WEST LINCOLN – With some of the largest industrial wind turbines in North America rising from the rural West Lincoln landscape, two citizens groups are asking the local government to begin monitoring noise.
“We want the township to appreciate the scope of the risk we are about to run with one of the largest wind projects in North America next to such a densely-populated area,” said Mike Jankowski, chair of the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group (WLGWAG), which made a joint presentation to West Lincoln’s planning, building and environmental committee Monday with Mothers Against Wind Turbines (MAWT). “There are some risks that aren’t mitigated and we require the township to start collecting data both before and during the turbines.”
Jankowski, who said he has personally experienced health effects related to the HAF Wind Energy project already in operation in West Lincoln, said it’s a matter of when, not if, those living near the Niagara Region Wind Farm currently under development will experience adverse health effects. The groups say the noise data will help establish a clear picture of what residents are dealing with.
“This data can be used for a number of things,” explained Jankowski. “First and foremost, it can be used to aid in a response if necessary. To indicate what people are being subject to.”
What began as a mild ringing in the ear turned into dizziness and decreased mental capacity for Jankowski. His teenage daughter has also suffered debilitating migraines with stroke-like symptoms. The problems have been ongoing for the past year and a half.
WLGWAG and MAWT came before committee with several asks Monday, the main of which was for a commitment from the municipality that it will protect the community.
“The township should act immediately to manage risks by collecting measurement data about noise emissions in our community,” Jankowski said. “We need to monitor full range noise on an ongoing basis to provide an understanding of what people are subject to in their homes.”
The groups are requesting the township immediately look into ways of establishing and collecting noise data, to establish an advisory committee to hear turbine-related concerns and that it presses the government to purchase more sound measuring devices.
Coun. Joanne Chechalk, vice chair of the planning committee, said she was all for collecting noise information but wanted to take the request one step further.
“My concern is that if we do all of this, we monitor all … the municipality can’t do anything, as we all know,” said Chechalk. “There is no mechanism, nothing to say or do. It’s akin to drinking water. After Walkerton happened, we now have policies in place and councils have been trained. So now when water levels are unsafe they are declared that way and we have boil water advisories. There is nothing for wind turbines. If this says that we get to 40 or 60 decibels, what do we do?”
On top of asking for a staff report addressing the concerns of the citizens groups, Chechalk asked that the township request the province to develop and implement a process to handle events where wind facilities exceed the 40 decibel regulation outlined in the Green Energy Act. She also requested the township begin working with opposition critics and establish a province-wide advisory committee, which would pool representatives from municipal governments across Ontario who are dealing with the same issues.
“If it’s a concern, I’m looking for the province to give us a stiff remedy,” said Chechalk. “What happens if it exceeds the levels? Is it safe for humans, for chickens or whoever is in the proximate? We need to know.”
A staff report is expected at the Feb. 8 planning committee meeting which will outline next steps the township can take.
The groups also encouraged committee to follow on the heels of other municipalities in the province that seek a stall on projects until important questions are answered.
MAWT, specifically, has concerns with numerous changes to the NRWF project currently under development. The Township of Wainfleet has sent a letter to Ontario’s minister of energy questioning why there was no public process on major changes to the project. Both groups pressed West Lincoln committee to send correspondence to that same effect to the province.
“The township should press for answers,” said Jankowski.