The research project that took everyone by surprise (except the residents of Waterloo)

melissa.nursey-brayWaterloo wind farm began operation in 2010, comprising 37 turbines.

It is located about 30 km from the town of Clare, in the heart of the South Australian wine growing and tourism region.

So in the following year when a supervisor at the University of Adelaide suggested a postgraduate student undertake a study into the impacts of turbine noise on nearby residents, it probably seemed a simple exercise.

At the time, complaints from people suffering the affects of living near wind farms were distant voices, mostly unheard outside their small, tightly-knit communities.

Dr Melissa Nursey-Bray (above) is one of the Adelaide University’s leading academics, with a track record of extensive research into climate change.

Geography, environment and population student Zhenhua Wang drafted a questionnaire with her help. There may have been some expectation of the kind of response it would elicit. Certainly the university’s subsequent reaction would suggest so.

Seventy-five questionnaires were delivered to all local households within 5 km of the wind farm (48 were returned). Face-to-face interviews were conducted with six of the study participants.

But the results were possibly unexpected – and certainly explosive in their content.

More than 70% of the respondents claimed they had been negatively affected by the wind farm noise, with more than 50% saying they had been very or moderately negatively affected.

Health issues reported related mainly to sleep deprivation, according to the survey. But more controversially, residents also reported headaches, a possible indicator of sub-audible noise or infrasound.

Several respondents reported symptoms so extreme they bought property elsewhere.

In summary, the report said, the state’s wind farm guidelines to manage noise and protect the wellbeing of residents living near South Australia’s burgeoning wind turbine installations had failed.

In the words of the author, the survey showed a lack of clearly established integrated procedures which could be employed to tackle the local community’s complaints against the wind farm noise; a failure to utilize an independent third party to conduct valid and trustworthy noise level testing procedures; and a lack of appropriate penalties to be applied if wind developers violated the terms of the guidelines.

It was a damning indictment of both the wind farm, its compliance and a lack of adequate state government noise enforcement procedures.

And the university’s reaction, or at least that part of the university in charge of this project, was immediate.

Some Waterloo residents claim student Zhenhua Wang was instructed not to share the results of the research with them.

Andreas-fixedRequests for the research to be made public were declined by the university, or at least by academics involved with the project.

A complaint by former Waterloo resident Andreas Marciniak to the university’s ethics committee urging the data be published received this reply. In short, it stated the university could not “force” Wang to release the results of the study to members of the community.

But in email correspondence seen by STT, Marciniak responded:

“First, I must make it clear to you that I and the other participants I have spoken to only consented to participate in the survey on the clear understanding that the results would be published, provided of course that the survey project and its reporting met satisfactory standards, as they appear to have done.

“There would have been no point in participating if the results were not going to be published. Certainly the student from my discussions with him can have been under no impression other than that I and the others wanted the results published so that public misstatements by others could be corrected.”

Marciniak said the university’s research information sheet talked about how the survey was expected to help planning authorities and decision makers devise strategies better.

“How can it help anyone if the results are not published?” he asked.

“I am one of those residents driven from my home, as is my brother, and my brother-in-law.

“My brother has been instructed by his cardiologist not to go back and live in his home, and he now lives in a caravan. My sister who chooses to remain there to look after her animals is very sick. There are numerous others in the town and surrounding district who are also very sick.”

Marciniak also made several other allegations, including that Wang had been instructed not to release the research and after he gave one copy to a resident was “punished” by being told he no longer had a university job that was promised to him.

“If the material is his own, why is he being punished for giving it back to the resident?” Marciniak asked.

The university’s manager, ethics and compliance, Michelle White, emailed back saying she would “respond in due course”. Marciniak, according to local residents, heard nothing more.

Marciniak is now a Waterloo refugee, having fled the area because of health problems associated with the turbines.

STT has obtained documentation from this study, including a copy of the university’s notice to Waterloo residents, a copy of the questionnaire, summary of the research findings and the email correspondence referred to above.

Click here. Click here.

Waterloo residents were gobsmacked by the university’s response.

Wind farm operator TRUenergy was also alarmed, but for another reason. They feared the report may be made public.

According to The Australian, Adelaide University deputy vice-chancellor Michael Brooks wrote to TRUenergy in response to company concerns about publication of the summary. “I have looked into this matter and found that the study in question was undertaken by a student as part of a minor thesis for his masters by coursework,” Professor Brooks said. “This was entirely the student’s own project and not undertaken for or on behalf of the university.”

Publicly, Wang said he was not willing to release results until they were peer reviewed. Privately, the student was shocked by the furor caused by his study.

Waterloo residents, however, did not let the matter rest.

Here was a study that clearly outlined the adverse health impacts they were suffering. Residents claimed they only participated on the proviso the findings would be made public. And now it was being blocked by a university bureaucracy that claimed the work belonged to the student.

Complaints and requests were met by obfuscation, they said, then silence.

So undeterred, residents decided to take matters into their own hands.

STT comment:

The ethical approval and the success with a Master’s thesis does not fit with refusal to publish the thesis results. The university’s behaviour has all the hallmarks of censorship and intimidation.

Of course Wang did not want his work released when the results caused him to be unemployed.

We understand Wang had his job offer in the Department of Climate withdrawn by Dr Nursey-Bray when she found out that he had disobeyed her instructions and given one copy of the briefing summary to one of the residents. 

His dream of an academic career was shattered, through no fault of his own, for trying to do “the right thing”.

STT has been told university risk assessment lawyers became involved, and they told Wang “he was on his own” if there was any subsequent litigation as a result of his survey being released.

We believe those who have been responsible for ensuring this information was buried and withdrawing the job offer remain unaccountable and undisciplined.

The ethical issues of requiring research results to be fed back to all the participants of this research have gone unaddressed by the university authorities, despite them being made well aware of them.

Some of the residents who took part in the research, in good faith, have moved from Waterloo on the advice of their treating doctors, including a cardiologist.

By clicking here you can access the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

We refer you to section 4. It appears the university is using this to suppress the findings of Wang’s research – which is a clear conflict of interest according to the same code.

In our next post – the Waterloo farmer’s wife who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

waterloo wind farm

Waterloo wind farm

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Quixotes Last Stand.

  2. Surely this is the missing link. People know themselves what the effects are, and leaving one’s home while clearly not in vacation mode, means “something is up.” Big time up. This survey has huge implications for the entire world, and communities that are suffering might well arm themselves with this grassroots research. The tides are changing. Research is not entirely in the hands of academia. The level of distrust now in North America, surely Ontario, for “university driven” testing, is huge. The best research is when the patient “tells his/her story” to whomever. We know the stories all over the world. Mary’s concept is “baseload” people power, and should be replicated, and this material will help us to rid ourselves of the pandemic that calls itself “green wind power.”

  3. Couldn’t agree more Jackie!! We are fighting a proposal here in WA. One Shire has given the ok, just waiting on the decision from the other Shire……. meanwhile we (the neighbours & concerned ratepayers) are just hoping enough noise is made about the issues that are being faced world wide before the company get it going, so that these things will be stopped until more is known about the impacts from them!

  4. ex Green now Milne is in charge says:

    This story casts a dark shadow over the reputation and ethical standards of the University of Adelaide.

    It seems the researchers have not adhered to the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research, and in particular section 4, the Responsibility of Researchers. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/r39

    To cite lack of peer review (cynically using the very same ethics Code?) as a reason to avoid dissemination of what is a significant research finding suggests a serious conflict of interest which itself is an example of research misconduct.

    Dr Nursey Bray and her student clearly have questions to answer, and study findings to formally disseminate.

    Their integrity and the reputation of the University of Adelaide depends on it.

  5. Jackie Rovensky says:

    The residents of Waterloo are an example to us all – do not give up, when you are right keep telling them.
    Until the research has been conducted and assessed no more turbines should be installed. How long is it going to take our Governments to accept their responsibility to the people of this nation and call a halt until it has been proven these industrial machines are safe.
    Can any Government body show us that regulations are being met with this machinery? Have any been created for their use in any of the situations they are or are being erected in?
    Please do not direct me to noise ‘guidelines’ because thats all they are they are not set in stone.
    Further while this research is now going ahead – it’s about time – after all over 12 months ago the Senate recommended such research as well as medical research be undertaken..
    Why is it people such as those at Waterloo and other communities have to keep banging their heads against the brick wall of Parliaments to get someone to accept what is blatantly obvious – DO THE RESEARCH BEFORE allowing massive industrial machinery to be placed within communities.
    There’s more to it than simply giving the OK to the engineering of a machine, it has to operate safely, efficiently and be placed and operated where it cannot create a danger to members of the public.

Trackbacks

  1. […] who haven’t even got the guts to meet the victims – cowardice doesn’t cover it.  The conduct of these people – who occupy well-paid seats of learning – is a National DISGRACE – and calls […]

  2. […] The research project that took everyone by surprise (except the residents of Waterloo). […]

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