A report on wind turbine noise on hold by County committee for ‘sober second thought’

HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH – Huron County councillors are giving ‘sober second thought’ to a staff report that calls upon the province to develop regulations and protocols for low frequency noise from wind turbines.

“I would want to know how this plays into the farming industry if you’re running a combine, if you’re running a hoist, if you’re running a motor, if you’re running air conditioning or air fans,” Coun. Deb Shewfelt, who is also mayor of the Town of Goderich, said at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting.

“By telling the Ministry of the Environment they need to be checking low frequency noise, how many others are we going to catch in that snare?” he asked.

Based on his comments, COW tabled a report from the planning and development department that suggests the MOE should reduce the potential for indirect health effects by setting limits for low frequency noise, set indoor limits for low frequency noise, and weigh in on other non-noise-related issues such as turbine siting and compensation. COW’s meeting minutes will go to the May Council meeting for endorsement.

Scott Tousaw, who is the planning director, said the report was in line with other recommendations endorsed by Council.

In the past, Council has asking the province to halt wind farm approvals until health impact studies are conducted, and asked wind energy developers to conduct low frequency noise studies for proposed projects.

Last month, Council disbanded a committee that was exploring the issue of low frequency noise from wind turbines and other sources was disbanded rather than trying to replace its chair, Brian Barnim, and Bill Siemon, both of whom lost their seats at County Council as a result of a court decision earlier this year. It opted to have all matters come directly to the Council table.

Councillors Jim Ginn, who is mayor of the Municipality of Central Huron, and Paul Rintoul, who is the Mayor of the Municipality of Morris-Turnberry, declared conflicts of interest. At the end of the meeting, Coun. Ben Van Diepenbeek, who is reeve of the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, asked that it be recorded that he too had a conflict of interest related to the wind turbine discussion.

The planning and development department’s recommendation was in response to a report commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment in 2010, which analyzed the latest findings on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines.  In addition, three experts in the field of noise, vibration and acoustics reviewed and validated the report.

The report found that the province’s rules to control wind turbine sound are rigorous. Ontario has one of the strictest noise limits in North America, which includes a 550 metre minimum setback, based on a 40-decibel limit. The decibel limit aligns with recommendations from the World Health Organization, which suggests a maximum 40-decibels at night.

Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Limited, a consulting firm with an expertise in noise, vibration and acoustics, reviewed the latest science and government regulations for wind turbines.

HGC looked at more than 100 papers and reports. It also studied guidelines or regulations from Ontario, Alberta, Canada and other countries around the world. It gathered its findings in a report called Low Frequency Noise and Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbine Generator Systems.

Among its recommendations, the report suggested development of a protocol to address complaints about indoor doors. It also recommended developing a way to measure noise at infrasonic frequencies.

Written by on April 13, 2012 in Communities, Politics - 6 Comments

6 Comments on "A report on wind turbine noise on hold by County committee for ‘sober second thought’"

  1. Elizabeth Barry April 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm · Reply

    If by “strict” you mean that by positioning these turbines closer by about a quarter of the distance from houses than that demanded by European standards, you are right – the government is strictly horrible to those residents who have not signed up to be paid thousands of dollars for these to be placed nearby them: because they reside in the country to live a quiet peaceful life. If these were placed 2 K further, as in UK and other European countries, it would be less disruptive and insulting. There are other, much less intrusive and expensive and ruinous methods of catching the wind to generate electricity. A weed is a plant in the wrong place.

  2. Daisy April 14, 2012 at 7:47 am · Reply

    Farm equipement does not run 24 hours a day, does not make low frequencey noise, does throw light flicker into a house. My suggestion to this mayor is to go and live in a wind farm and experience the turbines before he makes a statement like that.

  3. Truth April 15, 2012 at 5:54 am · Reply

    Ms. Boa does not mention in her article that HGC is closely aligned with the wind industry through membership in the Canadian Wind Energy Association and has a vested interest in protecting the wind industry. HGC’s ‘review’ and recommendations are pitiful when you consider the number of individuals who have already had adverse health effects with no recourse or compensation. Wind turbines should not be placed in rural communities, and in fact have no valuable contribution to our electricity system as we are now paying other jurisdictions to take away our excess electricity.

  4. Mike Barnard April 15, 2012 at 11:44 am · Reply

    Low frequency noise from wind turbines is a canard which has been debunked time and again.

    Infrasound, or noise between 4-20 Hz, is generated by wind turbines at levels too low for human perception when they are standing next to them. At the Ontario setbacks required by Regulation 359/09, any infrasound that has not thoroughly attenuated is vastly overshadowed by that generated by air conditioners, traffic and refrigerators.

    Every serious study has found that a small subset of people living near wind turbines find their noise annoying, a small subset of these people find it stressful and some of these people have trouble sleeping, although the connection to wind turbine noise is tenuous at best. It is likely the same people were previously stressed by bird cannons, tractors and dawn and barking dogs.

    If people were serious about dealing with the minor wind turbine noise in the 40-50 dBA range that reaches houses, they would buy a white noise generator (<$30), a white noise app for their iPhones ($0.99), ear plugs (cents), close their windows (free) or install quilted curtains (which also don't break the bank). If they were serious about reducing their stress, they would take advantage of the excellent free internet resources available for stress reduction techniques.

    These are trivial interventions for a trivial problem that people are blowing up out of all proportion. Ontario's setbacks are rigorously defined, follow international noise standards, are aligned with the World Health Organization's standards on environmental noise and are easy to enforce.

    • Andre Den Tandt April 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm · Reply

      Mike Barnard has a great way of letting us know how well-informed he is about noise in general, infra-noise specifically. Problem is, he is often dead-wrong.
      One may not hear infra-sound, but it certainly can damage soft internal organs, like the brain, the liver and pancreas. Vietnam veterans who sat in the open doors of helicopter gunships are common sufferers. As to air conditioners, it is now known that Sick-Building-Syndrome is most often caused by large air conditioners.
      The annoyance factor, which he dismisses so readily, can easily be demonstrated. It’s just a version of what used to be referred to as “chinese” water torture. Try sitting in a parking lot with a theft-alarm going off nearby at irregular intervals. Or a seat-belt alarm. For hours on end. The earplugs comment is beyond belief: in your own home, sometimes for days! And if the World Health Organization standards (which, by the way, are tougher than Ontario’s) are so easy to enforce, how come Ontario has not yet found a way to do just that?

      • Mike Barnard April 17, 2012 at 9:08 am · Reply

        Infra-sound can certainly be damaging. With prolonged exposure at very high sound pressure. Vibro-acoustic disease is noted among air crews exposed to 130 dBA of infrasound for many, many hours.

        Wind turbines generate infrasound at 40 dBA maximum, which is equivalent to a refrigerator or air conditioner in a house.

        Equating the two is just inane.

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About the Author

Heather has spent most of her career in local journalism and communications. She moved to Huron County more than two decades ago to join the newsroom at the Goderich Signal-Star, reporting local council and community news. Since then, she had been editor at the Walkerton Herald Times, city editor at the award-winning Observer in Sarnia, and freelance writer for the Hamilton Spectator and the London Free Press. She developed a local network with local government and businesses while working for Heritage and Cultural Partnership. She also worked with municipal and provincial governments in her role as communications manager for a wind energy development company. She has been active in the local community, most recently volunteering time to Habitat for Humanity Huron County. Heather graduated from Ryerson with a Bachelor of Applied Arts, Journalism.