Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
November 20, 2015
Paula Peel, Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC)
APPEC’s health appeal continued on Day 10 with expert witness Dr. Paul Schomer testifying before the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project. The remainder of the day was spent making adjustments to the schedule following WPD’s abrupt announcement that it was dropping an appeal of the disallowance of two turbines (T7 and T11) by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
Dr. Schomer, a former Standards Director of the Acoustical Society of America with 48 years’ experience in noise measurement, was qualified by the ERT as an expert in acoustics. He told the Tribunal that all residents in the White Pines project area will be affected by audible and inaudible sound and a number of residents will be seriously affected. The effects reported by people living near wind projects are similar in nature to the effects experienced by participants in a 1985 University of Toronto study on infrasound. At lower levels and at higher levels of pure tone some participants experienced nausea and dizziness. However, when overtones were added at higher levels, participants experienced headaches and fatigue.
Dr. Schomer considers that internationally-accepted noise standards and protocols are being flouted in Ontario. For example, A-weighting is not supposed to be relied on when sounds have low-frequency content such as those emitted by industrial wind turbines. Canada is one of the countries that voted for this rule. He also calls for changes in current Ontario regulations to adjust up to 10 db(A) for wind turbine noise in rural areas. Other suggested adjustments include up to 3 db(A) for weather conditions and 3 to 4 db(A) for locations downwind of turbines. Dr. Schomer is highly critical of WPD’s current predicted average sound as it merely indicates that 50% of the time 50% of the residents will be exposed to sound above or below the limit. The wind industry should be held to a higher level of accountability: db(A) limits should be met 95% of the time.
Dr. Schomer pointed to a very important figure in the Health Canada Report. Only 1% of people are shown to be highly annoyed at 30 – 35 db(A) sound levels. However, at 35 – 40 db(A) the number jumps to 40%. Dr. Schomer sees this as evidence of a community response to wind turbine noise, and that what Health Canada says, what independent acoustic experts say, and what communities say should carry weight in Ontario.
Through experience Dr. Schomer has found that when community responses disagree with the physics, the physics is usually wrong. This has been confirmed by his involvement in six studies of wind farms, including the 8-turbine Shirley Wind Farm in Wisconsin where three families abandoned their homes and about 60 other people reported adverse health effects.