The Stratford Beacon Herald
By LAURA CUDWORTH , STAFF REPORTER
Rural residents who oppose wind turbines aren’t buying a report that says the sound they create poses no direct health risks.
The study was conducted by noise, vibration and acoustics experts Howe Gastmeier Chapnick Ltd., which looked at more than 100 reports from Ontario, Alberta and countries around the world, the Ministry of the Environment says.
That didn’t impress Tom Melady, a member of HEAT (Huron East Against Turbines) and WEPAT (West and East Perth Against Turbines).
“The consultants doing the literature review’ cherry-picked the articles that they reviewed, that is to say of all the articles that they reviewed, they did not find any health problems. However, they did not review all the literature,” Melady said in an e-mail.
He cites several other studies that conclude the low-frequency noise from wind turbines does cause health problems including stress and high blood pressure.
However, Environment Minister Jim Bradley heralded the report as proof government standards are adequate when it comes to safety.
“Our priority is to develop renewable energy in a way that protects Ontarians. This report finds that we are on the right track by taking a cautious approach when setting standards for wind turbine setbacks and sound limits,” he’s quoted as saying on the ministry website.
The minimum setback is currently 550 metres from any residence, school or church with a sound limit of 40 decibels. Those limits conform to World Health Organization standards.
However, Melady argues the regulations are not stringent enough.
“The (government) in the article claims to have among the most stringent regulations in the world,’ yet we have proof that 27 other municipalities, provinces and states in North America have greater setbacks than Ontario,” Melady said.
He also stressed there’s no guarantee any wind turbine will conform to sound limitations at all times. He said a turbine might produce a certain amount of noise but as the wind force changes it may increase. In other words the noise never stays level.
“The (government) has also identified it does not have the capabilities to test for the sound produced by turbines — it cannot differentiate between ambient sound of the natural surrounding and the real sound of the turbine,” Melady said.
Melady also argued the language in the report is key.
“This article gets into an analysis of terms. Direct health effects’ means struck by a blade or physically injured by some direct impact from a turbine. There is indirect’ health effects whereas the vibration of the rotating blade passing by the hollow vertical tube causes a low-frequency noise which causes the vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), high blood pressure. So (the) article is correct, there are not direct but lots of indirect effects,” Melady said.
The provincial government has pledged to phase out coal fired electricity by 2014 and increase wind, solar and biomass production.