These e-mails were exchanged among acoustic consultants and researchers in the USA, New Zealand, and Australia regarding claims by wind developer Pacific Hydro and others that acousticians/noise engineers are not qualified to determine cause and effect of human perceptions and therefore physiological and psychological responses to sound energy.
The comments by Pacific Hydro trying to limit the expertise of acousticians and noise engineers followed the public release of a review of, and strong endorsement  of, Steven Cooper’s acoustic survey at Cape Bridgewater  by senior US Noise Engineers Dr Paul Schomer and Mr George Hessler.
Mr Cooper’s work at Cape Bridgewater followed on from an acoustic survey conducted by Dr Paul Schomer, George and David Hessler, Bruce Walker, and Rob Rand at the Shirley Wind Farm , which was released in December 2012. Steven Cooper’s work achieved a number of the goals which Schomer, the Hesslers, Walker, and Rand had established were required after their Shirley acoustic survey, namely:
- Data collection during “on off” turbine operation, so that comparative acoustic data could be collected to accurately determine the wind turbine generated component. Duke Energy had refused to comply with their request to do so in the Shirley acoustic survey.
- Conduct attended measurement of acoustic exposures of residents when they could not see or hear the turbines ie establish whether some people could accurately determine wind turbine operation in these circumstances (as some residents have repeatedly stated).
- Determine acoustic thresholds for human perception above which residents could perceive turbine operation, and below which they could not.
Mr Cooper’s acoustic survey work for Pacific Hydro at Cape Bridgewater achieved the above three tasks.
1. From Rick James , 17 Feb 2015
In spite of what Pac Hydro may say, acousticians routinely use measurements and their observations about how people respond to different sounds to determine cause and effect. Whether it is a simple situation of whether a compressor is causing a noise disturbance or the effects of wind turbines on people that is our job. Do not let them try to claim that this is a medical decision. That is the MOE’s strategy in Ontario, but we do not need to let it be so in Australia. You are not establishing the biological processes by which cause the effects, you are only associating the presence of certain sounds to people’s responses.
Use my paper “Warning signs that went unheard… ” to show that acousticians, including Leventhall and Broner, determined that rumbling, generally inaudible, HVAC sounds were the cause of Sick Building Syndrome. If a medical doctor was required to assess cause and effect for sick building syndrome the problems would still exist. There is no need to know the biological process to assign cause and effect. That hurdle would rule out most medicines which work for unknown reasons.
The pro-wind associations and other partisans need to use the medical hurdle to try to stop us from doing our job. Do not let them deny you the professional authority that is part of being an acoustician.
Rick James, INCE, E-Coustic Solutions
“Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.” —former U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart, 1969
2. From Malcolm Swinbanks , 18 Feb 2015
Rick & Others,
I agree completely with what Rick is saying. It is not necessary to establish the precise mechanisms that cause adverse health effects from infrasound. It is sufficient to establish a rigorous correlation.
For thousands of years, since the days of the Greeks and Romans, the effects of sea-sickness were clearly acknowledged, but no-one had any knowledge of the structure and operation of the vestibular organs. Indeed one could ask Leventhall and Broner what is the precise mechanism by which low-frequency sound can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches. I don’t mean simply because the basilar membrane is excited and the hair cells respond – what I mean is why does this make people feel ill, when a skilled opera bass singer can make people feel good?
3. From Rob Rand , 19 Feb 2015
Steve, Malcolm, Rick and All,
I agree completely with Rick and Malcolm. I spoke along these lines when questioned last week by the reporter at ABC Australia. As an acoustician working to protect public well-being, I don’t need the exhaustive medical research that would establish the mechanisms themselves. I said in fact it would be unethical of me as a member of INCE to wait the years required for such careful medical research work to be completed.
I have sufficient correlation already from the neighbors reports and affidavits and the measurements done thus far, to inform others for designing properly to be good acoustic neighbors. Yes do not let anyone especially those bent on promoting harm prevent you from doing your job as acoustician.
Best wishes, Rob
Prepared by courtesy of Sarah Laurie, CEO, Waubra Foundation, 21st February 2015 – reproduced with permission of the authors.