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‘Concerning’ data on MOE turbine monitoring

SAUGEEN SHORES – Is the Ministry of Environment enforcing its own regulations governing allowable noise levels from the UNIFOR wind turbine in Port Elgin?

Several Saugeen Shores councillors don’t think so, and want a meeting with all involved to share data revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by STOP (Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy).

Saugeen Shores Deputy-Mayor Luke Charbonneau and Coun. Mike Myatt filed a Notice of Motion, to be debated at the Dec. 14 meeting, calling for officials with the Ministry of Environment (MOE), Town, and STOP to share information about noise levels complaint data released with the FOI request.

“Some of it is concerning, and I think the most important thing that we need to have assurance on is that the regulator, the MOE, is doing its job and ensuring that where one of these turbines is operating under a Ministry-approved regulation, that it is doing so in compliance with that regulation, and the Ministry is ensuring it is doing so in compliance of that that regulation… I’m not satisfied that is happening,” Charbonneau said following the Nov. 23 committee of the whole meeting.

“We need to be satisfied that (compliance) is happening in the interest of all the people that live around that turbine and frankly, the people who may end up live under other turbines that one day may be built in Saugeen Shores.”

The Motion says the FOI information found previously undisclosed documents that “…appear to reveal several incidents where noise emissions from the UNIFOR turbine exceeded the noise limit standard set by the MOE…”.

The MOE approved an application for a 100-metre, 600kw industrial wind turbine in 2005, but the council of the day denied the necessary re-zoning, in part, because the turbine was too close to near-by houses. The Ontario Municipal Board over-ruled the Town, and nothing happened until 2009 when the CAW submitted a new application for an 800kw wind turbine.

In 2011, the Town established a 2000-metre setback policy and banned turbines within that area, but the MOE said Environmental and Noise Assessments for the 800kw turbine met Ministry requirements and directed the Town to issue a building permit. The CAW turbine was re-rated to 500 kw and meets provincial guidelines. The turbine went into operation March 26, 2013. Five months later, faced with complaints of ill health due to its operation, the Town unsuccessfully asked UNIFOR to shut down the turbine.

The Notice of Motion to be debated Dec. 14 was sparked by STOP spokesman Greg Schmaltz who raised concerns of “serious non-compliance” in the Freedom of Information data at a public forum September 25. He provided the Town with a list of 300 complaints concerning the wind turbine, but would not make the information public because it forms part of a court challenge of the laws governing turbines.