Environment minister hears stories of wind turbine noise, health impacts

The previous government did not respond to complaints, or do the testing required in its own regulations, Saugeen Shores residents say

Unifor turbine: hundreds of complaints, no resolution under the previous, pro-wind government in Ontario [Photo: Greg Schmalz]
September 25, 2019

Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, met privately with residents of Port Elgin/Saugeen Shores to discuss the hundreds of complaints filed by families there about noise emissions from the single wind turbine owned by Unifor.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau, who has long advocated for the residents and tried to resolve the problems with the Unifor turbine, was also present at a meeting, wrapped up by Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson.

Local community leader Greg Schmalz was grateful for the minister’s attention (“I had to pinch myself”) and said the government seems to understand that new regulations for wind turbine noise, including the low-frequency or inaudible noise emissions from turbines, is part of the answer.

Read this account in the Shoreline Beacon, here.

An excerpt:

Port Elgin resident Greg Schmalz, founder of STOP/ Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy, said the medical harm the CAW wind turbine has caused local residents makes Port Elgin “the lab rat test case” for Ontario.

“They put a low-powered machine amongst 1,300 people living 1,000 metres (of the turbine) – you’ve got an experience that generated the highest number complaints about any wind turbine in Ontario – half which are about audible noise and the half are ‘I’m feeling sick’ complaints due to infrasound,” Schmalz said in a Sept. 24 telephone interview, adding the constant feeling of nausea by at least one local couple forced to them to sell their new Port Elgin home near the turbine.

Schmalz said after years of not so much as an email from ministry officials on turbine issue, he was “pinching myself” to believe he was actually in a room with the minister who was listening.

After the meeting Schmalz was confident they got more than lip service from Minister Yurek, who is on a turbine fact-finding tour of Ontario.

Schmalz hopes the first-hand testimonies and scientific data provided to the minister will lead to regulations prohibiting health harming ‘nauisogenic frequency range’ audio emissions that can’t be heard but are felt by the body.
“Part of the remedy, that I believe the PC government is examining, is how to create regulations that could address the measuring of very low frequency of sound inside people’s homes – the nauisogenic frequency range emissions,” Schmalz said, adding they presented the minister with their expert’s testing results and information uncovered after STOP filed a Freedom of Information request that showed the turbine was operating out of compliance with provincial rules.

Schmalz said they key message to the minister was they’ve done the science.

Noise and infrasound harms people and here’s the people that were harmed,” Schmalz said, adding after 10 years of opposition to the turbine, STOP wants to end the endless cycle of noise complaints to the ministry about the UNIFOR turbine and help finding a solution.

Provincial officials made a written commitment for annual emission testing of the UNIFOR turbine when it began operating in 2013, but that testing was not done.

Private testing by STOP and a Freedom of Information filing found the turbine had been operating out of compliance, and last spring a noise abatement plan, including reducing output to 300Kw from 500Kw, showed it was in compliance under those conditions.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau revealed details of the meeting after-the-fact, saying the minister wanted no advance notice to prevent “some big splashy thing where a lot of people – no offense media – show up,” Charbonneau said , adding the minister wanted the affected people to be the story, not his visit.

Charbonneau said two or three years ago, the very notion that the minister would come and speak to the affected people was impossible, so “just the very gesture means a lot to me and those folks who had a chance to speak to him the other say,” Charbonneau said after the Sept 23 council meeting.

Charbonneau said the minister listened, but did not say anything that would advance the issue.

“I hope and expect the government will make some decisions based on what they are hearing from the people,” on the minister’s fact-finding tour.

Charbonneau said Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, facilitated the meeting, and wrapped up the Sept. 19 meeting asking Minister Yurek to comment on what he’d heard.

 

Wind Concerns Ontario reminds everyone living inside wind power projects to continue to file noise reports with the ministry by calling a local office or the “Spills Line” at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number, and keep a record of the call.

Comments

Stan Thayer
Reply

I hope everyone involved realizes that Unifor has been appointed by the Trudeau Liberals to oversee media grants, sooooo, I would say Wind Concerns Ontario need not apply!
Thank-you for all the great and factual coverage you do WCO.
Stan Thayer

Mike Stojsavljevic
Reply

Sorry folks. I was in Scotland 2 years ago. These things are everywhere. No issues with noise, health both human or animal.

Wind Concerns Ontario
Reply

“No issues.” Not sure how you came to that conclusion or maybe you were there for 5 minutes, but there are multiple citizens’ groups opposed to the wind power development in Scotland, which is trammeling landscapes, exposing people to harmful noise emissions, and harming wildlife. Just to name a few: Scotland Against Spin, Caithness Wind Farm Information (which actually tracks wind turbine safety issues around the world). One of the species endangered is the wildcat; last year, 200,000 people signed a petition to halt new wind power development in areas that would further harm this animal. Add to that, there have been news reports of families displaced, economic reports of the damage to Scotland from expensive, intermittent wind. So, there is not “no issues.”

Richard Mann
Reply

FYI I am attaching a letter from Dr Bokhout, acting medical officer of health, Huron County Health Unit on Sept 16, 2019.

The letter is to a citizen in Huron County.
I am publishing with the permission of the recipient.

Does this letter withstand scrutiny? Is this acceptable, given that ongoing lawsuits have all failed?

Sincerely,
Richard Mann

Encl: Dr Bokhout letter.
From: Maarten Bokhout
To: Carla Stachura ; Erica Clark
Sent: Monday, September 16, 2019, 11:14:02 PM EDT
Subject: possible adverse health effects from wind turbines

Dear Ms. Stachura,
I am responding to your email addressed to Dr. Erica Clark, dated August 29, 2019. I have reviewed your correspondence of August 14 and Rick Chappell’s May 15, 2018 response to the article “Altered Cortical and Subcortical…(etc)”.
I offer the following:
Your concern is that the wind turbines in your vicinity are noncompliant with MOE noise regulations. The noise is tonal. This is significant, as the foregoing article suggests that “infrasound near the hearing threshold may induce changes of neural activity across several brain regions,some of which…are regarded as key players in emotional and autonomic control “.
I am sympathetic to your ongoing concerns suggesting that there is a link between wind turbine noise and your (and your partner’s) health and wellbeing. In part, it was your persistence in notifying us at the health unit of your concerns that led me to seek approval for a study to try to determine whether or not there were particular health issues which could be linked to wind turbine activity. The study was approved but we were unable to attract enough participants to do a quantitative analysis of the data gathered. We will complete a descriptive analysis in the next month or so, but this will, unfortunately, not give us enough information to be able to state whether or not not the presence of wind turbines have an adverse effect on the PUBLIC health.
There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that some INDIVIDUALS have trouble coping with the effects of active wind turbines (flicker, infrasound, possible stray electric currents). I note that the Madison county Board of Public Health recommends changes to the setbacks of FUTURE wind turbine projects.
Your best bet may be to seek redress in the courts. It is unfortunate that our study was not supported by enough residents of Huron County, some of which allegedly encouraged non participation in the study…

Maarten Bokhout, MD, etc. a/MOH

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