wind power project in Kincardine has been operating for more than eight years.
Earlier this year, Wind Concerns Ontario received documents from the MOECC with records and staff notes on wind turbine noise reports to the Ministry, which showed that there was no response to more than half the complaints made and in fat, only one percent received a “priority response.” The Ministry was aware of hundreds of complaints even before the Green Energy Act was passed in 2009, which facilitated the development of even more utility-scale or industrial-scale wind power projects in Ontario.
At present, with thousands of unresolved reports of noise and vibration, and questions of interference with water supply, the MOECC is in the process of considering Renewable Energy Approvals for five more projects.
The recording of Mr Chappell’s appearance before Kincardine Council is now available here, after minute 11.
Since 1995, more than 2,500 wind turbines have appeared in the Ontario landscape, but the green label attached to them is strongly criticized in some communities that are mobilizing to oppose the development of new projects. The problem is that these citizens do not always feel listened to by the public authorities.
Reportage and photos: Nicolas Pham
Text: Marine Lefevre
Infographics: Vincent Wallon
In 2014, the small community of Dutton-Dunwich, near London, rejected 84% of the proposed installation of 20 wind turbines on the territory of the municipality by a US multinational.
A plebiscite that does not prevent the provincial government from giving initial approval to Invenergy’s plan in 2017.
In Dutton-Dunwich, it’s incomprehension and anger.
“Everyone is furious. All my neighbors are really worried. I do not think we can compromise. I do not want these structures 200 m high next to me, “says Kristen Scheele, a resident who feels betrayed by the fact that the voice of the population is not respected.
“When, in the democratic process, the rights of a minority outweigh the rights of the majority? ” – Kirsten Scheele
A feeling shared by the mayor of the city, who has been fighting the idea since the beginning.
“We do not want it. My fellow citizens are frustrated that they are not being listened to and are concerned that their concerns are not being addressed, “said Cameron McWilliam.
At a public information meeting organized by Invenergy in October 2017, members of the Dutton / Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines Group (DDOTW) say that wind turbines are bad for the environment, for the economy and for themselves.
What they absolutely want to avoid is that their fate is identical to that of the neighboring municipality of Lakeshore, where a park of 100 wind turbines was built in 2016 against the advice of the population and the municipal council.
“Council passed a motion saying we had our share of wind turbines and we did not want more,” said Mayor Tom Baine. The government’s response has been: they are coming! ” – Tom Baine, Lakeshore Mayor
Why ignore the opinion of citizens and elected officials?
According to provincial legislation, the support of a community where wind turbines are built is desirable, but it is not essential.
“While community support can increase the chances of a project receiving a contract, there are many factors that affect its bid … Even though municipal and community support is an important factor in the evaluation. project proposals, it is not mandatory, “says the ministry by email.
A situation that many elected officials deplore, including Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
“With the Green Energy Act, the government has removed the autonomy of the municipalities, so that it can decide where it [puts] these renewable energy projects. It does not matter if a city or village is a voluntary host or not. ” – Jeff Yurek, Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London
While more than 2,500 wind turbines have been built in Ontario since 1995, the number of housing starts has accelerated since 2009, when the Green Energy Act came into force.
But why do whole communities refuse ecological and sustainable energy?
In spite of the positive label attached to this so-called green energy, it is criticized for several inconveniences.
“People who live near these huge machines have problems. They are noisy, blink and vibrate with a vibration you can feel from your home, “says Jane Wilson of Wind Concerns Ontario, a citizen organization that provides information on the potential impact of wind power generation on the environment, economy, human health and the natural environment.
“A majority of our residents are against, they do not see their interest. They make noise and pose health risks, “said Lakeshore Mayor Tom Baine.
The situation of contaminated artesian wells in the Chatham-Kent area is also bothering citizens.
“When that happens, you can not go back, you can not fix it,” says Wilson.
For Kristen Scheele of Dutton, well water in Chatham and thousands of noise complaints are all sources of concern and questioning.
It worries me a lot about whether they really protect the public interest – Kristen Scheele, a resident of Dutton-Dunwich.
According to reports obtained under the Access to Information Act, thousands of complaints about wind turbines have been filed with the Ministry of the Environment, which, for the time being, has made no followed.
“The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has clearly not fulfilled its mandate in dealing with complaints in this area,” said Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam.
PROBLEMS TAKEN SERIOUSLY?
In the wind sector, it is said that the concerns of residents are taken into consideration while complying with the requirements of the legislation, which was developed from scientific studies. A regulatory distance of 550 m is required for the installation of wind turbines near homes. Wind turbines must also comply with stringent sound standards.
“If, at a point in time, wind turbines exceed the noise threshold, the department has put in place a compliance mechanism to ensure that the impacts are mitigated,” says Brandy Giannetta, Regional Director of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
For its part, the Ministry of the Environment claims to take all complaints seriously. “Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with departmental rules and requirements,” reads an email.
The ministry ensures that systematic monitoring is done to ensure that wind farms comply with all provincial requirements.
“When a complaint is registered, the ministry responds by following up with the facility to make sure it complies with all provincial requirements,” says the email.
The ministry indicates that since 2006, 25 citizens are responsible for 60% of the complaints filed in this area with the Ministry. In this context, the department says it has conducted nearly 300 follow-up activities and continues to conduct proactive inspections of wind farm operations.
On the ground, energy companies do everything to reassure residents at public meetings such as those organized by Invenergy in Dutton-Dunwich.
“We understand that citizens have concerns or objections. But in the end, wind turbines are allowed in Ontario, period, “says James Murphy, vice president of business development of the company.
ARE THE STUDIES CONVINCING?
The energy companies are more confident in their efforts that several studies indicate that the noise and vibration of the turbines do not affect the health of residents and that their construction has no impact on the nearby artesian wells.
In 2014, a Health Canada study concludes that there is no evidence to establish a link between the noise exposure of wind turbines and the health problems reported by certain people living near these facilities.
“No statistically significant relationship was found between measured blood pressure, or resting heart rate, and noise exposure of wind turbines. ” – Health Canada study with 4000 hours of measurement of wind turbine noise data.
But the agency also has several reservations. According to her, scientific data on the subject are limited. It also states that the findings of this study do not in themselves provide definitive answers and that they “should be considered in the context of a larger evidence base”.
The public also does not trust the mandatory environmental studies submitted by the energy companies for any new project.
“People who have money can buy the reports they need. ” – Jane Wilson, Wind Concerns Ontario
Cameron McWilliam also questions the independence of this research.
“When you have the fox guarding the hen house, you expect that the studies will not be done by the opponent. It should be totally independent of the company and it did not happen. Because of wind farm liabilities, residents and our board are not ready to believe studies that say everything is fine, “he says.
But beyond research, living on a daily basis alongside wind turbines is difficult, say the inhabitants. Whether the vibrations felt by some or the discomfort caused by flashing air signal lights experienced by others, the effects of the presence of wind turbines are very real in the lives of these people.
It is in this context that the opposition is organized among citizens who see especially in this renewable energy the symbol of questioning their way of life in the countryside.
They are not ready to be imposed these huge machines. They do not want to be hijacked and most of all want to hear from a government that invests in green energy and from companies that claim to comply with government requirements.