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MOE Lawyer suggests residents should just wear earplugs or earmuffs

The most notable problem for the Suncor and AG lawyers is their lack of technical background, and so they depend on the support staff to provide them with content. It easily leads to confusion for the lawyer. Most of us would be similarly affected. But, sitting in the gallery it is delightful to watch – after all, they are making more money than most residents. Let them earn it.

Wednesday morning was taken up with Ms. Frederika Rotter , affectionately known as “Freddy”, questioning Dr. Christoper Hanning, a sleep disorder specialist from the UK, via teleconference. Fortunately, he must not be from Northumbria, as I could actually understand him even with “speaker phone” connection.

In her questioning, Ms. Rotter stated that Ontario Regulation 359/09 limits the maximum noise level to 40 dBA – to which Dr. Hanning quickly corrected her that no, the Reg. allows for up to 51 dBA if ground wind speed is 10m/s. Indeed, only NZ and Ontario use this “escalating scale” on the premise that ambient wind speed noise will “mask” wind turbine noise. This is a theory only and there is convincing evidence that lttle or no masking occurs. In any event, Ms. Rotter didn’t appear to understand the concept – Freddy remained confused on the point.

Discussing Dr. Pierpont’s study, Dr. Hanning stated that though it is a “case series” only, it is useful as it points at a direction for investigation. He noted that there are summations in it where he was not in agreement; however, it’s basic premise that people were being affected by the noise of wind turbines, remains.

From this, some of Ms. Rotter’s questioning harkened back to “witness qualifying” type of questions that went into his expertise in designing studies and his ability to assess and criticize studies done by engineers – specifically about noise reports done by others such as the Salford Study which is cited by the MOE for its wind turbine noise reg’s . Dr.Hanning said , “…you can equally criticize Leventhall for commenting on health effects.”

There was also discussion re: the 40 dBA limit on which Dr.Hanning made these points:

In Holland where residents of projects can literally, “turn off the turbines” when noise is too high, the level of annoyance drops significantly. The annoyance level drops significantly because the residents have this control. In a similar but different fashion, if residents receive financial compensation the stated level of annoyance drops. He likened this to a drug that provides benefit to a patient, yet has noticeable side-effects. The patient will more than likely subvert his discomfort knowing that overall there is benefit for his health. However, in the case of noise from wind turbines this may be more of a “masking” effect as it is very likely that while the reported symptoms ( e.g.-sleep disturbance) may drop, the actual level of disturbance does not. So, the consequent negative health effects are still there, unmitigated and unattended to.

Talking about the merits of the A/CanWEA literature review into the health effects of living near wind turbines, Dr.Hanning noted that the National Health Service, UK had critiqued that study finding it had multiple shortcomings, in particular that it lacked input from an epidemiologist – which raises a question in my mind, “Why?” – perhaps it would be difficult to find an epidemiologist who would endorse the study’s conclusions?

Dr. Hanning drew attention to Pedersen’s studies of measured annoyance in wind projects. Ms.Rotter asked, “Is there a strong relationship? Is it every time?” Dr. Hanning noted the dose-response relationship which the data presents. The effect is there and displays a clear correlation. Ms.Rotter then suggested,on her own, that residents could wear “ear plugs or ear muffs” if annoyed by noise. To which Dr.Hanning replied that, “…ear plugs can cause harm themselves with ear wax build-up and infections.”

Yet again, a defense lawyer has tacitly admitted that there is harm from the noise of wind turbines and sought information for mitigation. This is very much a case of “cart before the horse” – determine the cause first, please and thank you.

Forging on, Freddy had all the audience enthralled with her anecdote about a “sleep apnea machine” that her husband uses and how noisy and disturbing it is for her. Without missing a beat, Dr.Hanning interjected, “…the noise isn’t near as loud as snoring!” Clearly he was enjoying the fun too. And graciously, Ms.Rotter laughed along with us. The questioning petered out after that – well, what comes next, strawberry ice-cream!?