There is some damaging information being delivered to the media and to councils by wind energy developers and our provincial government authorities. This information may help bring some degree of clarity to the issues. There is nothing technical in here. I leave that for the licensed professionals. There are also many subjects not covered.
Myth: Anti-Wind turbine groups are being funded by the power workers union and non-renewable energy groups.
Should anyone ever make this phony allegation again, I hope the recipients insist on evidence to back up their statements.
This is a callous attack on all rural Ontarians who have found themselves being railroaded into accepting industrial wind turbines into their area. The countryside slowly woke up to the impending harm and got involved as they became aware of turbine developments in their area. A small grassroots network that started about 5 years ago has grown into almost 60 groups scattered through the province and all connected by one cause: To stop the rapid growth of industrial wind turbine installations in rural Ontario.
Overwhelming evidence shows that current installations have already caused great harm and distress to human health, animal health, birds and the environment.
Educational meetings by unpaid volunteers have been organized all over small town rural Ontario at the full expense of the local residents. The countless number of volunteer hours and money raised has all been a grassroots effort by networking with neighbours and other area groups. Nobody is getting paid for their time.
There are two court cases currently playing out between rural Ontarians and the Ontario Government. The government ignored the precautionary principle as they proceeded in haste with their wind energy approvals and ignored those who have been warning them of the health problems and have been pleading for help.
Every dollar to go forward with these cases has been raised by donations from concerned citizens, fundraising in local communities and via networking the information.
Myth: Anti-wind turbine people are activists, anarchists and yes, even the term “terrorists” was used by one proponent.
“Anti- wind” is a very poor choice of words, but one that is repeated over and over by proponents, government authorities and is used widely in the media. It is inappropriate.The people who are publicly calling out for moratorium and a halt to more industrial wind turbines being erected are everyday people in everyday jobs with children and pets and homes and businesses just like the rest of the population.
The majority of those involved have never been involved in any previous activism. These people have formed groups in their communities to do what they can to stop wind installations from proceeding because the current ones up and running have caused great harm to residents and the environment. Nobody is anti “anything”. A better term would be advocates. People are advocating for health and for the government to stop putting residents in harm’s way. They are trying to protect their families, neighbours and their communities from the devastating effects these projects are having on people.
Myth: The people who are complaining are just mad because they aren’t getting any benefit. They are older and against change. They are NIMBY’s (Not in My Back Yard)
Families were not against wind turbines installations from the beginning. In almost all cases the residents were very positive about the opportunity to participate in helping the world go green. The promise of clean, green renewable energy was something supported. It was only after the start-up of the turbines and the substations that people started to get sick. Some experienced symptoms immediately and some over time depending on exposure. After hundreds of calls and letters to authorities, the affected residents received no helpful response. Certainly their view of turbines changed. Many hate to go home from work as the towers come into sight. They know their symptoms will be ramping up.
There is no amount of money that would make this right. There is no amount of money that anyone could be paid to live in such debilitating conditions. It is not about money.
Most, if not all landowners who have leases are bound by contract not to divulge any information about their agreements and are not to complain about any adverse effects or have negative comment about the installations. There are leaseholders who regret having participated in hosting a turbine as they are now being adversely affected but they cannot speak publicly. There are many affected who do not speak out due to fear of community backlash for speaking negatively about something marketed as green and good for the whole population, fear of exposing their children to social problems with their peers, fear of loss of property value when people find out they are having problems and fear of upsetting their neighbours. Many who have spoken publicly have experienced all of these. They have been subjected to personal character attacks and intentional false rumour spreading.
Myth: “I stood underneath a wind turbine and they hardly make any noise at all. I don’t understand what people are complaining about.”
Many people have heard this phrase from professionals, reporters and Sunday afternoon investigators. It would be very fair to say that anyone making this statement probably decided to drive out to a wind project one day when the weather was pleasant to experience what it might be like to live amongst them.
Standing under a turbine is the quietest place to be when they are running. If you were standing several hundred metres backwind of it you would likely hear and feel a difference. Sound travels. Even worse, sound bounces off and into buildings. Depending on both the array of the turbines and the receptors it can mean a difference between night and day. Night time noise can be much more invasive than daytime especially when the winds have increased and a storm is rolling in. We all need our sleep and this surely is not the time that you will find explorers standing under a turbine to hear what it’s like.
The other missing component that accompanies the audible noise is the infrasound that will penetrate walls and bodies. Living in it 24/7 it is a much different beast than a half hour drive about. The noise can change with changes in the wind direction, wind speed, atmospheric weather conditions, time of day and even the season. Some days it changes abruptly meaning that where it may seem tolerable to a visitor at 1 pm it can be unbearable at 6 pm.
Myth: There is no link between industrial wind turbines and adverse health effects.
Our government continues to deny the adverse health problems that are rampant in running wind installations. There are people who have been bought out and gagged, people who have had to abandon their home and are living with relatives and there are some who are paying additional rent & utilities for second accommodations while they wait for someone from our government or the wind developer to help. There have been many families with stories covered in the media and many have spoken at public meetings. Early on in the building of wind projects, affected residents were routinely isolated and told they were the only family in the community that were having problems and that they were sensitive and just needed to get used to it. They were told this by both developers and ministry employees. This left no clear channel for help. Many questioned themselves and the cause of their new symptoms. The government abandoned them from day one.
There is a vast and appalling disconnect between what the ministry authorities are telling the public and reality for the people living in wind installations. No one has ever suggested that every resident is having problems but a large number are. The government continues to insist on putting their energy policy ahead of people.
In the spring of 2009 a community based health survey was started to give those suffering a place to report on their symptoms as government was not acknowledging. It is a valid survey that follows Health Canada protocol. There were over 115 respondents that reported adverse effects since the start-up of wind turbines in their area. These problems are underreported as many have called with concerns but did not want to fill out a survey and many surveys that were mailed to respondents were not returned. There are only 700 turbines in operation. Results of the survey can be viewed at www.windvigilance.com
In the fall of 2009, Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced she was going to be doing research to report on adverse health issues related to wind turbines. She released her report in May of 2010. She concluded that there was no link of adverse health effects caused by wind turbines.
Dr. King did a literature review. She did not do a health study. She did not speak to even one of that many known families who are having problems. She was aware of the families who were reporting problems, some of whom had to leave their homes well before she released her report. In fact two physicians who were on her consulting team admitted publicly that Dr. King had left out a lot of important information that the panel had discussed.
Dr. King in her position of Ontario’s top doctor intentionally did not speak to any of the families reporting serious problems. It would have been to her credit had she taken this important step when specifically researching such a contentious issue. An analysis of her report can be found at www.windvigilance.com
Myth: The 550 metre set back will protect the health of Ontarians in the vicinity of wind turbines
The 550 metre setback was proposed in early 2009 and even after much public input throughout the summer of 2009 it was adopted in the regulations in September 2009.
During the Standing Committee hearings on the Green Energy Act in April of 2009 the committee heard from medical professionals, engineers and victims who were pleading for the government to listen to them. There were growing health problems and the hearings were a formal venue in which to inform the government. The committee intentionally shut out a family who was personally suffering from adverse health effects. They denied them the opportunity to present their situation to the committee and yet selected 2 speaking slots for the Pembina Institute, advocates for wind energy and also to George Smitherman, then Minister of Energy, who took two of the public speaking slots to address the committee.
There are wind turbines causing harm to families at distances far greater than 550 metres and anyone who had been involved in this issue up to that date was shocked when the 550 metre setback was approved. Apparently the setback was based on conservative computer noise modelling. Although many have asked, there has been no medical science put forward to show why 550 metres was chosen as a setback to protect our rural families.
The Ministry of the Environment did not follow the precautionary principle when embarking on wind energy installations. There were no front end health studies to make sure human health was protected and even after many reports of harm and pleas for help reached the ministry they still forged ahead with approving more new projects. To date nothing has been done to acknowledge or help those suffering.
Myth: Ontario has some of the most stringent setbacks in the world/North America.
A setback of 550 metres cannot be considered as stringent anywhere when talking about industrial scale wind turbines the size they are today. They are loud, they emit low frequency noise and there are documented reports of serious problems at distances much further than 550 metres. There are countries in other parts of the world calling for 2 km and greater setbacks. The government so far cannot seem to support how they came to their decision that 550 metres was safe but certainly were it much further than that we know that projects could not proceed due to the density of the population
Myth: The government is listening to the people
The government is not listening to the people. The government is fully supporting the wind industry.
Government ministry authorities have received bundles of peer reviewed reports pertaining to the adverse health problems from medical professionals and engineers both in Ontario and from other parts of the world. These professionals have talked to the affected residents directly and they became very concerned. They heard and saw the effects the wind turbines and substations were having on families and have done everything in their power to warn the government. These medical personnel have done all work on a voluntary basis and have attended untold numbers of meetings with ministry authorities but from day one, literally years ago; the government has steadfastly denied any harm. These physicians and health professionals are the only ones who have made an effort to help the victims who are ill. The government has done nothing.
There were avenues of public input by way of community meetings and public submissions to the Environmental Bill of Rights pertaining to the Green Energy Act but a lot of important information was redacted by white out and black out; certainly more than necessary, in what appears to be an attempt to hide pertinent information regarding setback issues.
Myth: Government authorities claim that there is little in the way of complaints from residents in wind projects.
This issue has been on their backs for 5 years. There are people who have abandoned their homes and many still suffer. The government has received hundreds if not thousands of letters and email correspondence. The ministry has received hundreds of calls to their complaint line, many in the middle of the night from families who are desperate for sleep. In one wind project alone it was reported in August 2009 by a ministry employee that there had been over 300 complaints to their office. One wind project and this was a year and a half ago! This adamant and ongoing denial can be explained by the shocking leaked Sussex Strategy Group report that advised government officials of the need to “confuse the public” in regards to their wind energy policy.
Victims who are suffering have followed every protocol laid out by the government. They have:
-Presented statements of harm before the Standing Committee on the Green Energy Act, in the Legislature before the regulations were enacted. April 2009
-Attended a green energy workshop hosted by and attended by employees of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy where they had a chance to speak to attendees about their serious problems. This was long before the new legislation was adopted. (Meeting-March 2009/ Legislation adopted May 2009)
-Sent in submissions to the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) registry on the Green Energy Act with statements pertaining to their adverse health and living conditions since the start-up of the wind project. This registry (June to July 2009) was in place to receive and review public input when setting the regulations including setbacks of wind turbines. The setback of 550 metres was established in September 2009. There is no evidence that any of the public submissions have ever been reviewed.
-sent letters or visited their public health unit to no avail.
-sent letters to Dr. King CMOH, prior to the completion and release of her literature review, a wind company favourite, that claims no link between adverse health effects and wind turbines. No action was taken by her and no response received when victims of wind requested a meeting with her.
-attended public input meetings hosted by the Ministry of Environment in several towns in rural Ontario prior to the regulations being set. People lined up at microphones telling the ministry officials of their problems and were asking for help.
-attended 2 public meetings hosted by the Grey-Bruce public health department in Owen Sound and Walkerton where once again families lined up at a microphone telling doctors about what was happening to them.
-been calling the Ministry of the Environment Spills Action Line when conditions are creating problems. Although this has been in place for many years, no one seems to get any helpful response and the ministry admits it cannot measure noise to determine if the developer is out of compliance.
-communicated by meetings, letters and/or email with ministry district offices, MPP’s, MP’s and local councils.
Aside from the above government protocols they have:
-attended an enormous number of community meetings to speak about the problems in the presence of local politicians, media and community members.
-spoken openly with reporters from newspapers, local interest publications, radio shows, television appearances, news reporters
-written countless letters to the editor to local and large urban newspapers and to Ontario provincial issue TV shows.
And the list goes on….
We must ask what more can any one of them do? What more is expected of them when they are barely existing in a living hell in their own home and are being constantly called on to speak up, speak out when no resolution ever comes of it! It is exhausting and defeating.
At some point we must question the sanity of the authors of this entire policy when it calls for the common sense, ethics and morals of so many to be set aside. What could possibly be at the core of such deceit and injustice?
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Ministry of the Environment is the one who is governing these projects. What we have are serious problems and the answers the families are getting amount to this:
The Ministry has no way to measure if wind projects are running in compliance.
The Ministry has no guidelines for noise heard inside the home.
The Ministry has no guidelines and has no way of measuring low frequency noise or infrasound being emitted from the wind project.
The Ministry does not cover dirty electricity or stray voltage and do not have the tools or expertise to address it.
Ministry employees who are on the ground responding to call have their hands tied. There is nothing they can do. The bureaucrats downtown are not addressing the gaps and holes and yet authorities are proclaiming full steam ahead and the incidents are growing with each new project that is built.
There is no government organization that will help those who are adversely affected.
The government says the developers are in compliance. The developers say they are running within government guidelines and our Minister of Health will not investigate.
AFFECTED RESIDENTS ARE POWERLESS.
The ministry did issue two RFP’s (request for proposals) last year to review audible noise and infrasound. Both were awarded to acoustical engineering firms who are members of CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) a lobby group who advocates for the wind industry. Both do or have done work on behalf of wind project developers.
Myth: The municipalities asked the government to intervene in siting wind turbine installations.
The Green Energy Act 2009 was new legislation that was adopted specifically to fast-track renewable energy projects. This detailed legislation involved some 65 pages of clauses touching 15 established acts and it was called for 2nd reading debate just 24 hours after first being introduced. It took away our democratic rights and blocked out planners and municipalities not to mention the residents in contributing any say as to what was being planned for their community. Municipalities are not happy that the government has taken control over the wind energy projects. Truth be told there are now 74 councils who want their power back.
“SEVENTY FOUR (74) COUNCILS WHICH HAVE PASSED RESOLUTIONS, MOTIONS, BYLAWS regarding industrial wind turbine development and the Green Energy and Economy Act of Ontario”
1.Adelaide-Metcalfe Township (Middlesex County)
2.Ajax, Town of (Durham County)
3.Amaranth Township (Dufferin County)
4.Arran-Elderslie, Township of (Bruce County)
5.Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council (Huron County)
6.Asphodel-Norwood, Township of (Peterborough County)
7.Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nations Band Council
8.Blue Mountains, Town of (Grey County)
9.Bluewater, Municipality of (Huron County)
10.Bonnechere Valley, Township of (Renfrew County)
12.Caledon, Town of (Peel Region)
13.Carling, Township of (District of Parry Sound)
14.Centre Wellington, Township of (Wellington County)
15.Chatsworth, Township of (Grey County)
16.Clarington, Municipality of (Durham Region)
17.Clearview, Township of (Simcoe County)
18.Dawn Emphemia Township (Lambton County)
20.Durham, Regional Municipality of
21.East Garafaxa, Township of (Dufferin County)
22.East Luther-Grand Valley, Township of (Dufferin County)
23.East-Zorra Tavistock, Township of (Oxford County)
24.Edwardsburgh-Cardinal (Leeds and Grenville) **NEW**
25.Greater Napanee, Town of (Prince Edward County)
26.Grey Highlands (Grey County)
29.Huron East, Municipality of (Huron County)
31.Kawartha Lakes, City of
32.Killaloe, Hagarty & Richards Township (Renfrew County)
33.Kincardine, Municipality of (Bruce County)
34.Kingsville – offshore (Essex County)
35.Lanark, County of
36.Leamington – offshore (Essex County)
37.Lennox-Addington, County of
38.Loyalist Township (Lennox and Addington County)
39.Lyndoch, Brudenell and Raglan, Township of (Renfrew County)
40.Madawaska Valley Council (Renfrew County)
41.Mapleton, Township of (Wellington County)
42.Meaford, Municipality of (Grey County)
43.Melancthon, Township of (Dufferin County)
44.Montague, Township of (Lanark County)
45.Mulmur, Township of (Dufferin County)
46.Norfolk, County of
47.North Dundas, Township of (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry)
48.North Kawartha, Township of (Peterborough County)
49.North Middlesex Township (Middlesex County)
50.North Perth (Perth County)
51.Northeastern Manitoulin & the Islands (NEMI)
52.Norwich Township (Oxford County)
53.Ottawa, City of
55.Pickering, City of (Durham Region)
56.Plympton-Wyoming, Town of (Lambton County)
57.Prescott-Russell, United Counties of
58.Prince Edward County
59.Ramara, Township of (Simcoe County)
60.Saugeen Shores, Town of (Bruce County)
61.Sheguiandah First Nation
62.Smith Falls (Lanark County)
63.South Algonquin Township (Renfrew County)
64.South Bruce Peninsula (Bruce County)
65.St. Clair Township (Lambton County)
66.The Archipelago, Township of (Parry Sound District)
67.Thessalon Township (Algoma District)
68.Tiny Township (Simcoe County)
69.Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA)
70.Uxbridge, Township of (Region of Durham)
71.Warwick, Township of (Lambton County)
73.Wellington North, Township of (Wellington County)
74.West Grey, Municipality of (Grey County)
Myth: Wind turbines are as quiet as a refrigerator… a quiet library… a whisper…
These claims have been touted by proponents; our government and government run electrical bodies such as the OPA. In fact there are widespread reports of sleep disturbance and deprivation from the noise coming from the turbines. Turbines make a characteristic swoosh, swoosh noise that have been measured exceeding the regulations. It was after these measurements that the MOE claimed to be unable to properly measure noise emanating from turbines. The noise changes depending on the atmosphere, wind direction, wind speed, and time of day as at night the noise is louder.
Residents are unable to shut the turbines off when they are causing them distress.
Adverse health symptoms resulting from sleep disturbance due to loud cyclical noise is very serious. Residents describe the noises as varying, sometimes sounding as a jet flying overhead that never lands, like the house is in a washing machine, a constant drone, like a rumbling freight train or diesel motor running and so on. There are no guidelines for the noise heard inside a house so the Ministry will not address the issue.
Engineering protocol calls for a 5 decibel penalty to be applied to noise that is tonal or cyclical in nature. This is characteristic of modern turbines but the Ministry of the Environment refuses to apply the penalty. The current noise regulations in Ontario allow for a maximum 40 decibel noise level that can increase under certain circumstances in higher wind speeds to 51 decibels. Applying the 5 decibel penalty would set the allowable limit at 35 decibels.
Myth: What you can’t hear can’t hurt you
In Ministry of Environment literature dating 2005, the claim was made that low frequency noise was an issue with old style turbines but not the new modern ones. In fact, recent engineering reports have measured low frequency noise but the ministry refuses to acknowledge it as something that must be measured and controlled. It is this contamination that is thought to be contributing to many of the problems for residents. The inaudible low frequency noise penetrates walls and the body. People complaining of chest pressure, heart palpitations, feelings of nausea, headaches, body vibration are just some of the symptoms that are causing some to abandon their homes. Some resort to survival tactics such as moving into the basement, stacking mattresses against the walls to try to block it, using ear plugs (this does not help), trying to sleep in other buildings on the property and some drive away to sleep in their car. It is unknown how inaudible low frequency noise may be affecting the wildlife and bird population.
There are reports of dirty electricity and stray voltage seriously affecting many families and forcing some to leave their homes. They were fine before the start-up of the installation and got sick after the turbines became operational. Some of the affected are in homes close to turbines and some by the transformer stations built for the turbines.
Myth: The people who are complaining are just stressed out. Only people who are hyper-sensitive are having problems. Their symptoms are found in the rest of the population.
The symptoms that victims are experiencing are new at the onset of the turbine installation starting up. All ages are affected: toddlers, children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged adults, and senior citizens. Some people were perfectly healthy before the start-up of the project and some had pre-existing conditions. Pets are also reported as being affected.
Victims include both sexes. Some people work outside the home in a broad range of careers, some on their land and some spend most of their time at home.
Complaints vary and onset of symptoms can be immediate or they may build over time depending on the level of exposure. Symptoms can include sleep disturbance and deprivation, headaches, earaches, nausea, chest pressure, exhaustion, tinnitus, migraines, heart palpitations, thickness and pressure in the ears and head, cognitive problems, hypertension episodes, stress, anger and more.
Certainly you could find any one of these in the broader population but many of these symptoms are not only new and severe to the person, but it is common for them to experience multiple symptoms.
The same type of symptoms and complaints are being reported in industrial wind installations around the world. The most telling common denominator is that people are sick in their homes after the project starts up, when they leave their homes they get better, and when they return they get sick again.
Myth: Wind companies are mitigating problems by turning turbines down.
Some affected households are being told their problems have been addressed by the developer, yet nothing has changed in their living conditions and they continue to suffer. The Ministry of the Environment has stated that there is no way for them to measure for compliance.
They also have no guidelines to deal with interior noise, dirty electricity or low frequency vibration issues and so nothing can be done to mitigate the problems. Some are told to ask Hydro One to help them and suggestions have been made to seek help from a lawyer.
Victims are left powerless as projects continue to run.
Myth: Coal is killing people so we must employ wind.
Proponents and our government tie the need to close coal plants as the reason for their urgent push for renewable energy installations. They claim that emissions from our coal plants are killing hundreds of Ontarians each year. This claim is based on computer modelling.
Wind turbines are forcing people to abandon their homes. Some have lived in their houses for decades and even generations with no problem. There is no indication that current coal plants are having a similar immediate and drastic effect on their neighbours.
Knowingly causing harm to one segment of the population in a perceived effort to save another is immoral and unethical.
Myth: Property values increase wherever wind turbine projects are built.
There are many real estate professionals and appraisers that would heartily disagree with this statement. There are reports of decrease in property values and difficulty selling where there is an operating or pending wind project. The data would shake this out if one had the time or funds to carry out a proper independent study in Ontario today.
Myth: The wind company consults with communities.
Wind company open houses are set up to fail. They function as wind energy promotion rather than public consultation. Usually there are poster boards on easels and a number of people representing the company. In many cases there is no map confirming the number or location of turbines. There are cases where receptors (houses) are missing from their maps. There is no list of landowners who have signed contracts. Many employees cannot answer questions and send residents from one person to another in hopes of getting an answer. In some cases employees refuse to answer questions and insist that they get written down and sent into the company afterwards.
Many make no reference whatsoever to the distribution lines or the placement of the electrical substation.
The government says this is a mandatory part of the process but certainly they are meeting bare minimum requirements. A full community question and answer session that everyone can hear and participate in would bring clarity to conflicting information and unknowns.
Myth: There are thousands of turbines running in Europe and there are no problems. It is only Ontario that is causing the upset.
Everywhere industrial scale wind turbines are erected near residents there are reports of problems. Worldwide, residents are reporting the same issues and symptoms as here in Ontario, with families having to leave their homes. There are reports from England, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Australia, United States, and Japan…etc.
Early wind turbines were much smaller in size and were placed away from homes. As the industry grows we see the size of the turbines grow. What started out as machines maybe 100 feet tall are now reaching 400 to 600 feet in height with blade spans the size of a jumbo jet. Their nameplate capacity also grows. Today they are being put in much closer to populated areas and far too close to homes, schools and workplaces. It is quite possible that decades ago there weren’t very many complaints but that has changed with today’s modern wind installations. Perhaps this is where the huge error has occurred in the reviewing that our government and Dr. King have employed. Researching decades old information will surely not apply to today’s industrial scale turbines. Certainly there is a need to update their information immediately with so many families worldwide reporting harm. www.epaw.org
Myth: WCO – Wind Concerns Ontario are a bunch of anti-wind rabble-rousers who are trying to hold back progress
Wind Concerns Ontario was founded by a small group of people who became very concerned about the rapid and widespread plans for wind turbine installations being planned for rural Ontario. They were aware of the distress caused by the initial projects and the secrecy involved in the planning. Many others shared their concerns. They now are a coalition of 57 groups from 34 counties/districts under one umbrella who are networking across the province. www.windconcernsontario.org
Myth: The Society for Wind Vigilance is a bunch of doctors who don’t want wind turbines in their back yards.
The Society for Wind Vigilance was formed after it became evident that the government and developers were not responding to victims who were suffering from adverse health symptoms when the turbines and their substations started up. There were people across Ontario that had nowhere to go with some being forced to abandon their home. Instead getting involved and investigating the problems the government chose to dismiss them and deny the problems.
Various doctors, engineers and other professionals who investigated or had been called upon locally for help chose not to abandon the residents and instead started to collect data to find out what was going on. Any ethical doctor will listen to the people’s complaints and consider the cause. Having so many people reporting to be suffering from the same complaints tied to wind turbines and realizing it was a global problem led to the Society being formed; www.windvigilance.com
Compiled by Barbara Ashbee Lormand
on behalf of Wind Concerns Ontario