Thousands exposed to wind turbine noise in Ontario: Wind Concerns Ontario survey
April 4, 2019
In a recent meeting with senior officials in the Ontario Ministry of Health, members of Wind Concerns Ontario executive were told that “not that many people” are affected by wind turbines in Ontario.
We launched a research project to estimate the numbers of people now forced to live with wind turbines and discovered:
THOUSANDS Ontario citizens are living near turbines, and inside turbine arrays in wind power generation projects.
Going back over project documents and wind power developer noise impact estimates, we learned that in fact, there are over 30,000 homes located within 1,500 metres of a wind turbine in Ontario. Applying a conservative figure of 2.5 people per residence, that means that 91,300 people are exposed to the highest levels of noise, vibration and other wind turbine noise emissions.
In other words, the number of people being exposed to wind turbine noise is equivalent to the population of the City of Pickering.
“This puts an end to the notion that there are only a few people in Ontario living next to these industrial power generators,” says Jane Wilson, RN, president of the Wind Concerns Ontario community group coalition. “We know from the calls and emails we get that there are many people in Ontario suffering from exposure to the noise. At a minimum, they have sleepless nights from the noise they can hear. At worst, they have other problems including severe headaches, vertigo and cardiovascular symptoms.
“This is a major public health problem that is being ignored.”
Wind turbine noise regulations* only apply to homes within 1,500 metres; the government has assumed that beyond this distance, people will not experience any effects of wind turbine noise emissions.
Records of noise complaints dispute this, however, and even the poorly designed Health Canada report on wind turbine noise indicates that problems persist beyond the 1,500-metre distance.
So, what does that mean in terms of the likelihood of adverse health impacts from the noise produced by the huge power generators?
Strong health impacts
According to a paper published in 2012 by the Acoustic Ecology Institute, “up to 20 percent of nearby neighbours [of turbines] are strongly impacted with sleep disruption, stress issues, and their sense of home and place is forever changed.” The paper notes that some impacts may be “extreme” and result in noticeable changes to health status.
The Ontario government was aware of this very early on in its wind power program, when a report by consultants under contract to the McGuinty government contained this statement:
“The audible sound from wind turbines is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed.** As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound for wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress-related health impacts in some persons …”
Today, the Ontario government has records of thousands of reports of excessive wind turbine noise and vibration, which are largely unresolved. In a review of Master Incident Reports prepared by Provincial Environmental Officers, Wind Concerns Ontario discovered that 35 percent of the files contained notations from the officers about adverse health effects from the noise emissions reported.
Burden on healthcare system
Many people seek medical attention for the symptoms being experienced due to the exposure to wind turbine noise, and often have many interactions with our healthcare system. For example, one member of one family reported multiple visits to the family physician who arranged both MRI and CT scans and consultations with audiology, ear, nose and throat, as well as neurology specialists. The cost to the healthcare system to investigate the physical effects of exposure to wind turbine noise in just one person is considerable.
The Nation Rise power project in North Stormont will add hundreds more people exposed to wind turbine noise, with virtually every resident in a nearby hamlet living within 1,500 metres of a turbine. The project is being appealed currently to Environment Minister Rod Phillips.
Sample of Ontario wind power projects and the number of receptors within 1,500 metres
|Project||# of turbines||# of “receptors”/houses||# of People|
|Melancthon 1 and 2||133||3,286||8,214|
|Niagara Region Wind||77||2,129||5,323|
Note: Receptor numbers based on Noise Reports prepared by the proponent as part of the REA approval process. Population estimates were reached by applying a factor of 2.5 per residence. Vacant receptors were not included in this survey. Source: Wind Concerns Ontario
Copyright: Wind Concerns Ontario
*Section 6.2.4 of Ontario’s Noise Guidelines for wind power facilities
**”Annoyance” in this context is used as a medical term denoting stress or distress.
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