Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
Paula Peel, APPEC
Day Eleven of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project was scheduled to deal with WPD’s witness Robert O’Neill.
However, the hearing began with a request from Eric Gillespie, APPEC’s legal counsel, for full disclosure from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) of the balance of the documents relating to Blanding’s turtles. Mr. Gillespie advised the ERT that the MNRF has handed over only seven documents although it is clear there are many more. The Tribunal declined to make a ruling at this time.
Gillespie subsequently provided notice of a motion made on behalf of the appellants that ERT co-chairs Marcia Valiante and Hugh Wilkins recuse themselves from these proceedings. The Tribunal agreed to receive written submissions on this matter and will make a ruling as soon as possible. There were no objections to the ERT continuing to hear evidence over the next two days.
The hearing then focused on Robert O’Neill, a sound engineer with Epsilon Association, whom the Tribunal qualified as an acoustician with expertise in wind turbine frequency noise. During the past ten years he has conducted studies at about 20 operational wind projects.
O’Neill told the ERT that wind turbines emit mechanical and aerodynamic sound. Under cross-examination he agreed that wind turbine sound can be characterized as broadband (the “swishing” sound) and as low frequency, but he does not agree with the characterization of impulsive-like effects.
O’Neill noted that at night people 450 m from wind turbines will more than likely hear a “whoosh, whoosh” sound but this will vary depending on meteorological conditions. At certain times this sound will be audible a kilometre away, but he would not characterize the sound as loud. He agreed with Gillespie that sound propagation depends on make and model of the turbines, weather conditions, distance from turbines, ground effects (sound bends upwards or down to earth), temperature inversion (at night, blades will pass through warm air at the turbine top and a mass of cooler air on the bottom), location (more noise downwind of turbines), and wind shear, where blades are passing through air masses moving at different speed.
O’Neill believes that A-weighting, the most commonly used method to describe sound, is the most appropriate measurement as it combines all the frequencies. However, O’Neill agrees that in addition to audible sound there is also sound that people can sense. Under cross-examination he agreed with Gillespie that his statement that low frequency and infrasound will not impact people is not based on any particular medical expertise but is only an evaluation based on professional standards and guidelines.
The White Pines ERT is in Toronto on Tuesday and in Picton on Wednesday, at the Prince Edward Community Centre at the Picton Fairgrounds, 375 Main St., Picton.
The Ostrander Point ERT is on Thursday and Friday at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall, 2771 County Rd 5, Demorestville.
Both ERTs start at 10 a.m.