Ontario family waits years for action on wind farm noise
Family suffers through night after night of noise while government, wind power operator do endless rounds of testing that go nowhere
Government lacks courage to order shutdown, says Wind Concerns Ontario
March 21, 2019
One Ontario family living inside the K2 Wind power project in Huron County has been waiting for more than three years for resolution to their complaints about wind turbine noise, according to emails between the Ontario government and the family.
In 2015, the family received this email from the Owen Sound district office of the then Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), in which the staff person writing the email notes that there are concerns about the noise being experienced at the home based on the ministry’s own measurements. The government staff member acknowledges noise recordings submitted by the family, then says “This … caused us to require the company to conduct a tonal assessment…”
From: Pollard, Heather (MOECC) <Heather.Pollard@ontario.ca>
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 12:15 PM
To: [identity concealed]; Gass, Scott (MOECC) <Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org>, Chappell, Rick (MOECC) <Rick.Chappell@ontario.ca>, Munn, Natasha (MOECC) <Natasha.Munn@ontario.ca>, Pietz, Kimberley (MOECC) <Kimberley.Pietz@ontario.ca>
Since Scott is out of the office today, I am replying on his behalf. We have received your recording and, while the recording does not give us an idea about the volume of the noise, it helps give an idea of the types of noise you are hearing. The swishing sound seems fairly typical of wind farm noise that we have heard before, however, the ‘wooing’ sound is also evident. This is similar to the observations that we made that caused us to require the company to conduct a tonal assessment. Additionally, the detailed acoustic audits that we have required the company to conduct will assess the overall levels of noise coming from the wind farm.
Thank you for submitting this. It is helpful.
Heather G. Pollard
District Supervisor, Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Now, after more than three years of testing by the ministry and no action on the part of the wind power developer, the family recently hired an engineer to do independent noise measurement, which it has again, submitted to government as an indicator of problems. This testing was done simultaneously with noise measurement by an acoustics firm hired by the wind power operator.
The independent results appear to indicate that at times, the noise emissions from the wind turbines were over the legal limit for wind turbines in Ontario by as much as 20 decibels, or more.
According to the requirements of a wind power Renewable Energy Approval, the wind power operator must investigate the cause of noise complaints, and take action to ensure that the situation causing the complaint does not recur.
The family has been filing reports with the Ontario government since the wind power project began.
K2 Wind is owned by a consortium led by Axium Infrastructure with a minority stake held by the Alberta Teachers pension fund. The 270-megawatt power project has 140 2.3-MW turbines.
Problems predicted during citizen appeal
At an appeal of the K2 Wind launched by Shawn and Tricia Drennan, testimony by MOECC environmental officer Gary Tomlinson noted that there had been hundreds of citizen complaints about noise and vibration from other Ontario wind power projects, and that complaints continued even though turbines had been found in compliance.
A witness for Appellant, acoustician Rick James, testified that the noise assessment model used by the MOECC “will not predict a worstcase scenario and thus will underestimate the actual noise levels for many receptors within the project.” (Appeal 13-097/13-098, page 76) And, because of the deficiencies in the noise modeling process, Mr. James testified, “the predicted noise assessment was off by 5 dBA” ( paragraph ). Mr. James, an expert in audiology and sound monitoring and testing, also referred to the potential for tonal noise, infrasound and low frequency noise which would create a “significant risk” to health ( paragraph ).
In an email sent to Wind Concerns Ontario today, in response to emails from the coalition to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks on behalf of the family, District Manager Rick Chappell noted the testing is once again ongoing at the residence and that the ministry will “assess compliance against the Renewable Energy Approval”.
No courage to order shutdown?
“The length of time this family has waited for help is an outrage,” says WCO president Jane Wilson
“The regulations and compliance rules were put in place along with a complaint logging system to protect Ontario residents, but all we’re seeing here is testing, testing and more testing. Clearly, the Ministry is not doing its job as a regulator, and the endless testing suggests they do not have the courage, or political will, to actually order turbines to be shut down.”
Wind Concerns has copies of thousands of citizen complaints about wind turbine noise dating back to 2006, obtained under a Freedom of Information request; most remain unresolved, and the government response rate for recent complaints is less than seven percent.