Council Deputation – March 13, 2017
Council thank you for the opportunity to once again speak on behalf of the local residents’ advocacy group S.T.O.P. whose resident members continue to be tortured, and I don’t use that word lightly, in their homes and on their properties by the audible and inaudible emissions from Unifor’s for profit wind turbine. Tonite you will consider a motion to conduct testing of the noise compliance of this turbine at the same time as Unifor’s upcoming test.
This 35 story industrial machine located in the cottage resort area of Gobles Grove has no noise safety setbacks to homes as do virtually all turbines in Ontario. After record numbers of noise and health complaints and recognizing the failure of approving this machine in this neighbourhood so close to homes, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change actually changed its laws making this Unifor turbine illegal to build today without the 550 m noise safety setback to surrounding homes.
Besides no setback protection the MOECC allowed this Gobles Grove cottage residential area to be incorrectly classified as urban, like downtown Toronto, while their own measurements showed nighttime background noise levels the same as would be found on local farms. This incorrect urban vs rural label allowed the Unifor wind turbine to emit much louder levels of noise than allowed by turbines in the country and without the setback protection.
Saugeen Shores residents have the perfect storm. Nights as quite as those on farms but being exposed to 45 dB city noise levels much louder than the 40 dB of rural residents. And living without the 550 m sound reducing setbacks for their homes.
Despite residents demonstrating evidence of harm and the municipality calling for the turbine to cease operating, the Unifor wind turbine has been allowed to operate four years without ever even being officially tested for legal noise compliance.
Further salt in the affected residents’ wounds is the fact that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Wind Turbine Approvals Director, the head of the noise police, promised the town and residents in writing on approving the turbine, that the turbine would be tested for noise compliance during its first two years of operations. Then CAW president Ken Lewenza did the same going even further to allay residents’ fears by promising open sharing of this required noise testing.
There are now approximately 350 official complaints filed with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change( MOECC ). Numerous noise tests showing apparent non compliant readings have been conducted by Unifor staff and by MOECC field staff using the same hand held noise meter.
On April 27, 28, 29 in 2014 the CAW’s acoustic engineer Martin Ince set up to perform the required Section D audit noise test in full knowledge of the MOECC. On April 27 at 10 pm within 15 minutes of the turbine test start up the engineer recorded a maximum allowable noise level of 45 dB for 20 minutes. The next night at the same time with the wind blowing at 1 m/sec or just 3.6 km/hr faster than the previous night, the CAW engineer measured 57 dB for 20 minutes with peaks of 74 dB. On both nights the test was called off due to call in complaints. Residents obtained these facts from a 2,000 page Freedom of Information search as all requests for noise test data from our own MOECC local office was refused. Unifor have refused to do any further official noise audit compliance testing since those two nights in April 2014.
The MOECC now informs the community that Jade Acoustics, Unifor’s acoustic engineering company used in the CAW OMB hearing to oppose the town has been hired to do a Section D audit test this spring. Will it be done before noise interfering leaves appear on trees? No one yet knows.
Jade Acoustics have been doing “pre audit testing“ according to MOECC for the past year and have reported to the MOECC no good data was measured in this extensive period due to poor wind conditions and that further testing would have to occur in spring 2017.
The upcoming noise audit tests are long awaited by the community and the municipality. Given the four year history of noise impacts on residents these tests must be done with the utmost in community co operation, integrity, openness and utilizing the latest in noise testing equipment and methods.
After being denied the results of noise compliance testing for 4 years the residents trust has been broken. We are looking to the municipality to perform independent, parallel audit noise testing at the same time as Unifor. This simultaneous joint testing has been done on other wind energy projects most notably the Shirley Wisconsin project where 4 separate testers co operated to obtain and share results.
The benefit to all parties is the trust created that assures the integrity of the noise compliance measurements collected. All parties will benefit by knowing all the collected data will be evaluated for compliance to government standards. The local MOECC office has voiced no objection to parallel testing. There are no guarantees that weather conditions will occur to measure the highest noise levels possible during the test period. Measurements meeting the test criterion in the period will be used to determine conformity.
The MOECC criterion of choosing a tester is that they be experienced at noise testing. This tester could be an engineering company or an individual both of whom would need be familiar and capable of performing the test according to the MOECC protocol. The cost can range from $12,000 upwards depending on the tester with the determinant factors being the agreed upon duration of the test and number of locations tested. In 2014 Saugeen Shores residents used an environmental engineering company to test 3 homes for 3 weeks charging less than $15,000.
S.T.O.P. will undertake to share information with staff on testing entities as well as discuss cost sharing in excess of amounts already allocated. We will endeavour to obtain our members’ approvals to test on their properties. Assuming council approves the initiative it is our hope that staff discussions with Unifor to conduct parallel testing will lead to a transparent effort to establish noise level compliance.
S.T.O.P. ( Saugeen Shores Turbine Operation Policy )