TORONTO – Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) officials say a provincial government memorandum on wind turbines indicates the government is well aware noise from wind turbines has adverse effects on people.
WCO stated in a press release on Monday that is the case even when the turbines are operating in compliance with Ontario’s regulations.
WCO said the document, written in April 2010 and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows the Dalton McGuinty Liberals were well aware of the noise issue. The report was written by Cameron Hall, a senior environmental officer with the Ministry of Environment in the Guelph District Office. Attempts to reach Hall were unsuccessful.
WCO said the reports expose several serious deficiencies in Ontario’s legislated noise limits for wind turbines at 40 decibels.
Hall describes the noise from wind turbines as “sound contamination discharged into the natural environment…”
In the press release issued by WCO on Aug. 15, Hall indicated that there are many characteristics of wind turbine noise not addressed in the regulations, and that they must be factored into the equation when assessing tolerable turbine noise levels in quiet rural settings, especially at night.
Hall said wind turbines create an audible “swish” or cyclical sound as the gigantic turbine blades pass the towers at speeds of over 200km/hour. Any other industrial noise with that quality receives a five decibel penalty.
The press release stated that currently the Minister of Environment says 40 decibels is the acceptable level for wind turbine noise. However with just that penalty, the noise limit should be lowered to 35 decibels.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, stated, “For almost four years residents in rural Ontario have played by the book. They have complained about the unbearable noise to the field officers in their region, believing that the field officers would communicate the issues to the minister and his advisers. If this is how the government process works, by burying evidence, then the system is either broken or corrupt.”
The document said that in statement after statement the MOE field officers do not support the ministry guidelines.
The press release cited a number of statements, such as “The assumption … is not supported by our field observations,” and “is not supported in the report,” and “this conclusion is not supported by our field officers,” and “it appears reasonable to suggest the setback distances should be calculated using a sound level limit of 30 to 32 dBA at the receptor [home], instead of the 40dBA sound level limit.”
An increase of 10 decibels to noise is perceived by the human ear as a doubling of that sound.
Laforet concluded wind turbine developments in Ontario are permitted to go to 51 decibels even at night – a full 20 decibels over the tolerable threshold for human perception.
“What is really disturbing is that it appears this Liberal government is operating in a culture of willful blindness at the most senior level, including the Ministers of Environment, Health and inside the premier’s office,” he said.
Wind Concerns Ontario launched www.windyleaks.com this week and plans to regularly release and feature revealing documents through Ontario’s fall election campaign to educate voters on the Ontario Liberals’ policy and statements on the impacts of industrial wind turbines.
Proud of his work
Wilkinson said in an interview the first thing he noticed about the press release was it referred to government “leaks” when the information came directly from his ministry under a Freedom of Information request.
“I’m proud to be part of a transparent government that provides working documents of our ministry,” he said.
That press release did state the information came from a Freedom of Information request.
Wilkinson defended issues of sound and health by noting the professional engineers that have worked for the MOE for 30 years have done good work, and the Medical Officer of Health has supported the government on wind turbines.
He agreed 40 decibels of noise is a standard for industrial noise and is set by the World Health Organization,
But, he said, “If it was lowered to 32 decibels, it would lead to the shutting down” of most major industries in Ontario.
Wilkinson said when his ministry received complaints about a transformer in Melancthon Township that had an atonal quality to it, the transformer was shut down and replaced.
“We use that five decibel penalty,” he said, adding, “It equally applies to wind turbines.”
He added there will be an election on Oct. 6. He said when he first ran in 2003 and again in 2007, he opposed the system of power that created poor air quality.
He said since the Liberal government has made changes, air quality in the province is much improved, even with one million extra people living in Ontario. And, he added, by the end of 2012, there will be another 50,000 jobs created due to those policies.
He said the Green Energy Act has made Ontario a leader in clean energy in North America, and the question in the coming election is, “Do we want to have cleaner air to breathe and take the steps to do that, or go back” to the way the province used to operate.
“It’s a clear question on the ballot and I look forward to that,” Wilkinson said.
He noted the Superior Court and an environmental tribunal have both ruled in favour of the Green Energy Act and Liberal policies.
“We have struck the right balance,” he said.
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