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Health Canada announces study on wind turbine noise

HURON COUNTY – Local critics of wind energy development in rural Ontario are applauding a research study announced by Health Canada today to consider the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects – both anecdotal and measurable – on people living near wind farms.

“This study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low frequency noise generated by wind turbines,” said Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, in a press release.

The study is being designed with support from experts in noise, health assessment, clinical medicine and epidemiology.

The proposed research design and methodology was posted on Health Canada’s website today for a 30-day public comment period. Feedback will be reviewed by the design committee, compiled and published on the website, along with the design committee’s responses.

The study will focus on an initially targeted sample size of 2,000 dwellings selected from as many as a dozen wind farms in Canada. In addition to taking physical measurements from participants, such as blood pressure, investigators will conduct face-to-face interviews and take noise measurements inside and outside of some homes to validate sound modelling.

The federal health agency, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, expects to deliver findings of the study in 2014.

Lisa Thompson, MPP Huron-Bruce, said in a press release taht Health Canada stepped to the plate when Ontario’s Liberal minority government refused. Her private member’s bill that would have resulted in a moratorium on wind energy development was defeated in the Ontario legislature this past March.

Thompson said earlier this year, she wrote to the federal health minister, advocating for a health study regarding wind turbines.

“I am pleased that the Government of Canada and the health minister are committed to putting the health of Canadians first, unlike the McGuinty Liberals,” said Thompson. “Huron-Bruce needs to have their say in regards to this study,” she said, encouraging local residents to provide feedback on Health Canada’s website.

“This is an important day for Huron-Bruce and a milestone for those suffering negative health effects from wind turbines. Here in Huron-Bruce, we need to McGuinty Liberals to wake up and see that forcing wind turbines on unwilling host communities is wrong. It’s time Dalton McGuinty and his energy minister see the error in their poorly designed and poorly executed green energy nightmare,” she said.

Roger Watt, who is a councillor from the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, wishes Health Canada had launched this study several years ago.

“I fear that not having results until sometime in 2014 will be far too late to deal with any of the numerous projects that are already progressing in ACW and elsewhere around Huron County. I’d be delighted to see a news release tomorrow that McGuinty has frozen all those projects pending the results of this study, but I’ll not hold my breath,” said Watt, who cautions that his council has not discussed the report, therefore his opinions are entirely his own.

ACW is home to 22 1.8-MW turbines, with plans for another 140 1.8-MW turbines to be commissioned in 2014.

Watt has already written to Health Canada to provide his thoughts.

He hoped noise monitoring would take into account a phenomenon that can occur in places like lakeside Huron County, resulting in little to no wind at ground level and notable wind at hub height. He said the proposed method for predicting outdoors noise levels, and a plan to measure at one location at the turbine so that it synchronizes with actimeters, used to measure human sleep time and efficiency, won’t take this into account.

He also noted that the design document does not specify how noise will be recorded. He gives preference to a method that measures the interval maximums rather than interval averages.

Watt, who is a retired from the University of Waterloo where he was director of network services, has applied formulas to take into account various factors that affect low frequency noise and infrasound, and comes to the conclusion that turbines should be more than 10 km from the nearest residence.

To have a look at his calculations and his thoughts on wind turbines, visit his website.