Government caught lying about WTS (Ontario)

Sep 22, 2011


“Ontario wind farm health risks downplayed: Documents”

This image was not included in the original article—Editor

—Dave Seglins & John Nicol, CBC News (9/22/11)

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment (M.O.E.) is logging hundreds of health complaints over the province’s 900 wind turbines but has downplayed the problem, according to internal ministry documents obtained by CBC News.

According to 1,000 pages of internal government emails, reports and memos released under Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act, the government scrambled to figure out how to monitor and control noise pollution.

Barbara Ashbee

The documents were released after a lengthy and costly battle waged by Barb Ashbee. Ashbee and her husband Dennis Lormand say they suffered a series of ailments after wind turbines began operating near their home in Amaranth, near Shelburne, northwest of Toronto. The area is now home to 133 wind turbines—the largest industrial wind farm in the province.

After being told theirs was the only complaint in the area, Ashbee and Lormond learned that M.O.E. officials at the Guelph District Office had been tracking more than 200 complaints dating back to 2006 when the wind farm first started operating.

Their home was bought out by Canadian Hydro Developers (now TransAlta) in June 2009, one of six homeowners who sold their houses to the utility company.

Each seller had to sign confidentiality agreements. But the Lormands have risked legal repercussions by breaking their silence and speaking exclusively to CBC News this week. They said they want to warn the public about what they claim are the dangers of living near wind turbines and the supposed breakdowns in government monitoring.

“We were silent. I wouldn’t say boo to anybody. But the longer this goes on, nobody’s doing anything! And now we have an (Ontario) election two weeks away. Nobody understands what’s going on out here.”

Sleepless nights sparked activism

It was terrible—we’d go nights in a row with no sleep,” said Ashbee. “It was a combination of the loud noise—the decibel, audible noise—and also this vibration that was in the house that would go up and it would go down.”

The couple moved into their home in December 2008 just as the wind farm became operational. But they said they immediately noted a loud swooshing noise from nearby turbines and a persistent, unexplained hum resonating in their home.

Ashbee said she called the power company and the environment ministry night after night and was initially told by government enforcement officers that hers was the only complaint in the area.

“We were told [the wind company] was running in compliance, that there were no problems.

“We’d just have to get used to it.”

But she said the Ministry of Environment was misleading her, and that there had been hundreds of complaints.

Ashbee launched a lengthy battle using Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act and eventually received more than 1,000 pages of internal M.O.E. correspondence.

Acccording to the documents, government staff downplayed the problem while scrambling to understand and control wind turbine noise pollution.

MOE officers warn supervisor

According to the documents, M.O.E. field officer Garry Tomlinson was slow to process Ashbee’s noise complaints. But he began trying to conduct his own noise monitoring tests when confronted with many more complaints and consultants reports by Canadian Hydro Developers that revealed noise violations.

Tomlinson consulted acoustics specialists at Ryerson University and within the M.O.E. He concluded and warned his supervisors that the ministry “currently has no approved methodology for field measurement of the noise emissions from multiple [turbines]. As such there is no way for M.O.E. Field staff (and I would submit anyone else) to confirm compliance or lack thereof.”

Tomlinson also gave a tour to two assistant deputy ministers Paul Evans and Paul French on May 1, 2009, advising them of the problems they were encountering.

Ministry officials at the Guelph office, including manager Jane Glassco, attended community meetings in Melancthon and Amaranth townships in the summer of 2009, where Glassco acknowledged people were “suffering” and that many were claiming to have been forced out of their homes due to noise pollution.

By 2010, other staff at the Guelph office were warning officials at the ministry headquarters in Toronto that the computer modelling used to establish Ontario’s wind turbine noise limits and safe “set back distances” for wind turbines was flawed and inadequate.

Cameron Hall a fellow field officer at the M.O.E. in Guelph wrote to his managers warning that the province was failing to properly account for the “swooshing sounds.”

CBC News presented some of the ministry documents to Ramani Ramakrishnan, a Ryerson University professor and acoustics specialist who has written several reports and conducts noise pollution training for M.O.E. staff.

Ramakrishnan has recommended to the M.O.E. that wind turbines in rural areas should have far stricter limits but says if the province enforced the regulations—it would have a major impact on wind farms around the province.

“First implication,” Ramakrishnan says, “is that the number of wind turbines in wind-farms would have to be reduced considerably and wind-farm developers would have to look for localities where they are not impacting the neighbourhood.

“A five-decibel reduction in acceptable noise is quite noticeable and perceptible” and the M.O.E. field staff are recommending up to 10 decibel reductions in some cases.

Ashbee, who is returning to her old job as a real estate agent, said there are several people near turbines who won’t speak for fear that their land values will go down.

Her husband Dennis doesn’t blame the wind turbine company:

“It’s our government that backs it up. It’s the government that’s making people sick and forcing them out of their homes. And it’s all being suppressed.”

CBC News repeatedly requested an interview with Ontario’s Environment Minister John Wilkinson, who is also engaged in a provincial election campaign seeking re-election as MPP for the riding of Perth-Wellington. Those requests were denied.

From the TransAlta website

TransAlta, who took over the company that bought out the Ashbee-Lormand home, told CBC News in a statement that such confidentiality agreements are standard, designed to protect the privacy of both sides. Neither the company nor the couple would discuss the $300,000 price listed on local land registry records as being the amount for which the couple’s home was transferred to the power company.

  1. Comment by Dr Sarah Laurie on 09/22/2011 at 11:23 am

    Barb and Dennis,

    I applaud your courage, which will inspire others around the world who are also subject to these gag clauses, which have had no other purpose but to keep the adverse health story out of the gaze of the public health authorities. That horse has now well and truly bolted away….

    You have endured so much yourselves, and yet have given so much of yourselves to improve the situation for so many others.


    GAME’S UP!
    The End


    DO THE PROPER RESEARCH, suggested years ago, AND

    SHUT DOWN THE TURBINES WHERE THEY ARE CAUSING HARM TO HEALTH, just as the Scottish authorities did in Scotland, in response to the reported noise problems.


  2. Comment by dirty wind on 09/22/2011 at 11:23 am

    Finally the CBC has caught onto the fire that has been churning out ash (no pun intended to Barbara!) for some time now. We have a totally ineffective, fraudulent, energy source foisted on people without their consent, and having been the “lab rats,” they are now “road kill.” What else do you call people who have been forced to leave their homes? Forced to abandon homesteads, farms, financial security, emotional and spiritual respite, and ruin their health at the same time.

    Time for governments to take responsibility for this reckless administration of wind.
    We haven’t yet touched on the absolute environmental catastrophe that is evolving globally. Massive bird and bat kills, massive habitat loss, industrial junkyards accumulating as we speak.

    Time to tell everyone you know about turbines! Time to get to the voters’ box and make some sense of this.

  3. Comment by Frank Haggerty on 09/22/2011 at 12:24 pm

    The state government is guilty of a cover up of wind turbine noise in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

    Sen. Therese Murray, president of the Massachusetts Senate said she is worried about the health affects of the wind turbine known as Wind 1 and the 50 residents who have been complaining for over one year about the turbine near Blacksmith Shop Road.

    Gov Patrick of Massachusetts does not believe the residents who live around the wind turbines in part because of a deal between the Town of Falmouth and the Massachusetts Technologhy Collaborative, MTC a semi quasi state agency that sold the two turbines to the Town of Falmouth.

    The Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbines have become a national embarrassment to the crooked politicians on Beacon Hill!

    Asked last week about ocean wind turbine contractors previously undisclosed presence at the Oct. 18 meeting in recently convicted Massachusetts State Speaker Sal DiMasi’s State House office, DiMasi confirmed that contractors were there, but said that they did not specifically discuss wind turbines and a pending plan to build a wind farm on Buzzards Bay and that he never influenced legislation to help ocean wind turbine contractors. In addition to being close friends with the speaker, one contractor has a business relationship with DiMasi’s wife! How much more can the Massachusetts residents take? Now they are talking about tripling our electric bills! How much more is next? Why don’t they just take my house?

    The two turbines were purchased in 2004 and kept in a warehouse in Texas at $3500 per month until 2010 when they were re-purchased with stimulus funds a second time from the 2009 stimulus funds. Many qusetions have been raised about using millions of dollars to re-purchase wind turbines that were originally bought to 2004!
    To add insult to injury, the two towns of Mattapoisett and Fairhaven local residents used local zoning by laws to stop the installation of these same two turbines a few years before. Gov Patrick now wants to take zoning by laws and regulations away from cities and towns so he can go forward with his commercial wind projects in our backyards taking our residential property rights!

    The ace in the hole card Gov. Patrick is hoping to play is the wind siting reform act legislation. The Patrick Administration acknowledges that Cape Cod and the Falmouth wind turbine is crucial to the governor’s wind agenda. The WESRA or Wind Energy Siting Reform Act is being called a reform act to fool the voters of Massachusetts into thinking this is a reform act. It is not!

    The State of Massachusetts went over the edge with the “Big Dig” for the last twenty years. This whole commercial wind turbine project on land and sea is turning into another “Big Dig.”

  4. Comment by Preston McClanahan on 09/22/2011 at 6:35 pm

    I challenge Governor Deval Patrick to spend several nights as the guest of one of Falmouth’s citizens who have been the most seriously affected by the near proximity of a wind turbine. This location must be selected by an independant acoustic expert as well as the resident.
    Deval Patrick
    Mass. Governor Deval Patrick
    Who in Falmouth will offer the Governor such an experience? In attendance should be the acoustic engineer as witness, someone of the caliber of Robert Rand or Rick James.

  5. Comment by Andreas Marciniak on 09/25/2011 at 7:38 am

    Thank you Barbara Ashbee and Dennis Lormand!

    We here in South Australia in the town of Waterloo are having the same problems as you are! And not just in Waterloo but all over Australia, and I like to thank you for standing up and telling it the way it really is!
    Kind regards,

    Andreas Marciniak

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