Forced to stick to arguments centring around the original appeal about the potential health effects of industrial wind turbines in the Varna wind project, representatives of the Middlesex Lambton Wind Action Group (MLWAG) could not pursue additional complaints about public safety issues at the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) held at Seaforth’s town hall last Wednesday.
“One wonders where public safety fits in – I can’t understand splitting that from health concerns,” remarked Harvey Wrightman of MLWAG after panel chair Paul Muldoon heard a request to rule on the issue from both Varna Wind Inc. counsel John Terry and Ministry of the Environment Director’s counsel Danielle Meuelman.
The original MLWAG appeal against the 40-turbine wind project in Bluewater and Huron East centred around potential causes of health concerns, including infrasound, low frequency noise, audible noise, visual impact, shadow flicker, stray voltage and electromagnetic fields.
The group then raised other issues about the proximity of wind turbines to wellheads, compressor stations and gas storage, the intersection of an existing 500 kV double circuit transmission line and the risk of falling turbines, tower collapse and fire to both property owners and travellers, a move both Terry and Meuelman successfully blocked at the hearing by asking it be ruled inadmissable.
“This objection was raised first at the preliminary hearing, then in writing and also in the motion to dismiss,” said Terry. “The issue of public safety does not relate to the issues in the notice of appeal.”
The MLWAG appeal survived a request for dismissal on July 2 brought by the MOE Director but the ERT’s reasons for allowing the hearing to continue have not yet been released. Similarly, Muldoon told participants that he and ERT member Marcia Valiante reserved a decision on the motion to exclude evidence relating to public safety issues.
“If we find the evidence is relevant, we will schedule a follow-up hearing date,” said Muldoon. “We will attempt to rule on that in the near future.”
The ERT did hear from MLWAG witness William Palmer, a retired professional engineer whose credentials as an expert witness in acoustics were questioned by the counsel for both the MOE and Varna Wind.
Palmer argued that the Varna Wind project located 90 per cent of its turbines less than 500 metres apart, a situation that causes turbulence that will increase the noise of the turbines to levels that will cause suffering to neighbours of the project.
He also argued that the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) regulations were not sufficient to prevent wind turbines from exceeding accepted noise levels, a point Terry argued was not relevant.
“I recognize the MOE has a set of regulations but their regulations have not considered these impacts. Your role is to consider the impact of this project,” said Palmer.
Palmer said that during the past eight years of researching industrial wind projects, he has met “face-to-face with 75 individuals that have had their health impacted” adding that he wants to give his best effort to give voice to the people who are suffering.
Both Terry and Meuelman disputed Palmer’s arguments about health concerns, stating he is not a medical expert.
“As a parent, you don’t need a medical degree to know your child is suffering and as a society we need to address the hurt that is already done,” said Palmer, arguing that IWTs have contributed to a loss of quality of life in rural communities.
MOE noise engineer Dejan Zivkovic testified that the MOE is using standards it’s used for decades to measure the sound of industrial wind projects and that he used maximum sound levels for each turbine in the Varna Wind project when reviewing them for approval.
“I did due diligence to consider all possible points,” he said, adding that a pitch blade control system on the Varna turbines will mitigate the issue noise caused by wind turbulence.
“The noise levels will not be increased. It is guaranteed,” he said, adding that he looked at cumulative impact of all the turbines in the project when going through the approval process. Zivkovic added that since there is no method to know the exact noise of each turbine before it is installed, there is a complaint process afterwards if necessary.
The ERT also heard evidence from Lorne Lantz, who said that while doing stray voltage testing on farms, he’s found electromagnetic fields that are detrimental to the health of livestock and humans.
Again, both Terry and Meuelman pointed out that Lantz has no medical credentials to qualify him as an expert witness regarding health issues.
Wrightman asked the panel chair and his colleague to consider allowing testimony related to public safety.
“We are in a unique project area with gas storage and the interaction with wind projects is really concerning to the people here,” he said, adding that it’s “wrong-headed” not to allow the community to bring the issue forward to the tribunal. “How far down the road do we have to go before the community can present the issue?”
Muldoon said he and Valiante would provide a ruling “in the near future.”
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