A living hell: one family’s wind turbine noise story

Brookfield Comber, seen October 2020 (supplied photo)

Just move—or maybe get tubes in your ears, family told by government officers

April 23, 2021

Among the desperate complaint documents provided to us following a request for Ontario wind turbine noise complaint records under Freedom of Information legislation is correspondence from one family that lives inside the Brookfield Comber project.

On the advice of their lawyer, they now file reports of excessive noise and adverse effects once a month, and they keep a daily log.

For the month of April 2018, this was their record:

  • 24 days the noise level was high pitched to unbearable high pitched
  • 4 days were medium pitched
  • 2 days were low and bearable

They concluded their report that month with “[redacted] noise inside your head 24/7 whenever the turbines are running … trying to live a normal life in your own home is not possible.” The described the noise on one complaint as being like “a dentist’s drill.”

TWO DAYS of the month were “bearable.” Just two.

May that year was a slightly better month for the family. Slightly.

The report:

  • 25 days the noise levels inside our home were high pitched to unbearable high pitched sound
  • 2 days were medium pitched
  • 4 were low bearable days.

Did they get any help from the power operator or the environment ministry? Here’s what the record says, in an email dated June, 2018:

“Following a letter we wrote to Mr Glenn Murray [then Minister of environment], we have been dealing with them [the then MOECC] concerning the Wind Turbine Infrasound we have been experiencing inside our home since 2012. …. After lengthy conversations, with two members of that office [Windsor] we were told our symptoms were that of infrasound but because the Ministry of Health does not consider that a health problems their hands were tied. Since then and after an Officer attended our home on January 19, 2018 and suggested perhaps we just just move, or get tubes in our ears to ease the pressure, they have now refused to acknowledge our monthly reports on the noise levels we are experiencing.”

FACT: the Renewable Energy Approvals granted to wind power projects in Ontario require that the project operators identify and resolve the cause for each complaint about emissions from their project.

FACT: It is beyond the scope of Ontario Environmental Officers to be telling people what surgical procedures to have.

FACT: It is the job of the Environmental Officers to receive and record complaints received from Ontario citizens about wind turbines.

Wind turbine noise reports missing

The family has since told Wind Concerns Ontario that in 2018, they filed a total of 26 reports of excessive noise/vibration/pressure; in answer to our Freedom of Information request, we received NINE.

This system is beyond broken, it was badly set up and a sham to begin with.

Ontario is dealing with the worst of the pandemic right now to be sure, but steps must be taken to fix this, and Ontario’s environment officers must do their jobs.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Don’t stop calling: to report wind turbine noise, effects on water wells, harm to wildlife, adverse health effects, call

1-866-MOE-TIPS. And be sure to get an Incident Report number.

For more on the 2018 complaint record documents, read our report: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL

To email the environment ministry using their standard form, go to: Government of Ontario

Reality bites in North Stormont, Ontario: what a wind “farm” really looks like

Turbines and transformer substation near Crysler. Industrial use of the land. (Submitted photo)

April 18, 2021

Reality is biting hard in North Stormont in Eastern Ontario as residents who didn’t get involved in the multi-year fight to halt the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project are now getting to see what a wind “farm” really looks like.

It is plainly an industrial use of the land.

The North Stormont turbines—29 of them—are among the largest in North America.

Here’s what the developer told people the turbines would look like, based on a photo from its nearby South Branch project. You have to give them credit at least for not proffering photos of a single turbine with cows grazing around the base, as some other developers do.

EDPR photo

The photo from the Crysler area depicts a partially constructed acoustic barrier around the transformer substation—it should not be possible to see the equipment, but you can.

The farmland in the Nation Rise project area is Class 2 with some areas of Class 1.

Construction activity continues this week as EDPR races toward its June Commercial Operation Date, as required in its contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). There are no details as to where construction activities will be taking place.

Anyone experiencing sound or noise that seems to be excessive and is causing adverse effect should contact the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) via the 24-7 Spills Action Centre line at 1-866-MOE-TIPS. Be sure to get an Incident Report number and describe any effects you are experiencing.

 

 

 

Wind turbine noise complaints unheeded in Ontario

Complaint process for wind turbine noise inherited by the Ford government not effective

April 12, 2021

Wind Concerns Ontario has just released its latest report on how the Ontario government has responded to citizen complaints about excessive wind turbine noise from grid-scale wind power projects.

Warning: the contents of this report can make for difficult reading.

The excerpts of comments from people calling into the 24/7 Spills Action Centre telephone line, or sending emails to their local District Office of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks are an alarming demonstration of the desperation felt by families forced with the wind turbine noise—some of them, for many years.

“We ache all over and can hardly function we are so tired. Please tell us what to do. Please respond.”

“Noise described as a ‘whooing’ sound, both heard and felt.”

“This continues to be horrendous.”

“Caller reports a pulsing roar.”

“This is the 65th time they have called.”

“We can’t go on like this.”

Polluted acoustic environment

One complaint documented was from a technician hired to do monitoring of bat populations near Bow Lake, who questioned whether he/she could continue the work due to the “acoustic pollution” from the wind turbines. The wind turbines were “generating unacceptably intrusive and potentially dangerous noise emissions into the natural environment,” the person reported. This is a “polluted acoustic environment.”

This report is based on Incident Reports created in 2018, received as the result of a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. The request was filed in January 2019; we received almost 4,000 pages of documents this past March. The report is fourth in a series, examining ministry response back to 2006.

It’s not working

The overarching conclusion from examining the complaint records as a whole is that Ontario’s complaint monitoring process, which the current government inherited from previous administrations, is not working. Key findings:

  • Complaints about wind power projects are part of the process government promised would ensure protection of health and safety. Robust enforcement of the regulations in response to these complaints will fulfill that responsibility.
  • In total, almost 6,000 files of complaints about wind turbine noise, vibration and sound pressure have been released to Wind Concerns by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • 39 percent of complaints in 2018 noted adverse health effects.
  • The records show that complaints do not result in real action by the project operators, despite requirements of approvals for the project.
  • The process to accept and record citizen complaints is inconsistent, and information gathered is incomplete.
  • There appears to be no ministry-wide evaluation and review process for citizen complaints about environmental noise produced by wind turbines.
  • The report concludes with recommendations on how the complaint handling process could be improved as an enforcement tool, and could provide opportunities to act on other issues such as electricity costs.

 

Read the report here: Report on Noise Complaint Response 2018-FINAL.

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Wind turbine noise emissions listed among concerns for modernization of radiation emitting devices legislation

March 26, 2021

Health Canada released an update today on progress toward “modernization” of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act or REDA.

A consultation process was held last year in which the public and stakeholders could submit opinions and recommendations. Wind Concerns Ontario submitted a document which gave an overview of wind turbine proliferation in Ontario, and resulting complaints about noise and vibration.

Health Canada received 20 submissions from a variety of participants including interest groups and professional associations.

“Although many of the special interest groups and individuals expressed general support for strengthening the provisions of REDA,” Health Canada said,  “concerns were raised in relation to the application of REDA to address noise emissions from wind turbines. Respondents expressed a desire to ensure that the provisions of REDA, specifically the general prohibition and notification requirements, apply to wind turbines as well as other products that emit tonal infrasound.”

Wind Concerns Ontario referred to numerous federal documents including the Health Canada wind turbines and noise study published in 2014 and the 2015 Council of Canadian Academies report, which both acknowledged problems with wind turbine noise emissions. Current protocols for monitoring noise from the turbines do not capture the full range of emissions, the Council noted.

Wind Concerns Ontario said:

There are processes in place for the people of Canada to report adverse reactions or adverse effects from the use of medications and medical devices, and to report problems with machinery or other equipment that pose a risk to health. In the case of wind turbines in Ontario, there have been thousands of reports of problems with exposure to wind turbine noise emissions.

The REDA must be employed to halt the risk to human health.

This is particularly important now as well, as the federal government seeks to encourage an expansion in development of renewable energy, which may mean the planning and construction of more wind power facilities. …

It has been a heartbreaking and frustrating exercise reading reports on wind turbine noise emissions and attendant health impacts filed by the people of Ontario who thought their government would really protect them.

Health Canada says the comments are under review and may result in some revisions to the proposed legislation.

See the Health Canada update here: Modernization of the Radiation Emitting Devices Act (REDA) 2020 Consultation – Summary of Results – Canada.ca

See the Wind Concerns Ontario document here: Comment to Health Canada REDA-September 10-2

Suncor to remove question from wind turbine noise complaint record

March 19, 2021

Wind Concerns Ontario received the news today that the Ministry of Environment, Parks and Conservation (MECP) contacted Suncor, the operator of the Adelaide Wind Farm regarding our concerns about an internal document.

The document, turned over to us in a batch of files requested under Freedom of Information legislation, appears to be an internal record for noise complaints received by Suncor about the wind power facility turbines. The section of the form asked the staff member receiving the complaint to identify whether the person complaining was a “member of a larger stakeholder group.”

WCO was concerned that this question is an invasion of privacy and could be used to intimidate people wanting to report adverse effects.

Suncor has been contacted by the MECP. Suncor also responded to an email sent directly by WCO and said they will review and revise the form.

The letter from the MECP:

I had forwarded you concerns on to the London Office of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks. They in turn reached out to Suncor to follow up.

Based on your concerns I believe Suncor has made changes to the wording of their questionnaire and shared that with you.

Thank you

Mark Dunn

Director, Divisional Compliance Branch (DCB)

Drinking Water, Environmental Compliance Division

Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks

It is the right of any Ontario citizen to report noise, vibration, sensation, disturbance to water wells or any other effect believed to be associated with the operation of wind turbines. Call the Spills Action Centre at 1-866-MOE-TIPS, and be sure to get an Incident Report number. Keep a record of your call.

 

Ontario Green Energy Act showed bias toward wind power developers: new research paper

[Shutterstock image]

From failed appeals before a powerless quasi-judicial tribunal, to unanswered letters to government and a rigged consultation process, authors of a new paper demonstrate that legally, the fix was in via Ontario’s biased Green Energy Act. What will government do now?

January 9, 2021

A new paper has been published by several Ontario authors that paints a grim picture of the province’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act, passed in 2009 by the McGuinty government in order to quash any opposition for its renewable energy plans.

“Access to Justice: Recommended Reforms to the Ontario Justice System Using the Green Energy Act as an Example” was researched and written by three residents of Prince Edward County, where multiple wind power projects were proposed, and where the community spent more than a million dollars to protect the environment from industrialization by grid-scale wind power projects.

After the act was passed, wind power projects in Ontario were “rapidly approved by the government across rural areas” say the authors, despite the many environmental and health concerns raised. Legal appeals were filed, with few successes. Following the commencement of the projects’  power generation operations, thousands of complaints were reported to the Ontario government related to noise, adverse health effects, shadow flicker or strobe effect, killing of wildlife, and disturbance of people’s water supply. The authors refer here to Wind Concerns Ontario’s own reports on citizen complaints.

Following a complex review of the process and the aftermath, authors Alan Whiteley*, Anne Dumbrille and John Hirsch conclude that  there was “legislative bias in policy and consultation that reduced the ability of the public to object to the policy” and “administrative bias, where decisions are perceived to favour industry over citizens.”

The authors make a series of recommendations in the interest of preventing such damaging policy and legislation from occurring again, but also note that the various governments post-Green Energy Act failed to respond to written expressions of concern.

“Are letters from citizens received by senior officials?” they ask. “Are they read and seriously considered?” Worse, are senior officials actively “discouraged from responding to letters on controversial topics?”

(Our experience many times over is that when responses are received at all, they often come from staff writers on the correspondence unit, employing boilerplate answers to questions.)

Although the goal of the Green Energy Act may have been to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment, the authors say, the result was a reduction in access to justice and limited citizen rights.

What can be done to change that?

Read the paper here: (3) (PDF) Access to Justice: Recommended Reforms to the Ontario Justice System Using the Green Energy Act as an Example (researchgate.net)

 

 

*lawyer Alan Whiteley died in September 2020.

“Like a death”: new research explores why some wind turbine neighbours were forced to leave their homes

“It was basically like a death when we had to move from our home”

New research catalogues the reasons behind families in Ontario who decided to abandon their homes after wind turbines started up.

June 29, 2020

“I couldn’t sleep anymore”

“Nowhere to go, no hiding from it [the noise]”

“We had beautiful water–you couldn’t drink it afterwards [turbines began operation]”

“I asked my doctor [if my health problems could be” about [wind] turbines. She said, ‘Yes’.”

Those are just a few of the comments made by Ontario residents who participated in a special study done by a team of health care professionals, acoustics specialists and investigators. A new paper by Dr. Robert McMurtry, Carmen Krogh, acoustics specialists Robert Rand, Jerry Punch, Stephen Ambrose and others*, reviews the reasons behind the desperate choice made by dozens of Ontario families to leave their homes, to preserve their health–both mental and physical.

The new paper, published last week, is based on a study carried out over three years involving 67 Ontario residents and additional family members for a total of 165 people. They all lived within 10 km of industrial-scale wind turbines or wind power generators.

More than half reported adverse health effects after being exposed to noise emissions and vibration from operating wind turbines; stray voltage and disturbed water wells were also cited as key factors in decisions to leave the houses. The people participating in the study had lived in their houses for a mean period of 20 years, or a range of three to 66 years.

The aim of the paper is to present policy-makers with information on the “potential outcomes of placing wind turbines near family homes,” the authors state in their conclusion.

“The comments made by the people in this study are just heart-breaking,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “We’ve seen them over and over in the Incident Reports we received from Freedom of Information requests, together with statements from people indicating they can’t put up with the turbines and the adverse effects anymore. It is well past time the government enforced the rules, changed the rules, and developed rules that truly protect the people of Ontario.

“Bravo to this study team, and all the work they’ve done to expose the terrible things that have happened to innocent citizens.”

Read the full paper here: https://m.scirp.org/papers/101098?fbclid=IwAR3XcUKEebiBR-sLAyIEbNpGHnP3-EQU3_hwtOx4_ovfW6f-cI6JQj7Igfc

 

*Other authors include community group leaders such as Anne Dumbrille (CCSAGE), Linda Rogers (Mothers Against Wind Turbines) and Debra Hughes.

Big Wind’s Big Problem: community opposition

Protesters march in Picton, Ontario over a large wind power project that was eventually cancelled. (Photo Wind Concerns Ontario]

March 8, 2020

New York State governor Cuomo’s move to pass legislation that essentially removes democracy for wind power approvals and rubber stamp the power projects is hardly surprising: community opposition is strong in the U.S. and Canada … and it’s having an effect.

Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry: the myths of green energy and frequent contributor to publications like the Wall Street Journal, has  an article in the New York Post explaining why rural/suburban communities are fighting back against industrialization by wind and solar power developers.

“The truth is that growing numbers of rural and suburban landowners are resisting these types of projects,” Bryce writes. “They don’t want to endure the noise and shadow flicker produced by 500- or 600-foot-high wind turbines. Nor do they want transmission lines built through their towns, to they are fighting to protect their property values and views.”

In the U.S., jurisdictions are now passing zoning bylaws that enact much greater setbacks between turbines and houses, and specifying more stringent noise limits.

In Ontario, the government returned local land-use planning to municipalities but few have taken advantage of the timing to create new bylaw protection. If a pro-wind government is elected in 2022, it will be too late to take such action after a new procurement regime is announced.

Wind and solar power development takes up a lot of land, Bryce says; renewables will grow, but there must be a better way to “keep the lights on” than using up vast tracts of land for intermittent, weather-dependent power generation.

Read the full article here: https://nypost.com/2020/03/07/angry-us-landowners-are-killing-off-renewable-energy-projects/amp/

 

 

New research: wind turbine noise heard as far as 3.5 km

Cruel joke: Ontario’s 550 metre setback and government/industry notion that it is impossible to hear turbines past 1500 metres 

March 3, 2020

New research from Australia has been published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration which shows that wind turbine noise goes a lot farther than the wind power lobby and turbine manufacturers would have you believe.

A lot farther.

Ontario’s setback, supposed to protect people from sleep disturbance and other effects of environmental noise pollution, is just 550 metres. This was suggested to the McGuinty government by the wind power lobby, after the Ontario government proposed a setback of 1 km.

The Australian research demonstrates that indoor low-frequency tone was detected 20 percent of the time at distances up to 2.4 km; the noise dissipated somewhat but was still perceived 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. The authors note that complaints made to the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency came from people living as far away as 8 km!

Here is an excerpt from “Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation at long-range residential locations”:

Overall, it is important to determine how often AM is present at residential locations near a wind farm. In this view, Australian researchers from the Flinders University: Dr. Kristy Hansen, Phuc Nguyen, Dr. Branko Zajamšek, Prof. Peter Catcheside, in collaboration with Prof. Colin Hansen at The University of Adelaide studied the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM of a certain windfarm in Australia. Their goal was to determine how often AM occurred at various distances from the wind farm and to assess the suitability of the IOA ‘reference method’ for detecting low-frequency AM of a tone that is generated by wind turbines. Their research work is currently published in Journal of Sound and Vibration.

Their approach involved outdoor measurements for a total of 64 days at 9 different residences located between 1 and 9 km from the nearest wind turbine of a South Australian wind farm, which at the time of measurements was made up of 37 operational turbines, each with a rated power of 3 MW. The motivation for their analysis was to investigate the prevalence of a low-frequency ‘thumping’ or ‘rumbling’ noise that had been mentioned in complaints from residents.

… In summary, the study investigated the prevalence and characteristics of wind farm AM at 9 different residences located near a South Australian wind farm. Their work showed that, despite the number of AM events being recorded to reduce with distance, audible indoor AM still occurred for 16% of the time at a distance of 3.5 km. At night-time, audible AM occurred indoors at residences located as far as 3.5 km from the wind farm for up to 22% of the time. In a statement to Advances in Engineering, Dr. Kristy Hansen pointed out that the adopted approach was successful, although more research was needed to quantify the annoyance and sleep disturbance potential of the recorded type of tonal AM.

In Ontario, wind turbines are approved using a noise assessment protocol (developed by acoustics consultants often contracted to do work for wind power developers), using a computer-generated predictive model of the noise. As well, Renewable Energy Approvals require post-operational audits, many of which are incomplete, or have not been submitted at all.

The environment ministry has held the belief that it is impossible to hear turbine noise at 1500 metres and callers to the ministry District Offices or Spills Line are told their complaint is not accepted, and their files are closed, Wind Concerns Ontario has discovered in reviews of Incident Reports provided under Freedom of Information requests. Wind Concerns ONtario has so far tracked 5,200 formal records of complaints held by the government. How many would there be if people had not been told their complaint was impossible?

See a summary of the research here: Summary of Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation-2019

The actual paper is available here for a fee.

P.S. Thanks to U.S. acoustics expert Robert Rand for publicizing the existence of this research.

 

 

Wind turbine noise complaints mount, documents show

“Unbearable torture…please help us”

Wind Concerns Ontario releases a report on Ontario government records of 2017 wind turbine noise complaints

A report released today by Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) shows that the government under Premier Kathleen Wynne did little to respond to citizen reports of environmental noise pollution by industrial-scale wind turbines. And, when government staff in the environment ministry offices did try to enforce Ontario noise regulations, they were rebuffed by corporate wind power operators.

The Wind Concerns Ontario report is a review of almost 700 noise complaints from people living inside 23 wind power facilities across Ontario. The total number of complaints records received by WCO now exceeds 5,200.

Response by the environment ministry was recorded in only 1.3 percent of the records in 2017; 54 percent of the files were marked “No” response by government staff.

Adverse health impacts were noted in staff notes and recorded comments by citizens calling in or emailing in 42 percent of the files, and 16 percent contained description of symptoms suggestive of exposure to low-frequency noise which is not audible but can cause harm.

The Wind Concerns Ontario report comes after a 17-month wait and several appeals to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner following the initial request for the records under the Freedom of Information Act. The noise complaints were made to the MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change during the pro-wind power Wynne government’s last full year in office.

Excerpts from the citizen complaints are included and provide a “litany of suffering” according to the WCO report.

“We find no peace … the assault is the same and at times greater in low wind speeds. [We have had] a thumping noise through our heads, long and steady, all day,” was one comment from someone living near the single turbine in Port Elgin, owned by the union Unifor.

“The noise has been bad for 24 hours,” said another resident, living inside the 140-turbine K2 Wind power facility. “I am exhausted from not sleeping.”

Another K2 Wind neighbour reported that the noise “drives a person insane when it goes on for hours…We are being impacted health-wise and are extremely agitated with the noise.”

“Unbearable … torture,” said another person. No response from the environment ministry was recorded on the file.

The corporate power operators are required by the terms of their Renewable Energy Approvals or REAs to act on these complaints, and to investigate the cause of complaints, take action, and ensure the complaints are not repeated. The Environmental Protection Act gives specific power to the environment ministry to take action.

In practice, however, Wind Concerns Ontario found in its review, the power operators were delinquent in filing audits to confirm compliance, and refused to take action when called upon by ministry staff. When the Owen Sound District Office, for example, demanded the operator of K2 Wind respond to noise complaints and implement noise mitigation until their (overdue) audit was filed, the company wrote back from its Texas headquarters with a refusal, stating “It is the Company’s view that the current circumstances do not objectively establish reasonable and probable grounds to require interim mitigation measures.” The operator, Pattern Energy, referred to its computer-generated predictive modeling for noise and said the modeling “is accurate.” In other words, our models say this can’t happen, therefore it isn’t.

The situation is unacceptable, Wind Concerns Ontario says.

“We’re recommending that the current Ontario government take action to enforce the regulations immediately,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “It’s time to get rid of the outdated and non-protective protocol for measuring noise, stop letting the corporate power operators police their own operations, and re-invest and support our trained Environmental Officers—let them do the job they were supposed to do, and help the people of rural Ontario who have been forced to live next to these power generating machines.”

The Wind Concerns Ontario report on 2017 noise complaints is available here: Wind Turbine Noise Reports to MOECC in 2017-FINAL (3)

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the negative impacts of industrial-scale wind power development on the environment, the economy, and people’s health.