Residents with polluted water wells following wind turbine construction wait for results of a health hazard investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Government and public health authorities have failed to protect health, say researchers in a new paper published in Environmental Disease journal
October 24, 2021
Wind power developers and their government supporters have long claimed that there is “no proof” of a link between wind turbine noise emissions and poor health. Yet concerns persist around the world, and there are many people who claim to have had their lives and health adversely affected by being forced to live near the wind power generators.
A new research paper published last week in the Environmental Disease journal concludes that “exposure to IWTs [industrial wind turbines] is associated with an increased risk of AHEs [Adverse Health Effects]. The analysis concludes that living or working near IWTs can result in AHEs in both people and animals.”
The paper addresses the fact that despite many thousands of complaints about noise and health effects around the world, research as yet to conclude a causal relationship between wind turbine noise and poor health. The authors employ a series of criteria developed by famed epidemiologist and statistician Sir Austin Bradford Hill in order to answer that question.
The result? The criteria for establishing a cause and effect relationship were met and the conclusion can be made that “exposure to IWTs is associated with an increased risk” of adverse health effects.
The authors cite studies from all around the world, including Shepherd in New Zealand, the Bridgewater study in Australian and numerous others, as well as papers produced by Wind Concerns Ontario on noise complaints filed with the Ontario government. One study was completed by two acoustics experts who became ill themselves while studying the noise emissions from a wind power project in the United States.
Most noise studies do not accurately measure wind turbine noise
“The vast majority of studies of sound from wind turbines do not accurately measure the presence of LFN [low frequency noise] or infrasound,” the authors said. “This failure of public health authorities and governments to monitor the impact of LFN and infrasound on exposed individuals impedes the proper interpretation of results and is not consistent with the WHO [World Health Organization] report “Guidelines for Community Noise’ that states: ‘When prominent low-frequency components are present, noise measures based on A-weighting are inappropriate’.”
A failure of government and public health authorities
The authors say with the “growing weight of evidence” and the “rapid proliferation of IWT installations globally” it is time for governments to act to protect public health.
“Preventive action should be taken and policies implemented that are more cautiously protective of public health, safety and welfare,” the authors conclude.
“More stringent regulation is needed to recognize, monitor, analyze, and document effects on the health of local residents and animals.”
More effective and precautionary setback distances should also be employed.
In Ontario, the regulations governing the approval and monitoring of industrial-scale wind turbines has not changed since 2009, and many aspects of the regulations still in force today were dictated to previous governments by the wind power lobby, including setback distances.
A statement by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health published in 2010 also has not been revised (though an update was developed in 2014 but never published). It continues to be used by Ontario medical officers of health as “proof” that there is no link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects, despite thousands of records of complaints held by the environment ministry.
October 8, 2021
People living in the Finch-Berwick-Crysler areas of North Stormont began filing complaints about noise from the wind turbines in the 29-turbine Nation Rise power project well before it was commissioned in July.
As the turbines were being tested and run intermittently, there were complaints about noise, sound pressure and vibration, and reports of headache, feelings of pressure in the head and chest, and sleepless, fitful nights.
A resident living near Crysler wrote to Wind Concerns Ontario in March with this report:
Today I woke up at 5 am and got out of bed. Soon after I started to feel nauseous and dizzy. I became hot and sweaty and felt so unwell that I had to lie down on the floor for 15 minutes. I got up then felt chilled and had pressure in my chest. I was able to go back to bed and woke up a few hours later. I felt better and noticed 5 of the 6 turbines around my home were now not turning.
He added that when he left his home for a period of time, all his symptoms vanished. He is now in the care of a cardiologist.
Yesterday, a local newspaper reported that the Ontario government has launched an investigation into the noise complaints and reports of adverse health effects at Nation Rise.
This is a hopeful sign but if Ontario continues to use its outdated and ineffective noise measurement protocol, it will not be serving the interests of residents, or solving the problem.
As we have documented for the government many times, the entire regulatory process for wind turbines needs to be revised, and soon.
In the meantime, we encourage people to keep filing complaints, and to report adverse health effects to their physician and local health unit.
To report wind turbine noise, or any other effect thought to be connected to turbine operations, please call 1-866-MOE-TIPS or use the online reporting tool, here: Report Pollution | Ontario.ca (gov.on.ca)
September 30, 2021
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health was asked a question by media yesterday about disinformation on COVID vaccines to which he responded there will be a “vocal minority” in opposition whether it’s WIFI, 5G or wind turbines or vaccines.
He added that in a democracy, such opposition is appropriate.
But Dr. Moore, in lumping “wind turbines” with concerns about WiFi and 5G, appeared to be marginalizing such concerns and worse, demonstrating a confirmation bias—that’s a serious thing in a medical professional, and especially Ontario’s top public health official.
As an official with the Ontario government and a former Medical Officer of Health for Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington, he knows full well there have been thousands of complaints made in Ontario about wind turbine noise and health impacts. He must also be aware that the health ministry is currently carrying out a formal investigation of the polluted water wells in Chatham-Kent, thought to be associated with wind turbine construction an operation.
In fact, while Dr. Moore was Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A, his department conducted a brief review of the situation regarding wind turbine noise in 2011. It concluded:
The overall evidence-base can be further strengthened through the conduct of multiple studies that use both objective and subjective health outcome measures, measure sound directly, measure exposures and outcomes pre and post wind turbine installation, and consider vulnerable populations, such as children.
It is worth noting that none of these recommended studies have ever been done in Ontario, even ten years after that statement from KFL&A. The Chief Medical Officer of Health’s narrow (and now outdated) 2010 statement recommended noise measurement and studies of vulnerable populations—also not done, and that statement has never been updated, though the ministry pledged to do so.
The fact remains that the people who can afford to do the research don’t want it, and those who want it, can’t afford it.
Dr. Moore’s offhand statement about a small vocal minority is very worrying: of course the population concerned about wind turbines is small—it is a subset of a subset, a group within an already small population of rural residents in Ontario.
It is past time Ontario kept its promises to people forced to live inside and near wind power facilities: do the research, update the documents and processes, and enforce the regulations.
Ontario’s CMOH is asked whether the province should be more aggressive in combating vaccine misinformation: He says there will be a “vocal minority” in opposition whether it’s WIFI, 5G or wind turbines or vaccines. “In a democracy that is enabled and appropriate.” #onpoli
As long as old regulations for wind turbine noise and setbacks remain unchanged in Ontario, anger is not going anywhere
September 1, 2021
Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is reported to have said of citizens objecting to wind power projects in 2009: “They can’t stay mad forever”.
But, it seems they can.
Writer Tom Van Dusen explores this in the August 24 edition of Ontario Farmer and asks, why, when the Nation Rise power project has been approved and is now operating, after lost citizen appeals and even a court case, is the opposition to the project just as strong?
Why aren’t people just accepting of the 29 giant turbines, and getting on with their lives?
Appeal process was a sham
For one thing, there is the sense of injustice about it all. Almost every single wind power project was appealed, before 2009 to the Ontario Municipal Board and after, when the Green Energy Act prescribed an appeal process before the Environmental Review Tribunal. Legal writers have described the task of appeal as almost impossible to win, the way the rules were set up. Instead of power developers having to prove there would be no harm, citizens, with limited time and resources, had to prove there would be.
Birds killed? Sure, Ontario said, but turbines would have to kill so many that entire species would be wiped out. Impossible. (Except when it came to turtles…)
A recent academic paper showed that “the people were not wrong” in their concerns about the dangers to people and the environment that led them to take action. Many of the risks they foresaw in the power development proposals have actually become reality.
Among those, noise is paramount. The Ontario government now has about 7,000 formal complaint records called incident Reports dating back to 2006. There appears to be no process in which these records are collected and submitted to the environment ministry for review, analysis and action. They stay in the District Offices until asked for (which we do, every year.) There are families in Ontario who have been complaining about noise for five years and more—there is no effective response.
The Green Energy Act is not gone
The Green Energy Act may have been repealed in Ontario but the Regulation that governs noise limits and setbacks, Regulation 359/09, still exists, unchanged from 2009.
The Renewable Energy Approval process is likewise unchanged; if there were to be another rush for wind power (like the City of Ottawa is proposing as “local” power), the process will not save anyone from being invaded by huge turbines that will make noise, produce vibration and sound pressure, and will affect wildlife.
Disturbed water wells are another concern: dozens of families in North Kent are awaiting the results of a public health investigation into why their wells, some operating for decades without problems, suddenly stopped working after construction began on a wind power project.
Developers claim that griping “non-participating” landowners are just jealous of the lease fees. It’s true that it is tough when they see leaseholders driving around in new trucks, said one Nation Rise resident. But the reason it’s tough is because their actions left other property owners with homes that have lost value, and are perhaps not even sellable.
Opposition to wind turbine projects continues around the world, and is growing in the U.S. where some states (New York) are actually forcing through legislation to steamroll over local opposition. And there is opposition, with key states being Illinois, Michigan, New York and Vermont, to name a few.
Mr. McGuinty was wrong: we CAN stay mad forever…and we will until there is justice for the unwilling neighbours of industrial wind power projects.
Wind Concerns Ontario
What needs to happen:
REVISE Regulation 359/09 with new setback distances and noise limits
Revise Renewable Energy Approval process to reflect reality of wind turbine noise emissions
Revise and update 2010 Chief Medical Officer of Health statement on wind turbine noise and health
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Time to replace outdated government report on wind turbine noise and health, says Wind Concerns Ontario
The 2010 report by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario is old, irrelevant, and just plain wrong—time to say goodbye
February 4, 2021
In 2010, after media reports of citizen complaints about excessive noise from Ontario’s fleet of wind turbines, and to support the government’s push for more wind power, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) for the province issued a brief document, The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines.
The conclusion of that report, and many other government communications, was that there is no relationship between wind turbine noise and direct health effects. The Ontario government, then under pro-wind Premier Dalton McGuinty, pledged it would protect Ontario citizens by keeping up with research on wind turbine noise and health around the world, provide new updates, and make changes to regulations as needed.
That never happened.
A new review was carried out and a new update prepared for publication in 2014, but it never saw the light of day.
Direct vs. indirect
Today we know that research shows that an indirect relationship exists between wind turbine noise and stress or distress that can result in serious health impacts such as cardiovascular problems. Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal noted in 2011 that it was concerned about the lack of consideration of indirect health effects. And other documents such as a 2015 review by the Council of Canadian Academies highlighted the inadequacy of current noise assessment protocols as are used in Ontario, and the lack of studies that uses actual measurement of wind turbine noise at people’s homes, instead of computer-generated models.
The Ontario government took no notice.
The truth is, the original 2010 CMOH report was limited as a research effort: it was based on a review of selected research papers, discussion covered just seven pages, and the report was never subjected to an independent peer review.
Nevertheless, in 2021, that 2010 Ontario document is still promoted to communities and public health officials as the definitive statement in answer to the question, Does wind turbine noise cause adverse health effects? It is even cited by international authorities as Ontario government policy.
Why we need to act now
The landscape has changed dramatically for wind power. There are far more wind turbines operating across Ontario than in 2010, and the size and power rating of turbines has increased. Despite the Ontario experience with higher electricity bills, environmental noise and community opposition, the current federal government is hinting that it wants more renewable energy across Canada.
With thousands of noise complaints from Ontario wind turbines on record, and with international research spurring other jurisdictions to revise regulation and setbacks, it is clearly past time for Ontario to “retire” the 2010 CMOH report and remove it from the public domain. Public health officials should be informed it cannot be relied upon, and a review of more recent literature should be conducted in order to revise regulations that will be protective of health.
Obviously, COVID-19 is what everyone is focusing on right now, but the health impact of the environmental noise pollution caused by grid-scale wind turbines is an important concern, too.
It deserves government attention.
Read the Wind Concerns Ontario report here: Why the 2010 CMOH report must change
Read the unpublished 2014 report here: Evidence Update-2014