That sound? Resonate Acoustics copping a left hook from Cooper et al

left hookAcousticians are not normally noted for making much noise – politically, professionally or otherwise.

It’s a complicated science, more often working behind the scenes and appearing as “experts” in court cases.

But this profession is, in many ways, at the centre of the storm over wind farms in Australia and around the world.

The real problem, as we see it, is the wind industry is a source of enormous income for acousticians.

Quietly some of them have been pocketing fat (very fat) consultant fees while writing, shall we say, briefs conveniently supportive of big wind projects.

That’s how the consulting industry works. That’s how consultants get repeat business.

You don’t get invited back if your work doesn’t further the business objectives.

But a couple of acousticians have questioned this practice – and acted quite differently.

Bob Thorne in Queensland has quietly worked for communities fighting wind farm projects.

And NSW-based acoustician Steve Cooper has done the same, but not so quietly.

Last year, Cooper chucked a magnificently-aimed left hook at his profession when he wrote a passionate and detailed essay in his association’s journal. You can read a copy of it here.

Although cloaked in the restrained and collegiate language of a scientific profession, the piece was an unambiguous jab aimed at his less-scrupulous colleagues.

In short, Cooper said generic wind farm noise assessments undertaken by acousticians across Australia were pretty useless because they overlooked crucial matters such as how noisy wind farms actually are, the acoustic environment, weather, sleep disturbance and conditions so bad they forced residents to leave their homes.

As Cooper forcefully concluded: “The question is now being asked in the community, and invariably will be asked in courts of law, whether the absence of that material in the “noise assessment” is a Breach of Code of Ethics.”

But he didn’t stop there.

He recently released a scathing critique of a report by the South Australian EPA and a company called Resonate Acoustics on infrasound at Waterloo wind farm.

kock-out punchCooper concluded the document was the product of a substantial degree of incompetence or alternatively, it was intended to mislead the community.

But didn’t the wolves come out to howl. The green Twitterati went ballistic as did the letters to the editors pages in several major metropolitan newspapers.

But last week, something interesting happened.

A director of Resonate Accoustics, Matthew Stead, gave a presentation to the NSW division of the Australian Acoustical Society on the SA EPA/Resonate Acoustics’ report into infrasound.

And he copped a pasting.

STT understands that the contents of his presentation were tweaked a little (or maybe a lot) to give a different spin to the contents of the controversial report.

Questions at the end were very tightly controlled by the evening’s MC, as if she was aware that the reputation of her colleague from South Australia was be about to be torn apart.

To be honest, the whole sound-wave stuff can be mind-numbingly dry but here’s the crux.

In answer to a question on dBG for wind turbines, Stead actually agreed with Cooper that dBG did not cover the majority of the  infrasound energy produced by wind turbines.

This is a REVERSE of the position presented in Section 2.1 of the SA EPA/Resonate Acoustics report. In scientific terms, it’s a very significant back down.

One of our  STT community representatives noted  Stead then got a bit of a hammering about the use of a 10-second sample (or did he mean averaging) and were they actually measuring the real noise?

Some of it was a bit too technical for our spy but there was no mistaking Stead looking uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable.

Then another member of the AAS (not Cooper) was critical of the  matter of perception of hearing versus feeling the noise.

This questioner was unable to accept the concept of not hearing the noise meant everything was okay.

The questioner could not accept the implied conclusion in the report that being below the threshold of audibility meant there was no issue.

The questioner was critical of the use of two different locations as an experimental procedure and also critical of the measurement procedure/calibration of Resonate’s equipment.

He was not sure they were measuring the true level.  He was critical that from press releases issued by the EPA and Resonate, people were drawing the wrong conclusions.

(Hey, isn’t that what press releases are for? – Ed)

Stead apparently tried to brush off that they were “just trying to get data” and “just followed various recommendations”. So the report is not that definitive and just a casual look at infrasound, apparently.

You’re kidding right? The wind industry has been cock-a-hoop over this crock of bull execrement even before the ink was dry.

And apparently the feeling of skepticism among many others in the audience was the same.

But it didn’t end there.

A Professor Randall weighed in to show the timing was an issue and went back to the previous question about frequency response times and length of signals (whoa – really technical here).

There was then more discussion about laboratory calibration by the previous questioner and various comments backwards and forwards.

aliApparently the AAS videoed the presentation – we can’t wait to see it (gripping, we’re sure) and for the benefit of all it should be in the public domain.

STT  is aware of overseas acousticians being very critical of the EPA/Resonate Acoustics report, calling it a sham.

Just whose eyes did the SA EPA\Resonate Acoustics expect to pull the wool over?

Seems the Graham Lloyd article in The Australian was spot on.

In that piece, Cooper said the research had “several obvious shortcomings”.

Now it’s clear he’s not alone in that view.


Justice and the truth – 1

SA EPA/Resonate Acoustics –  0

7 thoughts on “That sound? Resonate Acoustics copping a left hook from Cooper et al

  1. The truth is reaching the top of the pile, and these ‘suss’ acousticians will find they have ruined their reputation and employment prospects by doing ‘what the company wants of what is right. Hopefully some of the young ones will have quickly learnt from mistakes and can recover overtime.

    1. Jackie sadly acoustics is an area that has little recognized value outside of legal action in severe situations. Despite the publication of journals such as Noise and Health, the majority of successful trained acoustic experts make little reporting reference to health risks of noise. Not the experts in these other fields, and not collaborating with them. This would add dimension to legal costs, and potentially reduce work opportunity. EPA noise policy legal requirements make no mention of health evaluation. Noise reporting needs recognition of the greater value of it all, of other criteria identifying risk and vulnerability. We were ignored when we put this suggestion to the EPA and legislators when the noise policy was out for consultation. In my mind, this too is an essential role for ethics in administrative and legal review, but it is simply not there, and not welcomed by those just interested in financial benefit. To grow the value of more sustainable change, failure by acoustics, EPA, planners, and politics, to see the risk connections of imposing noise and vibration, has to change. Sadly the polling booth and court rooms seem the only places we can achieve any beginning to move process and evaluation to a safer place? Senior acoustics people might think about collaborating with lecturers in physiology and psychology to touch on some of the facts presently avoided by the discipline. To do so will add credibility to their field of endevour.

  2. It is pleasing to see people like Steve Cooper, Bob Thorne, Les Huson & a few other Acoustical people are not being bought off by the wind farm companys like some other acoustic people. I hope the acoustic people that are spreading false imformation about the low frequency noise ect, pay the price with the wind farm companys & hosts when they get found out.

  3. The discussion here is very relevant commendable. It points directly to a lack of quality review in public administration in general. It point’s also directly to the lack of expertise in the EPA to evaluate the effects of low frequency noise interaction with human physiology. Over the last decade I and many others have seen them arrange evaluation with companies and consultants to service administrative and political need; not to meet any ethical criterion that is part of their role in servicing our community. The political and administrative purpose that is dominating pollution control is costing us a bomb, but it will never be evidenced; the public can wear it. To illustrate how selective the EPA evaluation of noise is, I refer to an abstract from;
    The effects of an acute psychological stressor on cardiovascular, endocrine, and cellular immune response: A prospective study of individuals high and low in heart rate reactivity, Sandra A. Sgoutas-Emch, et al, Psychophysiology, Volume 31, Issue 3, pages 264–271, May 1994;
    High and low reactors were preselected on the basis of their heart rate reactivity to a speech stressor in a prescreening session. In the main study, subjects were exposed to a mental arithmetic plus noise stressor. Cardiovascular activity was recorded during baseline and stressor, and blood was drawn prior to and following the stressor for endocrine and immune assays. Results revealed that the stressor decreased the blastogenic response to concanavalin A and increased natural killer cell numbers and cytotoxicity, absolute numbers of CD8+ T-lymphocytes, nor-epinephrine and epinephrine levels, heart rate, and blood pressure responses. In addition, cortisol and natural killer cell cytotoxicity responses to the stressor differentiated individuals high versus low in heart rate reactivity. These results suggest that the interactions among the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system are not only amenable to psychophysiological analysis but that such analyses may play an important role in illuminating underlying mechanisms.
    These parameters are not on the radar for the EPA. Their scientific expertise has reference to any of it. Why not? Why is there no ethical evaluation of EPA project performance when they are dealing with so much that affects public well being? This needs to change.
    The effects of noise are experienced in many parts of our body systems. To offer further reference to symptoms identified by affected residents and clinicians assisting them, I offer the following articles for consideration;
    • Effects of night time low frequency noise on the cortisol response to awakening and subjective sleep quality, Kerstin Persson Waye, et al, Life Sciences, 2003;
    • Effect of chronic and acute exposure to noise on physiological functions in man, AP Singh, etal, International Archives of Occupational Environmental Health, 1982, V50 pp169-74
    • Vibroacoustic disease: Biological effects of infrasound and low-frequency noise explained by mechanotransduction cellular signalling, Mariana Alves-Pereira, Nuno A.A. Castelo Branco, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 2007;

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