In a decision and order issued Monday, Ontario Municipal Board member Norm Jackson approved the Amaranth portion of Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. Melancthon II wind farm.
The order includes the controversial transformer at Amaranth’s 10th Line and 15 Sideroad, but also stipulates that noise monitoring should continue, requires the existing transformer to be replaced by a quieter one, and a fourth sound barrier wall must be built, among other things.
In his decision, Mr. Jackson made note of the disagreement between opponent Paul Thompson and a duo of acoustical experts. According to the experts, the sound levels at the receptors – the homes of Mr. Thompson and Ted Whitworth – are well within the Ministry of Environment guidelines as well as those of the World Health Organization.
He said a tape of the sound provided by Mr. Thompson as last month’s one-day continuation of the hearing was “barely audible” to him. As well, he said it was not for him to enforce rules but for the (MOE) to do so.
“Mr. Thompson continues to maintain he has suffered adverse effect within the meaning of section 14 of the Environmental Protection Act. (He) played further recordings of monitoring of the transformer hum and ambient sound. The noise levels were barely audible even when the volume was turned up,” Mr. Jackson wrote.
Mr. Thompson had asked that the transformer substation be moved elsewhere. Mr. Jackson said the site had been approved by the township for that purpose.
“The Board has listened carefully to the complaints and finds, to the degree that the complaints address the planning function before this Board, that the plans to replace the existing transformer and install second transformer now meet the good planning test.
“The Board must resist the urge to become an enforcement agency when that responsibility in law rests elsewhere. The Board’s function is adjudicative planning, keeping in mind the public interest. In this case, the Board’s jurisdiction is limited.
“Mr. Thompson requests that CH move its transformers to another site. The Board cannot force this to take place since the in-force zoning on the subject property already specifically permits transformer use. The Board agrees with [CHD lawyer Tim] Bermingham’s characterization that zoning determines whether a use is permitted while site plan determines how that will happen (Sections 34 and 41 of the Planning Act).”
Mr. Jackson’s sevenpage decision and order quotes acoustical engineers Steve Titus and Vince Gambino as testifying that the “concerns at (nearby homes) to the audibility of the existing transformer noise were related to the very quiet nature of the surrounding area, and would not be expected to cause adverse noise impact or mental discomfort and not represent adverse effect under the Environment Protection Act.”
He notes that the acoustic study on Dec. 10, 2007 found that a passing car produced “considerably higher sound level” than the transformer noise at the receptors.
He also notes that Mr. Thompson “takes issue in particular with the MOE and how it interprets and applies Ministry Guidelines.
He questions the measurement of the 5 dBA (how the human ear perceives noise) tonal adjustment, the timing of the testing and the requirement of the four-season acoustical audits, the acceptance by MOE of the first acoustical audit prepared before the recent Certificate of Approval (for the first transformer site), and the response of the MOE.”
If replacing the existing General Electric transformer with a quieter Siemens, using Siemens rather than GE for the second transformer, erecting a fourth wall at the substation, identifying the source of reflective noise, and completing other modifications have the results expected by the acoustic engineers, the substation will actually be quieter with two transformers than it has been with one.
Replacement of the transformer is to take place this spring under Hydro One’s auspices, the decision notes, and an acoustical audit is to be completed in July and August.
Completion of the Melancthon II project, coupled with the existing Melancthon I, will create a 200-megawatt capacity wind farm.
CHD has said construction contracts will be awarded mostly to local contractors, as well as contracts for access-road maintenance over the 20- year life of its agreement with Ontario Power Authority.
Local CHD personnel will maintain and service the computerized turbines.
By Wes Keller
13 March 2008
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