Wynne government “let people down” on wind turbine noise
Thousands of noise complaints remain unresolved in Ontario.
In the current edition of Ontario Farmer is this story by writer John Miner.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change received thousands of formal complaints from people living near industrial wind turbines, but did little about it, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to wind farm development is charging.
“People really trusted the government and they were let down,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
Two years after filing a Freedom of Information request for summaries of noise complaints received by the ministry, Wind Concerns Ontario was provided 450 pages* covering the period 2006 to 2014.
In that period, the Ministry logged 3,180 complaints with people reporting they were suffering from sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.
Some people said they had been unable to sleep for days, sometimes weeks.
In some cases, the Ministry arbitrarily dismissed complaints. In others, they closed the file without investigating if the complainant quit calling, Wilson said.
No action to revise regulations
In a 27-page report based on the documents released, Wind Concerns Ontario said there is absolutely no indication that the Ministry took the complaints seriously, and took any steps to review and revise existing regulations and processes. based on real-life experiences of the people of Ontario.
Responding to the report, a Ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they take all complaints seriously and follow up to ensure that the facility is in compliance with all provincial requirements.
“Our priority is to protect public health and the environment by promoting and ensuring compliance with ministry rules and requirements,” the Ministry Statement said.
Wilson said Ministry staff in the early days attempted to investigate noise complaints and sometimes recommended action be taken against the wind farm, but that was overruled by more senior staff.
Computer modeling, not real-life measurement
As the complaints piled up, the Ministry started to rely ion computer modeling provided by wind farm companies to determine if there might be a basis for a complaint, the report found.
“They kept saying, we went too the power developer and according to the predictive noise modeling this can’t be happening and therefore it isn’t, and took no action,” Wilson said.
A standard adopted by the Ministry based on information from wind farm developers was that no one could hear a wind turbine beyond 1,500 metres. Therefore, there was no need to respond to a complaint if more distance was involved.
Ministry staff were not allowed to investigate complaints at night and when there was high humidity. The equipment they had for measuring noise could not be used when temperatures were below zero degrees Celsius.
“We don’t blame the staff in any way. Some of the officers really seemed to want to help,” Wilson said.
Wind Concerns Ontario is calling on the Ontario government to halt wind farm approvals and adopt tougher noise standards.
Wind Concerns Ontario also hopes to be able to meet with Ontario Minister of the Environment Glen Murray to discuss the report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: the 450 pages were Master Incident files, comprised of files with multiple Incident Reports, some as many as 90 reports of excessive noise, vibration, and health effects