Tom Van Dusen
NORTH GOWER — With the Nation Rise Wind Farm gearing up again after lengthy delays caused by ministerial intervention and COVID-19, an anti-turbine side effects lobby group says it’s time to update the provincial position on potential health difficulties arising from proximity of the industrial towers.
Despite provincial pledges to the contrary, Wind Concerns Ontario maintains nothing has been done over the past dozen years to examine developing wind power research relating to health around the world and to respond accordingly.
“Newer research says the indirect relationship between the noise and health is important,” said WCO president Jane Wilson recently in releasing a 19-page report on the subject. “The methods Ontario uses to measure turbine noise are questioned, with other countries responding to new research and instituting greater setbacks.”
Although C-19 is the current health focus, WCO wants the Ford government to take the initiative needed “and neglected by previous administrations” to protect the health of people living near wind power installations.
A resident of North Gower, Wilson pointed to North Stormont ratepayers now concerned about noise from “powerful new turbines” in the Nation Rise project. Backed by WCO, those residents fought and lost the long term battle to terminate the project on a variety of concerns including noise pollution.
They did get a ministerial order blocking Nation Rise on grounds damage could be caused to local bat colonies… but that was quashed last May by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Project sponsor EDP Renewables had to regroup and re-launch. North Stormont council learned from a recent report that 18 of 29 turbines have now been completed.
In its report, WCO maintains health concerns revolving around turbines being erected in this province have been routinely resolved on the basis of a 14-page 2010 statement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health that there’s no direct link between noise emissions and adverse effects. Despite receiving thousands of complaints in the interim as wind generators have increased in numbers, size and ratings, no changes have been made.
The lobby group wants the 2010 CMOH statement “retired” – removed from the government website – as no longer a relevant resource and the message passed along to regional Medical Officers of Health. The group is calling for review of current literature and research, reliance on actual noise measurements rather than manufacturers’ modeling, and studies incorporating residents’ complaints.
And WCO wants regulations revised pertaining to noise limits and setback distances, as well as return of responsibility for investigating claims of adverse health effects to the Ministry of Health rather than the Ministry of Environment, a switch made under the Green Energy Act, the mantra of the previous Liberal government for pushing ahead with alternative sources of energy, primarily wind power.
Dismissing the word annoying when applied to turbine noise isn’t right, the group states: “Annoyance is a health concern that should be addressed. As things now stand, measures to evaluate noise are insufficient in Ontario.
“The CMOH report looked only for, and at, a direct link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects; poor health that could result from months of disturbed sleep and anxiety would be an indirect effect.”
On the other hand, a 2014 Health Canada study accepted “annoyance” as a medical term used to describe stress or distress as a result of exposure to turbine noise, “raising questions about the adequacy of Ontario regulations.”
“Despite its age, the fact it wasn’t independently peer-reviewed, and contains many flaws,” the CMOH report is still referenced by researchers and public health officials as an “authoritative document.”
WOC concludes: “It’s nothing short of alarming that the 2010 CMHO report stands as a guideline and policy statement in 2021. It’s past time to see change in Ontario’s turbine noise regulations so that they truly protect health and the environment.”