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.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has failed to regulate wind turbines for safety, mayor says. A full investigation is necessary
It’s been years since the Canadian Auto Workers union, now UNIFOR, allowed a wind turbine to be built at its education and recreation centre in Port Stanley — and it’s been years of complaints from local residents about the noise and vibration from the wind turbine.
What’s been done? Nothing.
More than 300 complaints have been lodged with the Ontario government and UNIFORS, to no avail. Promises to investigate and follow up have not been fulfilled.
The Mayor of the Town of Saugeen Shores says enough is enough; the government must do its duty and take action on this situation, now.
Last week, he wrote a letter to the Office of the Ombudsman, with a formal complaint about the government inaction in this matter, detailing all the broken promises and the failure to meet its mandate to the people of Ontario. Read the letter here.
Mayor Mike Smith wrote, it is “absolutely unreasonable for our community to have to continue to wait until spring of next year in hope that an audit of this turbine’s operation will finally be undertaken voluntarily by the proponent. At the time of writing we are advised that as many as 328 complaints have been filed relating to the operation of this turbine. If this audit is not done until June 2017, it will come four years and three months after the earliest potentially non-compliant test result …”
How many complaints must be filed? Smith asks, and how many more questionable test results filed before the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change finally takes action?
The MOECC has failed
The situation is indicative, the Mayor says, of “the larger failure of the MOECC to fulfill its role in regulating and overseeing the operation of industrial wind turbines in the Province of Ontario.”
He concludes by requesting a detailed investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Wind power not held to the same rigorous standards for health and safety as other forms of development Jillian Melchior says, writing in Forbes. No health effects? “That wind power lobby claim isn’t honest,” she says
Even as Rhode Island makes history as the first U.S. state with an offshore wind farm, its people are not so fond of wind turbines sprouting up on land near where they live. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Wind’s double standard
October 21, 2016, Jillian Melchior
In September, 11 Wisconsin residents living near the Shirley Wind Farm filed notarized statements describing how nearby wind farms have abjectly affected their health. They noticed a marked difference when the wind farm powered off for a few days.
“I could finally sleep in my own bed,” said one resident, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I slept less and woke up earlier with more energy…it was as if a great weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
The wind farm’s neighbors have a simple request for the Brown County Board of Health: Simply do a bit more research to see if the science backs up what they’re saying they’ve experienced. Unfortunately, they face an uphill battle.
Welcome to the world of renewable energy, which has embraced a shocking double standard.
The environmental left has been unrelenting in its insistence that the federal government, states and academia exhaustively scrutinize all possible health risks from traditional energy extraction and generation. But when it comes to green energy, they don’t want the same standard of scientific inquiry.
“Wind energy enjoys considerable public support, but wind energy detractors have publicized their concerns that the sounds emitted from wind turbines cause adverse health effects,” says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the trade group representing this largely subsidized industry. “These allegations of health-related impacts are not supported by science.”
That wind-lobby claim isn’t honest. The science examining wind energy and public health is still developing, yielding mixed, ambiguous evidence that merits further, unbiased inquiry. But the wind industry and its green allies are trying to shut down conversation and stagnate research by claiming the science is settled.
For instance, AWEA cites a report from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), claiming that it “refutes” claims of health consequences from wind turbines.
But that’s not an accurate characterization of the report, which actually found “no consistent evidence” of an adverse affect—and concluded that “given the limitations of existing evidence and continuing concerns expressed by some members of the community, NHMRC considers that further high-quality research on the possible health effects of wind farms is required.”
AWEA also points to a similar 2010 report by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. But though that study says the research has not yet established a “direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health affects,” it also notes that “some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and sleep disturbance.”
Three years after the AWEA-cited Canadian report’s publication, an Ontario-based study, published in the official publication of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, documented how many residents near wind turbines “experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction.” …
In January 2014, John Terry, the lawyer for the well-funded wind power development lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) told the panel of judges in an Ontario court at the appeal of a decision at Ostrander Point, that their decision was very important for the future of wind power development in Ontario because, he said, “This [a successful appeal] was never supposed to happen.”
One might think that he meant the approval process was so rigorous that wind power projects should pose no danger to the environment or to people and that’s why “this,” the successful Ostrander appeal shouldn’t have happened. But no, what he meant was, the rules and procedures attached to wind power development were supposed to be so iron-clad that mere citizens acting on behalf of the environment, wildlife and their own health, could have no hope of success. Lawyers acting for appellants have said, the test set up by Regulation 359-09 to prove serious harm to human health and serious and irreversible harm to wildlife was impossible to meet.
Except, now, that test has been met.
The successful appeals at Ostrander Point, White Pines, Settlers Landing and yesterday, Clearview, show that when proper attention is paid to the requirements to preserve the environment and actually balance development against potential harm, the wind power developments can be demonstrated to be in the complete wrong place.
But the wind power development industry, coached and encouraged by their huge lobbyist and the very compliant Ontario government, felt entitled to propose wind power projects wherever they found willing landowners. Such was the case at Clearview where the eight, 500-foot turbines were to be located near not one, but two aerodromes, the Collingwood Regional Airport and a private airstrip. WPD Canada felt so entitled to success and money that it believed it could locate huge turbines even where pilots’ safety would be in danger and where wildlife would almost certainly be killed.
The Environmental Review Tribunal decision was released Friday, October 7: yes, there would be serious harm to human health because of the risk to aviation safety and yes, there would be serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Little Brown Bat.
Paragraphs [149-151] are interesting: the appellants’ expert witness arguments were “informed and reasoned” the panel wrote, finding they had established “the evidentiary base to support their qualitative assessments.”
Although a remedy hearing is possible, the Tribunal expressed doubts as to the effectiveness of any measures proposed.
The Tribunal used very strong language in places in the decision, saying “it would be trite to say …” or “it is obvious …” and they noted the federal Ministry of Transport’s carefully crafted opinion letter on aviation safety at the airport.
The people of Ontario have despaired at times as wind power projects have been put in fragile environments, too close to people’s homes and workplaces, without any real demonstration of environmental benefit. Millions have been spent by ordinary citizens as they took on corporate Big Wind to defend—what? The environment against their own Ministry of the Environment.
One lawyer for the Ministry has often been heard to say “wind trumps everything.” She is wrong, as this latest decision demonstrates.
Actions taken in the name of preserving the environment must really do that, and not rely on ideology-based trite statements for justification. Ontario has still never done a cost-benefit analysis on its wind power program even though clearly, wind power has a high impact on the natural environment, on communities, and on the economy, without actual demonstrated benefits.
Clearview was a victory for all Ontario, and the environment.
October 5, 2016 — A new paper from acoustician Richard James and audiologist and professor emeritus Jerry Punch, just published in the journal Hearing Health Matters, confirms support for the idea that “acoustic emissions from IWTs [industrial wind turbines] is a leading cause of AHEs [adverse health effects] in a substantial segment of the population.”
The authors deal with 12 commonly held beliefs about wind power and health effects, promoted by the global wind power development industry, that do not support a connection between wind turbine noise and health problems. They conducted a comprehensive literature review, and review the findings of the most up-to-date studies, including the Cape Bridgewater study by acoustician Steven Cooper, which changed the language of wind turbine noise research.
A paper by Paul Schomer of the U.S. is quoted for example, and the authors conclude “some people affected by WTN [wind turbine noise] may be responding directly to acoustic factors, rather than to non-acoustic factors, as argued by Leventhall.” (page 21)
Canada figures in the paper with references to work done by Dr Roy Jeffery, Dr Robert McMurtry, and researcher Carmen Krogh, among others.
The authors wrote a ccovering letter for windaction.org in which they said,
Finally, let it not be said that either of us believes in making any less than the best possible effort to develop clean and efficient sources of energy. Rather, we hope that our article will be instrumental in promoting public health through a better understanding of the issues underlying the potentially harmful effects of audible and inaudible noise from industrial wind turbines when the turbines are sited too close to where people live and work.
Wind Concerns Ontario president at Huron County Board of Health meeting (Photo: Bob Montgomery, Blackburn News)
Wind Concerns Ontario was invited to make a presentation to the Huron County Board of Health in Clinton last week, to discuss partnership opportunities to advance a study of wind turbine noise emissions, building on the County’s own investigation process.
“This is the first research project, to our knowledge, that involves community groups, a public health unit, and a university,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.
Details of the project, which involves an association as well with the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems, have been made available to members.
In sworn testimony at an environmental review tribunal, a Health Canada official confirmed industrial wind turbines — large, noise-emitting devices — are regulated by the Radiation Emitting Devices Act. So why isn’t it responding to hundreds of citizen complaints?
The federal government’s inaction on wind turbine noise is making Canadians sick.
It’s been a year-and-a-half since Health Canada’s $2-million study determined low-frequency acoustic waves from industrial wind turbines cause community annoyance.
According to the World Health Organization, unwanted noise, even at a moderate level, can lead to a myriad of adverse health outcomes, including stress-related symptoms such as sleep disturbance, elevated blood pressure, cardiac events and depression.
It’s a “green” form of radiation sickness.
Canada’s Radiation Emitting Devices Act (REDA) is supposed to regulate the design and operation of devices that emit radiation, such as microwave ovens and tanning beds. In sworn testimony at an environmental review tribunal, a Health Canada official confirmed industrial wind turbines — large, noise-emitting devices — are regulated by REDA.
REDA requires a manufacturer or importer of such a device to “forthwith notify the Minister” upon becoming aware its device is emitting radiations not necessary for the performance of its function.
On June 15, Barbara Ashbee of Mulmur, Ontario, together with hundreds of other Ontarians, sent an open letter to Health Minister Jane Philpott, asking why Health Canada has not insisted wind energy corporations report citizen complaints about noise radiation. She wants the minister to meet with her and representatives of citizens suffering from turbine noise radiations.
Ashbee wrote: “Many in Ontario and elsewhere have logged serious health complaints with proponents/operators of wind turbine projects, provincial and federal government ministries as well as wind turbine manufacturers … As previous ministers and current Minister Philpott have been informed, the adverse effects of wind turbines are not trivial.”
Access to Information records indicate wind energy corporations have reported no complaints.
Why is Health Canada not forcing wind turbine operators to report citizen complaints, as required?
Is the wind industry lobby that strong?
Why were Canadians not told wind turbine corporations are required to report citizen complaints to Health Canada? Were wind energy companies also not told about the REDA?
Why did Health Canada’s Wind Turbine Noise and Health study exclude people under age 18 and over age 79, the most vulnerable segments of Canada’s population?
Why do REDA regulations not include standards for the design and operation of wind turbines, as they do for microwave ovens, etc.?
Prior to the 2015 federal election, Canadians for Radiation Emission Enforcement (CFREE) asked candidates in wind turbine-affected Ontario ridings: “Will you support a moratorium on new wind turbines within 2 km of residences, until REDA regulations are updated to clearly stipulate wind turbine operators must comply with REDA, and to include scientifically proven safe setback distances?”
The survey revealed equal support from candidates of all four parties for a wind turbine moratorium. Only three candidates opposed it, but none were elected. In Ontario, the turbine setback is only 550 meters from residences.
Other countries are extending setbacks to safer distances. In Poland, the setback is now ten times turbine height. In closely settled Bavaria, it is now two kilometres. But there is no such action from Health Canada. No moratorium. No change in setbacks. No standards in REDA. More wind projects are planned. More Canadians are getting sick.
Openness and transparency are supposedly important to the federal Liberal government.
What will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau do about Health Canada’s inaction on wind turbines?
June 27, 2016, OTTAWA – Ontario needs to do a complete revision of procedures for wind turbine noise testing, Wind Concerns Ontario has informed the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in a review of proposed regulatory changes.
According to WCO, the growing scientific research on wind turbine noise emissions and the escalating number of unresolved complaints confirm that proposed changes to the government’s old protocol are insufficient to address the problems faced by people living among wind turbine projects.
“The changes the Ministry has proposed to its existing procedures are nothing more than minor tweaks,” says president Jane Wilson. “The government is ignoring the need for real change to keep up with science, and to protect health from noise emissions.”
By 2015, the MOECC had received more than 2,700 complaints about problems with wind turbine noise, WCO learned. Though more recent data are not available, monitoring by WCO suggests that this number has continued to grow with the number of larger new turbines that have become operational since then.
Proposed new testing procedures are inadequate as they limit testing to audible noise outside of the home, while many citizen complaints relate to turbine noise emissions that people cannot hear, but rather, are vibrations or sensations that they feel, says WCO. And, while many complaints are about the noise and sensation experienced inside buildings, the MOECC only tests outside noise.
“The MOECC persists in the standard of using one form of noise measurement, the dBA, while the acoustics industry and even the Government of Canada has said this is providing only part of the picture on noise emissions,” Wilson says.
The process of confirming turbine compliance with regulations is convoluted and complex — people have lost trust in the Ontario government, WCO says. For example, the Enbridge project near Kincardine began operation in late 2008 but there is still no report that confirms the turbines are compliant.
The MOECC also relies on information from the power developers, and predicted modelling — not actual noise testing. This has resulted in a loss of faith in the Wynne government as a protector of public health.
Rather than dismissing resident complaints, WCO told the Ministry in a comment document in response to proposed regulatory changes, the government should view these contacts as an opportunity to learn and show leadership in responsible renewable energy implementation.
Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups and citizens concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power projects on the economy, the environment, and health.
Contact Jane Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org
“If government and the wind power development industry is using only A-weighted noise measurement or dBA, they are only getting part of the picture.”
“Wind turbines have been found out of compliance via third-party measurements, yet the MOECC does not act on these findings. The MOECC also does not report publicly on complaints or actions taken as it does for other complaints made to the ministry ‘Spills Line’. ”
“Using only computer-generated predictive noise models does not reflect the reality of wind turbine noise emission experiences in Ontario. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to do actual, on-site testing in conditions similar to or the same as those that spurred a citizen complaint to assure Ontarians it is fulfilling its mandate to protect people.”
A study being proposed by the Huron County Health Unit on the health impacts of wind turbines may take a new direction.
Health Board Chair Tyler Hessel explains the board had a few concerns about the study, including what they were going to do with the information they collected, and how much it was going to cost them.
Hessel says the University of Waterloo is working with Wind Concerns of Ontario on a study similar to the one the Health Unit was proposing, but it would go into more detail and so they’re exploring the possibility of partnering with the university. That would give them access to a more scientific study done by a group with better human and financial resources.
They have invited a spokesperson from the university to speak at a future Health Board meeting to discuss a partnership.
Hessel adds his understanding is the university is looking at testing in specific areas and in specific homes and doing very detailed analysis.
Several speakers from Canada were invited to make presentations at the recent Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Spring Meeting. Speakers from around the world were present at the event, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the last week of May.
Health researcher and retired pharmacist Carmen Krogh delivered a paper co-authored with Ontario epidemiologist Jeff Aramini, titled “A case study in Canada: exploring research challenges of industrial wind turbines and health.”
The Krogh-Aramini paper stated that the topic of adverse health effects associated with industrial wind turbines (IWT) is controversial and debated worldwide. Some residents living in proximity to wind energy facilities report symptoms of sleep disturbance, annoyance, headaches, ear pain/discomfort, mood disorders, stress, cardiac and blood pressure effects, reduced quality of life and other adverse effects. In some cases, research initiatives have been the result of individuals’ complaints. The research is challenged in part by the complexities and numerous variables associated with this subject. A range of IWT research approaches, sometimes in combination with each other, has been used including self-reporting surveys, investigations and acoustical measurements.
Health Canada study not designed to find cause and effect
There are gaps in the research today, Krogh said. The $2-million study done by Health Canada was a large-scale, cross-sectional, randomized, epidemiological wind turbine noise and health study which the government department stated at the outset had limitations, would not be definitive, and would not permit any conclusions to be made with respect to causality. Krogh reviewed some of the inherent challenges of studying health effects associated with wind energy facilities and will consider the role of those individuals reporting adverse health effects. She identified several gaps in the Health Canada research.
Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, now a professor in radiology at McGill University, presented a paper, “Industrial wind turbines and adverse health effects: Where we are, where we need to go, and the need for regulations and predictive models to recognize human physiology”.
Research over the past few years in several areas of human physiology has progressed, Dr.Nissenbaum said. We have begun to reveal “the mechanisms by which sleep disturbances result in adverse health effects, over both short and longer durations,” Dr. Nissenbaum said. However, he added, current government regulations have not kept up with the new learnings.
Regulations not current with research
“Local regulations regarding noise (Soundscape) limits and methods of measurement were designed prior to current understandings of human sensory and reactive physiology,” Dr. Nissenbaum said. “Instrumentation and modelling geared towards satisfying those regulations are by implication lacking because they do not capture or predict physiological responses to IWT noise. According to the principles of Soundscape, and given the subtleties of human physiology, humans remain the best instruments available for detecting objectionable noise and identifying adverse health effects. Regulations, measurement methods, and predictive models must adapt to current understandings of human physiology to best protect human populations.”
Research must begin with people, said Dr. Robert McMurtry, professor of medicine at Western University. His presentation, “Patient-Centred Medicine and Soundscape” focused on the need for care and research to start with people and their experiences with wind turbine noise.
“According to Bray (2012),” Dr. McMurtry said, “exposed people are ‘objective measuring instruments whose reports and experiences must be taken seriously and quantified by technical measurements’.” Health care providers need to consider applying patient-centred medicine in evaluating the impact on those exposed to wind turbine acoustical energy.
Dr. David Michaud of Health Canada also presented a paper, “An evaluation of how nightly variations in wind turbine noise levels influence wrist actigraphy measured sleep patterns” based on a study of sleep experience among over 250 people living between .25 and 1 km from a wind turbine. Michaud advised the audience that Health Canada is conducting a more refined analysis to assess wrist actigraphy measured sleep patterns regarding nightly variations in wind turbine operations. He also commented that some of the feedback relating to research gaps was valid.
A case study in wind turbine noise emission evaluation was presented by Andy Metelka of Acton, Ontario, principal in Sound and Vibration Solutions Canada Inc., in a paper “Measurements of infrasound blade pass frequencies inside multiple homes using narrowband analysis”.
Previous measurements in homes near wind turbines indicate higher pressure levels below 10Hz than audible pressure levels measured at the same time and location (ASA Vol 20, 2013 Dooley &Metelka), Metelka said. Long-term measurements of Infrasound pressures appear inside multiple homes as wind speed and wind direction vary. Metelka took data from four Ontario homes and compared broadband infrasound levels from wind to tonal infrasound Blade Pass Frequencies. In both cases broadband infrasound and blade-to-tower pressures increase with wind.
Other speakers at the international conference included Steven Cooper of Australia, who conducted the Cape Bridgewater study, and Paul Schomer.
Wind Concerns Ontario will provide links to the papers when they are available publicly.
Rural Ontario is up in arms today over the apparent suspension of a one-of-a-kind wind turbine health investigation that may never happen.
Medical Officer of Health for Huron County Dr. Janice Owen became aware of numerous health complaints from people in her community shortly after she was hired a year ago by the current Huron County Board of Health. Owen began researching the issues last August and contacted many in the field researching the topic.
This February 4, Owen presented to her Board the outline and components of a wind turbine health complaints investigation stating that she had visited wind projects, sought information from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as well as Public Health Ontario and had spoken and heard from many members of the community.
In March this year the announcement of the new investigation was posted on the Health Unit’s website and immediately people suffering as a result of wind projects began to sign up. In April Dr. Owen was informed her services were no longer needed and she was put on administrative leave. This is a devastating blow to Huron County people exposed without consent to the acoustical emissions of wind turbines in proximity to their homes.
More questions than answers arose about the investigation’s future and were addressed on May 12 when the Board put the research on hold – likely permanent – stating that it seemed to be a duplication of a long term Ontario-wide public health survey with nothing to do with industrial wind adverse reactions.
“The people of Huron County do not want to become another Flint, Michigan. Health administrators and those tasked with the protection of our health and safety need to see this ground-breaking research through to the end,” says Gerry Ryan for the group Concerned Citizens for Health (CCH). “The eyes of communities around the world who are suffering the same fate as us are watching what happens in Huron County, Ontario. The wind industry is watching and the Ontario government whose policy this is are also watching.”
The CCH calls upon the temporary Medical Officer of Health Dr. Meriam Klassen to be courageous like Dr. Owen and find out where this investigation will take her. This is only fair.