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.
Problems with noise, vibration and disturbed wells causes concerns about how projects get approved, and whether the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is actually regulating anything
September 20, 2017
An article in the current edition of Ontario Farmer notes “growing concerns” about the impact of wind turbine construction activities on well water for residents in Chatham-Kent.
From the article by Jeffrey Carter:
The MP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington said provincial approval process for wind turbines in Ontario is “appalling”, especially in how it has impacted the northern part of his riding. Dave Van Kesteren said the federal approval process for pipelines is far more rigorous. “I don’t see that happening for wind farms,” Van Kesteren said. “Let’s go through a proper process and find out if there are concerns.”
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope was asked about the interference with area water wells related to construction on the North Kent II wind power project, where as many as nine wells (it is now 12) wells are said to have been contaminated since pile-driving operations began.
Hope said the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has so far only reported six complaints that may be linked to the project. He also said the wells are not contaminated. Rather, the complaints relate to water turbidity and turbid water does not pose a health risk, he said.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesman for the Water Wells First group said there have been 11 complaints sent to the MOECC so far and others are expected. In three cases the water has been choked off and families are relying on temporary tanks and delivered water.
Earlier this week, power developer Samsung, while still refusing to accept responsibility for the water problems, said that the water it is shipping to families is for general use only but not for drinking.
Last week, the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, a coalition of several Ontario municipalities concerned about and affected by wind power operations, put out a news release demanding the MOECC take action.
“The Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group requests the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to respect the urgent need of the citizens of North Kent and the First Nation clans to see this issue remedied at once,” the Group stated in the news release, signed by Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Stewart Halliday.
Yesterday, September 19, the MOECC responded to a complaint and was prepared to take water samples from a home for testing, but refused because Mr Jakubec of Water Wells First was present.
The MOECC’s mandate is “Leading to healthier communities and economic prosperity through the protection of Ontario’s air, land and water.”
Wind Concerns Ontario urges anyone with well water problems in Chatham-Kent to contact the Ministry via the local office or by calling the Spills Action line at 1-800-268-6060. Be sure to get an Incident Report number from the staff person, and keep a log of your calls and comments.
Wind Concerns Ontario has been urging people experiencing noise, vibration and other effects from being exposed to wind turbine noise emissions to report these to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
We have just received a letter that underscores the need to continue reporting.
In a letter from the District Manager in Ottawa regarding a wind power project in Eastern Ontario, he writes “… additional complaints in the area were not received by the ministry.”
And, he said, the wind power developer did not hold Community Liaison Committee meetings further than the mandated four events because of a “lack of participation by members of the public.”
While the latter statement is not accurate (the power developer said at its very first meeting that it never intended to hold more than four), the message is clear: no reports of excessive noise to the ministry means NO PROBLEM.
Again, if you have experience with excessive noise, sound pressure, vibration, shadow flicker, or altered well water, please call the MOECC Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 or, if you have the District Office telephone number and you are calling during business hours, call that.
Be prepared to give your location, any observations about weather, wind speed if you have it (you can get this from your cell phone), and any other observations about what you are experiencing.
Be sure to get an Incident Report number and keep a log of your calls.
If you do nothing, you are one-hundred-percent guaranteed nothing will be done.
An Open Letter to the newly appointed Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Chris Ballard. “You have work to do”
July 31, 2017
To the Honourable Chris Ballard
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Queen’s Park, Toronto
Welcome to your new position as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
Unfortunately, Minister Glen Murray has left you an extensive list of action items requiring your immediate follow-up. We highlight the key issues for you in the following list, related to Ontario’s energy policy and wind power projects.
White Pines – Withdraw the Renewable Energy Approval for this project as developer wpd cannot meet the terms of their contract. There are significant environmental concerns with this project that remain, even after a successful appeal by citizens before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Amherst Island – Rescind Renewable Energy Approval for this project which is planned for the tiny island heritage community. Significant environmental risks are present including the serious impact on migrating birds that congregate in this area; Ontario does not need the power from this project.
Saugeen Shores – The single wind turbine at the Unifor educational facility has been fraught with problems and engendered hundreds of complaints about excessive noise. This turbine would not be allowed under present regulations. You can immediately address the failure to meet a June 30 deadline for submission of a compliance audit report.
K2 Wind – This is another wind power project, a large one, with many problems in its relatively short history. You can deliver on Minister Glen Murray’s mid-May commitment to Black family, and others, to provide a solution to wind turbines that MOECC testing indicated were not compliant with Ontario regulations to protect the environment and health.
Address Concerns Raised at Request of Minister Murray – Many people across Ontario took Minister Murray at his word when he said that there were no complaints reaching his office and that he would ensure his officials responded quickly to address the issues. They wrote to him and are still waiting for action on their issues.
Complaint Tracking Process – Complaint records released to WCO in response to an FOI request indicate that the MOECC does not respond to most complaints about wind turbine noise. These complaints should be a source of learning for the Ministry rather than being ignored as currently appears to be the case. A full revision of the process is needed to ensure that complaints are actually resolved with procedures that allow the Minister’s office to track resolution. MOECC records indicate little or no resolution of more than 3,100 formal Pollution Reports made by Ontario citizens between 2006 and 2014.
REA Approval Process – Increase setbacks from residences to reflect learning from MOECC complaint records that include staff reports that confirm that current regulations are not sufficient to protect health of residents living in wind projects. Last week, the Supreme Court set out standards for consultations with communities which are substantially more rigorous that the standards used for Ontario Renewable Energy Projects.
MOECC Noise Modeling Procedures – implement new noise modeling procedures based on MOECC internal testing that demonstrates wind turbines routinely exceed predicted levels.
Otter Creek – Retract decision to deem this application “complete” for the Renewable Energy Approval process. The proponent is unable to provide noise emission data for the turbine equipment proposed. The noise report submitted with the application for a REA is not grounded in fact but rather is estimates based estimates. Also, a full MOECC investigation of the impact on well water is required.
LRP I Contracts – suspend REA process for remaining LRP I projects until full review of requirements based on internal complaint records is completed.
Noise Compliance Audit Protocol – Expand the wind speeds covered under the protocol to include wind speeds below 4 metres/second which are the source of a substantial portion of complaints about excessive noise. Even MOECC testing shows these wind speeds are the source of noise levels exceeding 40 dB(A), which completely undercuts the credibility of this audit process.
REA Enforcement – REA terms make the project operator responsible for addressing the concerns raised in each complaint to ensure that it does not recur. The MOECC needs to follow up on all operating with projects to ensure compliance with these terms and take action where it is not occurring.
Shadow Flicker – The flickering shadows produced when a turbine is positioned between the rising or setting sun is a major irritant for residents. It is not considered in the REA approvals and is easy to address by turning off the turbine for the times when it is casting moving shadows on a house. In some projects, these changes have been implemented by the wind company but in other MOECC staff is telling residents no action is required, even though the REA requires the wind company to address complaints like these.
Infrasound – Expand MOECC testing to include the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines as independent testing shows the presence of elevated levels of infrasound in homes where residents have had to leave to protect their health.
Health Studies – The Ministry has been telling residents that its policy is based on the “best science” available since the first turbine projects were built. MOECC records clearly show that this is not correct, but the Ministry continues to be willfully blind to input from both residents and its own staff, quoting dated and selective literature reviews in a field where the science is rapidly evolving. The need for noise studies and other investigation has been highlighted in numerous reports but never undertaken. It is time for some serious field studies of the problems being caused by wind turbine projects in rural communities across Ontario. This was an information gap identified in 2010 by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Last, it is important that as you prepare for this major portfolio, you understand that industrial-scale wind power generation offers no significant benefit to the environment.
Wind power generation on this scale is a high-impact development for little benefit, if any. Two Auditors General for Ontario recommended that Ontario undertake a cost-benefit and/or impact analysis — that has never been done.
We ask you to approach this issue with honesty and honour, and respect the wishes of the citizens of rural Ontario.
Wind Concerns Ontario
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power development on Ontario’s economy, the natural environment, and human health.
Government promises help on water issues, no action on noise pollution
July 30, 2017
Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Chatham-Kent and was met by protesters with a variety of complaints about her government, including high electricity bills, and the problems with water quality possibly due to vibrations produced by wind turbines in the area.
Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault also met with citizens in Chatham-Kent, and promised that complaints would be dealt with by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
This is the same government, indeed the same ministry, that promised to deal with reports of noise and other effects from industrial-scale wind turbines.
In 2009, then Premier Dalton McGuinty said that if there were “real concerns” about environmental issues, then they must be brought to the government and “we must find a way to address those.” (Toronto Star, February 11, 2009)
The fact is, according to the MOECC’s own records, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario under Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation, the government knew in 2006 there were problems being experienced by people living near wind turbines. During the years 2006-2014, more than 3,100 formal reports were recorded, many of which entailed so many complaints that large “Master” files were created.
The result? NO action in 54% of the files, “planned” action in 31%, and deferred action in 14%. Only one percent of the files got “priority” response.
To this day, compliance audits are not filed, resident reports of noise pollution and health impacts (noted by MOECC staff in 59/100 master files) are not acted on, and instead of listening to and acting on citizen concerns as promised by Premier McGuinty, the MOECC’s “client” is the wind power industry …. not the people of Ontario.
Despite claims by Minister Glen Murray that there few actual reports, and a promise of action on the ones he does have, little substantive action has occurred since the release of our report May 31, and the airing of a Global News investigative report in June.
Moreover, in a clear demonstration of willful blindness, the government persists in granting more contracts and approvals to new wind power projects.
Glasses of black water in Chatham-Kent make it easy to see that there is a problem, but we still see no accountability in this government, or the MOECC.
Read the WCO report on wind turbine noise complaints and how the government manages the issues while not responding, here: NoiseResponseReport-FINAL-May9
Incident reports released under Freedom of Information show government unable or unwilling to act on noise complaints from residents living near wind power projects
OTTAWA, May 31, 2017—
Documents recently released by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) under Freedom of Information show a deeply flawed process for responding to complaints of excessive noise levels from industrial-scale wind turbines, Wind Concerns Ontario says.
Documents released to Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups and citizens, show that almost 3,200 reports of noise complaints were made in 2006-2014. In more than half, the government took no action.
“When Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in the Green Energy Act in 2009, he promised the people of rural Ontario to address concerns about health and safety from the turbines,” Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson said. “But they already had multiple complaints about wind turbine noise from 2006 onward, and they were unable and even unwilling to deal with them. This is failure of a government to protect people.
“Their goal appears to be protecting the interests of power development corporations instead.”
Ontario families called the MOECC hotline to report sleep disturbance, headaches, and dizziness from the wind turbine noise emissions. Some were desperate and reported not having slept for days, even weeks at a time.
The reports show, however, that ministry staff had no protocols or guidelines to deal with noise complaints and that high-level directives blocked staff from responding. Staff were told to rely on computer noise models provided by power developers instead of actual noise measurement.
“The noise models said that the turbine noise levels were safe, and within regulations,” Wilson explains, “but complaints continued — the Ministry did nothing. The MOECC chose power developers, their ‘clients,’ over Ontario families.”
Many reports referred to vibration or “pulsing” sensations from the huge turbines, but the MOECC restricted responses to audible noise alone.
“People just gave up and stopped calling,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse, says. “Then, in many cases, the Ministry simply closed their files. There was no help for these people from their government.”
A revised Compliance Protocol was released by the government on April 21, but contains no substantive change to the complaint process.
Wind Concerns Ontario recommends that no more approvals or Notices To Proceed be granted for wind power projects, and that the government develop and enforce new, tougher noise standards.
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, families and individuals concerned about the effects of industrial-scale wind turbines on the environment, the economy, and human health.
Victoria Day weekend in Canada is a time for picnics and fun with family and friends, for many people.
One set of grandparents living on a farm in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township in Huron County thought that would be fun too, and were looking forward to having their two young granddaughters come and stay for a lovely weekend in the country.
But it was not to be.
Early on the morning of the holiday Sunday, the grandmother said, “there was a horrible tonal* noise — whine and whooing that made staying on the second level of our home intolerable.”
Later on that same morning, she said, she had “severe pressure and pain” in her ear.
Then, “Our eight year old granddaughter complained of a ‘sore forehead’.” The child has complained of sore ears at times in the past while visiting her grandparents’ home, but never at any other time.
Outside that morning the family discovered, the whining and whooing noise was everywhere.
“We had to leave here [our home] with those little girls,” the grandmother said.
“We have no freedom to do as we want in our private surroundings. It makes me weep.”
The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, like so many other families forced to endure the noise and vibration from wind turbines, have reported the turbine noise and vibration to authorities on numerous occasions. They live with 11 wind turbines within two kilometres of their home, the closest of which is just over 700 metres from the house.
On the Victoria Day weekend, they filed a complaint with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change District Office, and added this statement:
“You are harming us.”
Ontario Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray recently promised in the Legislature that his staff were responding to such complaints and that they would ensure the rules on noise emissions would be enforced.
Ontario families who did not ask to be exposed to these noise emissions deserve to have the Ministry fulfill its mandate, and protect all citizens from harm.
The Spills Action Line for the MOECC can be reached at 1-800-268-6060 to report excessive wind turbine noise, vibration and shadow flicker. If you call during business hours, you will be referred to the local Business Office. From the website:
You must report a spill if it:
harms or causes material discomfort to any person
injures or damages property or animal life
impairs the quality of the natural environment air, water or land
causes adverse health effects
presents a safety risk
renders property, plant or animal life unfit for use
leads to the loss of enjoyment of the normal use of property
interferes with the normal conduct of business
Pure tones are wave forms that occur at a single frequency. Tonal noise is generated by rotating equipment at a predictable frequency relating to the rotational speed of the shaft and the number of compressor vanes, fan blades, engine pistons, gear teeth, etc.
‘What you can’t hear, can’t hurt you’ notion shown to be false
The wind power industry, Health Canada, and the Ontario government insist that infrasound cannot be heard, and therefore it cannot hurt you.
CanWEA went so far as to pay for a study done by MIT in 2014, that concluded infrasound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds* and is therefore not a health risk.
Turns out, they are wrong.
All of them.
A paper just published by a team of German researchers, believed to be the first of its kind, documented “changes of brain activity across several regions in response to prolonged, near-threshold IS [infrasound] …”
The peer-reviewed paper, Altered cortical and subcortical connectivity due to infrasound administered near the hearing threshold – Evidence from fMRI, was published by a team of researchers led by Markus Weichenberger of the Max Plank Institute for Human Development.
“For decades,’ the research team wrote, “it has been a widely held view that IS [infrasound] frequencies are too low to be processed by the auditory system. … Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing consensus that humans are indeed receptive to IS and that exposure to low-frequency sounds can give rise to high levels of annoyance and distress.”
The authors then stated that the idea that sound needs to be perceived in order to exert effects on humans “falls short when aiming at an objective risk assessment of IS.”
The team then set out to investigate whether IS “near the hearing threshold” can affect brain activitiy and what the effects of stimulation might be.
” … our results also allow us to draw some preliminary conclusions on potential long-term health effects associated with (sub-)liminal IS stimulation. It has been reported in several studies that sustained exposure to noise can lead to an increase of catecholamine- and cortisol levels [114–116]. In addition, changes of bodily functions, such as blood pressure, respiration rate, EEG patterns and heart rate have also been documented in the context of exposure to below- and near-threshold IS [117–118]. We therefore suggest that several of the above mentioned autonomic reactions could in fact be mediated by the activation of brain areas such as the ACC and the amygdala. While increased local connectivity in ACC and rAmyg may only reflect an initial bodily stress response towards (sub-)liminal IS, we speculate that stimulation over longer periods of time could exert a profound effect on autonomic functions and may eventually lead to the formation of symptoms such as sleep disturbances, panic attacks or depression, especially when additional risk factors, such as an increased sensibility towards noise, or strong expectations about the harmfulness of IS are present.”
And, ” Transient upregulation of these brain areas in response to below- or near threshold IS may thus reflect an initial stress response of the body, eventually promoting symptom formation as stimulation occurs repeatedly and additional risk factor[s] come into play…”
Glenn Thibeault claims his energy policies saved lives. Photo: Darren MacDonald Sudbury.com
In a recent interview, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault spoke in defence of his government’s energy policies, which he admits have been responsible for escalating electricity bills and creating “energy poverty” in the formerly prosperous province.
The Minister claimed that his government didn’t self-promote the benefits of its policies often enough, and offered some public health figures as proof.
“When I talk about energy,” the Minister said, “we don’t [talk] about the fact we haven’t had a smog day in three years. Our air pollution hospitalizations are down by 41 per cent, deaths are down 23 per cent.”
Parker Gallant took the initiative to query the Minister’s office on the source of those dramatic figures and learned that whoever provided them to Mr. Thibeault for “talking points” had actually taken them from a report which in turn referenced another report, which had nothing whatever to do with energy and electricity generation in Ontario.
The figures actually came from a report by Toronto Public Health on air pollution in that city, Gallant says in his Energy Perspectives blog.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
These estimates include the impact of pollution originating in other parts of Ontario and the United States and represent a decrease of 23% in premature deaths and 41% in hospitalizations as compared with 2004 estimates. Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources. Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year…”
To be sure, air pollution is a major concern in public health, but for a Minister of the Crown to misappropriate figures to bolster policy in another area entirely is unacceptable, and deceitful.
We recall again the fact that two Auditors General for Ontario chastised the government for having implemented a green energy program including highly invasive wind power projects in quiet rural communities against their wishes, with no cost-benefit analysis. The truth about health benefits might have shown up, if a real independent analysis had ever been done.
As in, little or no understanding of the problems with wind turbine noise emissions.
On Friday, April 21, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a new protocol document intended for “assessing noise from wind turbines that have already been built. It is used by industry and ministry staff to monitor compliance.”
While in the absence of guidance for staff, and the complete lack of compliance audit information from wind power developers and operators, this is a step forward, the truth is, the protocol doesn’t change much.
the protocol still relies on audible noise only, when many of the complaints registered with the MOECC concern effects that are clearly linked to other forms of noise
the protocol does not take into account lower wind speeds, which is where problems are being experienced, particularly with newer, more powerful turbines
there is no comment on any sort of transition between the protocol that existed before and this one
the Ministry’s action in producing this protocol is an indication that they know they have a problem
the description of Ministry response is a good step forward
requiring wind power companies to actually have, and to publish, compliance audit documents could be a sign of expectations of greater accountability among the power developers/wind power project operators.
This table outlines the critical gaps in the new protocol document.
Assessment of noise at wind speeds between 4 m/s and 7 m/s
MOECC testing indicates problem noise starts below 3 m/s which is outside of wind speeds involved in the protocol.
Narrow time period assessed
Wide seasonal variations while wind turbine noise constant
Only test outside of home
Very different inside noise conditions
Uses criticized techniques
Narrow band analysis shows tonal noise present.
Resident concerns drive other MOECC procedures
Elevated levels of infrasound in homes
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise, and accept that it must play a role as a government agency charged with protecting the environment and people in it — preparing an industry-led document may look like a positive step, but this document does not meet the needs of the people of Ontario forced to live with wind turbines, and their noise emissions.
“A careful reading of this paper shows that the conclusions are not supported by the data provided …”
A paper by Jalali et al was published in the journal Environmental Research last year, concluding that psychological factors contributed to distress and changes in sleep pattern, not the actual wind turbine noise emissions. Many people already living close to wind turbines were disappointed (not to say, astonished) by its conclusions, particularly those who trusted the research team and allowed them into their homes in the hopes of a meaningful and accurate research study.
Engineer and Ontario resident William Palmer did a detailed analysis of the Jalali paper; his comments have just been published by Environmental Research.
It remains a continuing disappointment that ideology (wind power is good and trumps all other concerns) seems to underlie research into the growing public health/environmental health issue associated with industrial-scale wind turbines and the noise emissions they produce. It is also disappointing that researchers continue to look for “psychological” factors instead of taking a public health approach to doing real-world investigation into a real-world health effect.
We say, BELIEVE the complaints from people. Then look for the cause of the problems.
Short-Communication: Revisiting conclusions of the report titled, “The impact of psychological factors on self-reported sleep disturbance among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines”.
by Leila Jalali, Mohammad-Reza Nezhad-Ahmadi, Mahmood Gohari, Philip Bigelow, & Stephen McColl, published in environmental research, volume 148, July 2016, 401–410
The research report concluded, “It appears that self-reported sleep reported of participants may be associated to the indirect effects of visual and attitudinal cue and concern about property devaluation rather than distance to the nearest WT’s or noise as itself.”
Careful reading of the report shows that the conclusions presented are not supported by the data provided in the report.