MOECC misleading the public on wind turbine noise: municipal group
January 17, 2018
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
11 January, 2018
Andrew Barton, District Supervisor Andrew.Barton2@ontario.ca
Rick Chappell, District Manager Rick.Chappell@ontario.ca
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
101 –17th Street East
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