GODERICH – Huron County councillors are giving ‘sober second thought’ to a staff report that calls upon the province to develop regulations and protocols for low frequency noise from wind turbines.
“I would want to know how this plays into the farming industry if you’re running a combine, if you’re running a hoist, if you’re running a motor, if you’re running air conditioning or air fans,” Coun. Deb Shewfelt, who is also mayor of the Town of Goderich, said at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting.
“By telling the Ministry of the Environment they need to be checking low frequency noise, how many others are we going to catch in that snare?” he asked.
Based on his comments, COW tabled a report from the planning and development department that suggests the MOE should reduce the potential for indirect health effects by setting limits for low frequency noise, set indoor limits for low frequency noise, and weigh in on other non-noise-related issues such as turbine siting and compensation. COW’s meeting minutes will go to the May Council meeting for endorsement.
Scott Tousaw, who is the planning director, said the report was in line with other recommendations endorsed by Council.
In the past, Council has asking the province to halt wind farm approvals until health impact studies are conducted, and asked wind energy developers to conduct low frequency noise studies for proposed projects.
Last month, Council disbanded a committee that was exploring the issue of low frequency noise from wind turbines and other sources was disbanded rather than trying to replace its chair, Brian Barnim, and Bill Siemon, both of whom lost their seats at County Council as a result of a court decision earlier this year. It opted to have all matters come directly to the Council table.
Councillors Jim Ginn, who is mayor of the Municipality of Central Huron, and Paul Rintoul, who is the Mayor of the Municipality of Morris-Turnberry, declared conflicts of interest. At the end of the meeting, Coun. Ben Van Diepenbeek, who is reeve of the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, asked that it be recorded that he too had a conflict of interest related to the wind turbine discussion.
The planning and development department’s recommendation was in response to a report commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment in 2010, which analyzed the latest findings on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines. In addition, three experts in the field of noise, vibration and acoustics reviewed and validated the report.
The report found that the province’s rules to control wind turbine sound are rigorous. Ontario has one of the strictest noise limits in North America, which includes a 550 metre minimum setback, based on a 40-decibel limit. The decibel limit aligns with recommendations from the World Health Organization, which suggests a maximum 40-decibels at night.
Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Limited, a consulting firm with an expertise in noise, vibration and acoustics, reviewed the latest science and government regulations for wind turbines.
HGC looked at more than 100 papers and reports. It also studied guidelines or regulations from Ontario, Alberta, Canada and other countries around the world. It gathered its findings in a report called Low Frequency Noise and Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbine Generator Systems.
Among its recommendations, the report suggested development of a protocol to address complaints about indoor doors. It also recommended developing a way to measure noise at infrasonic frequencies.
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