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Listen to experts on turbine noise to protect health: Wind Concerns Ontario to MOECC

November 24, 2015

Wind Concerns Ontario has written to the Green Energy Approvals section of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, following testimony from acoustics experts at the appeal of the White Pines wind power project last week. We demanded that the MOECC review the testimony of the witnesses, specifically that Ontario’s noise regulations are inadequate to protect health, and apply the information to the current review of noise regulations for wind turbines in Ontario.

The letter has been received and acknowledged.

The letter follows.

Stephanie Liu

Senior Program Advisor

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Environmental Programs Division, Modernization of Approvals Branch, Green Energy Approvals,

135 St. Clair Avenue West Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5

November 20, 2015

RE: NOISE GUIDELINES FOR WIND POWER PROJECTS

We are aware that the comment period for the proposed amendments to current noise guidelines for wind power projects has closed; however, there is testimony being given at the appeal of the White Pines project in Prince Edward County that is germane to your review, and should not be overlooked.

Several experts in acoustics, who have technical experience measuring the noise and low frequency noise emissions from wind power projects, have testified over the last few days to the following key points:

  1. The Ontario regulations are inadequate to protect health
  2. The Ontario regulations rely heavily on A-weighted measurement which is not adequate or appropriate (this fact was already mentioned in the federal government funded report from the Council of Canadian Academies)
  3. Wind power developers’ predictions for noise are not always accurate and again, seek to conform to the inadequate regulations of the Ontario government
  4. The Health Canada study of wind turbine noise and health clearly shows there are problems after 35 dB

 

What follows is a citizen report of testimony given by Dr Paul Schomer, an eminent acoustics professional.

APPEC’s health appeal continued on Day 10 with expert witness Dr. Paul Schomer testifying before the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project.  The remainder of the day was spent making adjustments to the schedule following WPD’s abrupt announcement that it was dropping an appeal of the disallowance of two turbines (T7 and T11) by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Dr. Schomer, a former Standards Director of the Acoustical Society of America with 48 years’ experience in noise measurement, was qualified by the ERT as an expert in acoustics.  He told the Tribunal that all residents in the White Pines project area will be affected by audible and inaudible sound and a number of residents will be seriously affected.  The effects reported by people living near wind projects are similar in nature to the effects experienced by participants in a 1985 University of Toronto study on infrasound. 

At lower levels and at higher levels of pure tone some participants experienced nausea and dizziness.  However, when overtones were added at higher levels, participants experienced headaches and fatigue. Dr. Schomer considers that internationally-accepted noise standards and protocols are being flouted in Ontario.  For example, A-weighting is not supposed to be relied on when sounds have low-frequency content such as those emitted by industrial wind turbines.

  Canada is one of the countries that voted for this rule.  He also calls for changes in current Ontario regulations to adjust up to 10 db(A) for wind turbine noise in rural areas.  Other suggested adjustments include up to 3 db(A) for weather conditions and 3 to 4 db(A) for locations downwind of turbines.   

Dr. Schomer is highly critical of WPD’s current predicted average sound as it merely indicates that 50% of the time 50% of the residents will be exposed to sound above or below the limit.  The wind industry should be held to a higher level of accountability: db(A) limits should be met 95% of the time.

Dr. Schomer pointed to a very important figure in the Health Canada Report.  Only 1% of people are shown to be highly annoyed at 30 – 35 db(A) sound levels.  However, at 35 – 40 db(A) the number jumps to 40%.  Dr. Schomer sees this as evidence of a community response to wind turbine noise, and that what Health Canada says, what independent acoustic experts say, and what communities say should carry weight in Ontario.

Through experience Dr. Schomer has found that when community responses disagree with the physics, the physics is usually wrong.  This has been confirmed by his involvement in six studies of wind farms, including the 8-turbine Shirley Wind Farm in Wisconsin where three families abandoned their homes and about 60 other people reported adverse health effects.   

We would ask that the Ministry be certain to review and consider this important evidence in its review of the noise guidelines for wind power projects, which are in no way “farms.”

Just this past week, Wind Concerns Ontario has learned of seven families forced to leave their homes in the area of the Goshen project; another half-dozen families are leaving their homes behind in West Grey. This is all due to the noise experienced.

This is a matter of grave concern, and we hope the government is sincere when it says its mission is to “protect the environment” which also means, the environment people live in.

Thank you.

Jane Wilson, RN

President

Wind Concerns Ontario

windconcerns@gmail.com

PO BOX 509 250 Main Street Wellington Ontario

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