One of the worst things the Dalton McGuinty government did in its disastrous dash into green energy was to ride roughshod over the health complaints of rural Ontarians regarding industrial wind turbines.
Basically McGuinty dismissed them as NIMBYS.
That is, people who weren’t really suffering any ill health effects from wind turbines other than “Not In My Back Yard Syndrome” – NIMBYism for short.
The Liberal government cited studies – many from the wind industry itself – claiming no adverse health effects from wind turbines, and a report by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, concluding there were no “direct links” between wind turbines and ill health.
But wind farm opponents are now armed with a new weapon – a controlled, peer-reviewed, scientific study published in the current issue of the periodical Noise and Health which for the first time links industrial wind turbine noise and vibration to serious health problems.
The study – “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” – assessed two wind farm communities in Maine and was first reported by my Sun Media colleague Jonathan Sher of the London Free Press.
Its authors, Michael Nissenbaum of the Northern Maine Medical Centre, Jeffery Aramini of Intelligent Health Solutions in Guelph, Ont. and Christopher Hanning of the University Hospitals of Leicester in the UK, made the following findings:
“We conclude that the noise emissions of IWTs (industrial wind turbines) disturbed the sleep and caused daytime sleepiness and impaired mental health in residents living within 1.4 km of the two IWT installations studied. Industrial wind turbine noise is a further source of environmental noise, with the potential to harm human health. Current regulations seem to be insufficient to adequately protect the human population living close to IWTs. Our research suggests that adverse effects are observed at distances even beyond 1 km. Further research is needed to determine at what distances risks become negligible, as well as to better estimate the portion of the population suffering from adverse effects at a given distance.” Meanwhile, the McGuinty government has been assuring us that its minimum 550-metre setback for industrial wind turbines reduces noise levels to the equivalent of “a quiet library.”
Then again, we also know, thanks to reporting by the CBC during last year’s Ontario election, that the McGuinty government received hundreds of health complaints from people across the province living near wind turbines and suppressed them.
Government documents released under Freedom of Information showed environment ministry staff issued internal warnings the province needed stricter rural noise limits on turbines, that it had no reliable way to monitor or enforce them and that computer models for determining setbacks were flawed.
Despite that, McGuinty forged ahead with his industrial wind development plan through his Green Energy Act, which stripped local municipalities – and thus local residents – of any say in the location of industrial wind farms.
In many ways, the social disaster caused by McGuinty’s reckless and uninformed blunder into green energy rivals the financial disaster he inflicted on all Ontarians in pursuit of it, as revealed by Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter’s findings last year.
McCarter found McGuinty added billions to the cost of electricity generation – to be paid for by Ontario consumers – by failing to do proper business planning, ignoring the advice of the government’s own experts on how to reduce costs and committing Ontario to paying hundreds of millions of dollars for green energy it doesn’t need and may never use.
The problem with the McGuinty Liberals, of course, is that they are now so committed to green energy they’re incapable of admitting error, much less reversing course, something unlikely to change with a new leader.
But the next Ontario government, assuming it’s not another Liberal one, should put a moratorium on wind turbine construction and do an independent study of the health issues related to them. At the very least.