Dog Ate My Data: Ontario’s Government Buries Wind Farm Neighbours Noise Complaints

The wind industry started carpeting Ontario with wind turbines a decade ago. Ever since, neighbours have been complaining about the incessant and grinding cacophony of low-frequency noise and infrasound these things generate.

The only thing more consistent and persistent than the neighbours’ noise complaints, is the Ontario government’s practised contempt for the wind industry’s noise victims.

Fudging noise data, covering up evidence of the complaints and assisting wind power outfits to avoid any serious scrutiny, is all part of a monumental regulatory failure.

Failure, that is, from the perspective of wind farm neighbours. However, for their buddies in the wind industry, the approach has been (literally) a roaring success.

Non-compliant wind farms are permitted to operate with impunity, and to avoid the tag “non-compliant” in the first place, the process of compliance monitoring is simply extended indefinitely.

It’s an outrage, to be sure. Wind Concerns Ontario details the results below.

FAIL: Ontario’s wind turbine noise monitoring process
Wind Concerns Ontario
30 September 2019

When the Ontario government under premier Dalton McGuinty introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act in 2009, the premier promised that regulations for setbacks between the industrial-scale wind turbines and Ontario residents’ homes would be based on science, for health and safety.

“If you have concerns [about health and safety],” he said, “ we must find a way to address those.”[1]

So, promises of protection were made to the people of rural Ontario, who were without recourse as their quiet communities were transformed into power generation facilities.

But there was little or no protection.

Information provided to Wind Concerns Ontario by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks shows that lengthy periods, sometimes years, elapsed between the submission, review and acceptance of technical reports required to confirm that turbines were safe. The majority are still either not complete or in review.

Meanwhile, citizen complaints of excessive noise, many with reports of adverse health effects linked to sleep disturbance, continue. Thousands of complaints have been registered with the government, most without resolution.[2]

Regulations exist but checking for compliance involves comparing real noise measurements via “audits” (done by the wind power operators themselves, using acoustics contractors) against their own “modelled” or predicted noise levels.[3]

According to the information provided by Eugene Macchione, Acting Director Client Services and Permissions Branch of the environment ministry in an email dated August 9 this year, of the 49 wind power projects listed in response to our request under Freedom of Information legislation:

  • 16 are determined to be incomplete
  • 15 are still in review
  • 12 have demonstrated compliance with regulations
  • 3 are not yet due
  • 2 are non-compliant and in Noise Abatement plans, and
  • 1 was never submitted.

These figures mean that, according to the environment ministry’s list, Conservation and Parks, almost 70 percent of the audits required to assure health and safety are either not complete as submitted, are in review, not compliant, or not submitted at all.

The list is not complete and is missing 11 post-Green Energy Act projects; more projects, at least 19, are also not listed.

Not only are the required audit reports not completed, the time elapsed between submission of the audits and conclusion of the government review is astonishing. The Conestogo wind power project began commercial operation on December 20, 2012, and is listed as still being “in review” as of July 30 for 2,058 days — that’s over five and a half years. According to noise report data provided to Wind Concerns Ontario via FOI, Conestogo has been the subject of dozens of noise complaints from nearby residents.

East Durham Wind Energy Centre began commercial operation in 2015, but after 1,087 days, it is now listed as incomplete; the project racked up almost 300 formal noise complaints in just a year and a half.

The Summerhaven power project has been operating since August 2013, and remains “in review” after more than 2,000 days, or 5.4 years.

The list provided by the ministry is not only incomplete, however, it is inaccurate: the K2 Wind power project, which is number three in Ontario for noise complaints as of 2016 (it started operation in 2015) is listed as “incomplete” when in fact, the project was found to be out of compliance with more than 80 of its 140 turbines not meeting the regulations. The project is currently under a Director’s Order to implement a noise abatement plan.[4]

Bluewater is one project that was determined to be “in compliance” (despite many noise complaints against it), but its audit report was in review for four years.

The single wind turbine owned by union Unifor is not named on the government list but was the subject of over 300 complaints by the end of 2016, with many more reported in the media. Meeting recently with environment minister Jeff Yurek, residents of Port Elgin told him that audits were never done for the turbine, in spite of hundreds of complaints, many with reports of adverse health effects. [5]

Source: Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, August 9, 2019

 

The new government seems to be actively demanding audits be done, and several Ontario projects are now under order to reduce noise, but a lot of people have been waiting a long time for these reviews, says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.

In April 2017, MPP Lisa Thompson asked a question in the Ontario Legislature regarding resolution of complaints about wind turbine noise emissions experienced by two families in her riding of Huron-Bruce. Then Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in the Wynne government Glen Murray assured members of the Legislature that:

The … law works. There are standards. When people call, I’m very proud of the officials. They respond quickly and they enforce the law. The law is being enforced here. If wind turbines or any other type of technology exceeds sound levels, we enforce the law. … No one should have to suffer noise or noise pollution from any source, and certainly not wind turbines in their community.[6]

“People were promised—and they are still being told by environment staff, every day—that the rules are there to protect them,” Wilson says. “But here’s the truth: the rules may be there but they’re not adequate, and they haven’t been enforced. The previous government appears to have been very protective of the wind power business.”

The Ministry has multiple options to force wind power operators to comply with regulations, including shutdown. (See Sections E1 and E3 of the Compliance Protocol). The project operators are required to post the submitted audits publicly, but there is a serious inconsistency in this. The Compliance Protocol on the ministry website appears to have been edited and is now contradictory.[7] As of September 24, 2019, the protocol (with the apparent cut-and-paste errors) reads:

The Ministry will also require that all Acoustic Audit reportsSummary [sic] documents are also acceptable but upon request, the complete audit should be made available. be posted [sic] on the project website within 10 business days of the Acoustic Audit being submitted to the Director and District Manager. The Ministry expects the owner/operator to ensure that the Acoustic Audit reports, and any updates, remain available to the public on the project website for the life of the project.

The larger issue is the fact the Compliance Protocol is flawed: it is based on audible noise and does not take into account the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines. Low-frequency inaudible emissions are implicated in many adverse health effects, but were not included in the regulations which were themselves formulated with guidance from the wind power lobby.

“While the current government seems to be committed to enforcing the noise regulations for wind power generators, there is a long way to go before the people of rural Ontario are protected,” says Wilson.

Read the MECP document here: I and E Audits July 30 2019 – (Aug 9 2019) (1)

NOTE: data on noise reports filed with the Government of Ontario are only available at present for 2006–2016; requests have been made for 2017 and 2018 data, but have not been fulfilled. WCO recently applied for a second appeal with the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Office for refusal to reply to the 2017 data request.

  • [1] Toronto Star, February 11, 2009. McGuinty vows to stop wind farm NIMBYs.
  • [2] Wind Concerns Ontario. Response to Wind Turbine Noise Complaints, 2nd report 2015-2016, February 2018.
  • [3] According to the Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise two kinds of audits are required as part of their Renewable Energy Approval, and to comply with Ontario regulations. They are: E-Audits to verify the validity of the sound power levels provided by manufacturers, and used in acoustic models to determine the noise impact of a wind facility at receptor locations; and I-Audits to verify the validity of predicted sound pressure levels in Acoustic Assessment Reports, and verify compliance with applicable sound level limits at receptor locations.
  • [4] Scott Miller, CTV News London, May 27, 2019. Wind farm ordered to reduce noise. 
  • [5] Shoreline Beacon, September 24, 2019. Environment minister hears about Port Elgin wind turbine suffering.
  • [6]Hansard, Ontario Legislature, Oral Questions, Session: 41:2 Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2017
  • [7] Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Compliance Protocol, Section E5.1 Complete Submissions.

Wind Concerns Ontario

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Jackie Rovensky says:

    If only we could get them to bury the industry as deep as they bury the uncomfortable facts associated with this indindustry.

    Also when considering location of these things no one appears anywhere/any country to have thought about what to do about safety as the nightmarish things got taller and more powerful.
    Which ingrates allowed an industry to decide the conditions these companies operate on with respect to human health, environmental considerations and social welfare grounds?
    How has such a situation arrived at where people have to fight government departments AND wealthy private international companies to get justice with respect to their, living conditions and ability to farm and live in peace and health on their own properties?
    Its time ALL governments in all countries took back control and put their peoples needs above the profits of this industry.
    More damage is possibly being done by this industry to human health and the envirobment faster than by any social change for many generations.
    Yes, there is an emergency – to stop the damage from this industry getting any worse.

  2. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  3. Jeff Walther says:

    It should also be noted that since installing wind turbines, Ontario’s CO2 emissions have gone **UP**.

    Ontario is powered by a combination of hydro power and large amounts of clean nuclear generated electricity. Making room for wind power means abating some of the clean nuclear power. This would be okay, if that’s all there was to it. However, to compensate for the rapid fluctuation in wind’s output, more gas generation is used.

    Hence, nuclear is not reduced for wind. Nuclear is reduced for wind + gas, and emissions go from zero emissions, to gas emissions, which are better than coal, but still substantial.

  4. Mike Jankowski says:

    I am one such person. I reported issues over 70 times regarding the Vineland Power Corporation HAF wind power array, neighbouring the NRWC item on your list. I am surprised it did not make the list, as without seeking, I know of 4 other families around it experiencing issues.

    The MoE has set their regulations such that infrasound is given a free pass and low frequency noise is severely attenuated. They use 10 minute equivalent levels to average the acoustic power, which does not accurately represent what we have been exposed to. Their procedure is to not respond to any report of adverse health impact more than 1,500m away from the nearest wind turbine.

    I have presented observations to them which solely from a scientific aspect, should be followed up. I have offered to work with them. Reported openly to both the MoE and VPC. Neither seem to care about our wellness or appreciate their role in it as neither ever replied. I will go a step further to say: look at how the regulation and procedures are authored – it seems intentionally crafted to allow this harm to occur. I type this with a vocation and experience in electronics engineering. I had gone 13 years without a missed shift up to the point the turbines began to impact me and it was observations, measurements and a 2.5 year medical diagnostic process which led me to suspect the turbines as the cause.

    Ontario’s MoE and more heave demonstrated they are crooks who do not care about our health, in my experience.

  5. Thank you STT for publishing this information. Putting this in the public domain allows people around the world to see what Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira saw and heard directly from people being harmed. She visited residents in their homes before her presentation at the University of Waterloo. She was shocked at the siting decisions that had been made.
    The questions is exactly who made these decisions and why did they do this?

    Your article states:

    “The larger issue is the fact the Compliance Protocol is flawed: it is based on audible noise and does not take into account the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines. Low-frequency inaudible emissions are implicated in many adverse health effects, but were not included in the regulations which were themselves formulated with guidance from the wind power lobby.”

    Dr. Alves-Pereira spoke loudly and clearly about LFN and infrasound and the cumulative and irreversible harm to health and yet few in Ontario have ever addressed this egregious reality. To my knowledge no one in Ontario, except independent acousticians and engineers have measured this acoustic radiation pollution.
    The provincial Liberal government that allowed this to happen was decimated in the last election. They lost their party status. The new Conservative government promised to protect us and yet they’ve kept most of the same agents in the Ministry of the Environment. Are they really expecting these same people to admit that they allowed the harm to happen?
    After already four years of this cumulative and irreversible harm people, who for whatever valid reasons, spend most of their time in their homes are at the mercy of the government to have these turbines turned off.
    Forced relocation is absolutely unacceptable.

  6. Frightening. I’m going to send a link to Matt Kean (NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment) and ask him to review NSW legislation with a view to changing it to:
    a) specify that measurements of Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise are carried out using dB Linear, not dBA,
    b) establishes a programme of testing the ILFN output from every wind turbine installed in NSW – to be carried out by government employees, not stooges appointed by the turbine operators
    c) review, and revise the standards acceptable for turbines to operate.
    He may do nothing without insistent nagging, so I encourage other readers of this column, living in New South Wales, to do the same.

  7. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.press.

  8. Richard Mann says:

    Please see the following presentation:
    Title: “Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise: Physics & Cells, History & Health”
    Speaker: Dr Mariana Alves-Pereira
    Location: University of Waterloo
    Date: September 12, 2019

    Video archive of presentation:
    https://livestream.com/itmsstudio/events/8781285

    Dr. Alves-Pereira’s research profile is at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mariana_Alves-pereira

    Note; there is approx 2 mins of dead air at the beginning. The talk is ~50 minutes, followed by a long Q&A.

    Richard Mann
    University of Waterloo
    Waterloo Ontario
    Canada

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