By Gary Rennie, The Windsor Star
AMHERSTBURG, Ont. — Ontario Ministry of Environment officials admitted Tuesday they have no way right now of measuring the noise created by industrial wind turbines even though they have a noise standard to enforce on residents’ behalf.
Although hundreds of wind turbines have already been built in Ontario, Michael Parker, district manager for the environment ministry, said staff have not yet been given noise-monitoring equipment. The ministry is responsible for ensuring that wind turbine noise reaching a residence doesn’t exceed 40 decibels, he said.
If a complaint about turbine noise is made to the ministry, two environment officers are sent to the area to listen for the noise and contact the turbine owner, Parker said.
Studies are underway now to devise a protocol for measuring wind turbine noise, Parker said.
“This is absurd,” said Mick MacCorquodale, a resident who’s opposed to the South Side wind turbine project proposed by GenGrowth near his home.
Coun. Rick Fryer wondered why the ministry didn’t develop tools for measuring turbine noise before so many of them were approved.
Parker said the ministry could still intercede with turbine owners even without hard data on the noise levels. In some cases, turbine speeds have been scaled back or the turbine shut down completely, he said.
The town sought the meeting with ministry officials to shed some light on the setback requirements for the five South Side wind turbines from residents’ homes.
Amherstburg’s zoning bylaw requires a 600-metre setback while Ontario’s Green Energy Act stipulates a minimum of 550 metres. MacCorquodale pointed out only one of GenGrowth’s turbines, as presently sited, would meet the town’s zoning bylaw.
Parker said his ministry gave GenGrowth a certificate of approval just before the regulations for the Green Energy Act were proclaimed, so the company wasn’t bound by the legislation’s setback requirements.
However, Amherstburg hadn’t approved zoning and official plan amendments, as well as a site plan, for GenGrowth before the Green Energy Act took away all municipal planning authority over renewable energy project.
Jackie Hubbs, manager of development services, said the town’s lawyer is now warning that municipal authority over the project is limited.
Coun. Bob Pillon was frustrated that some sort of “Catch-22” had been created whereby GenGrowth wasn’t subject to either the provincial regulations under the Green Energy Act or the town’s zoning bylaw.
Parker said his responsibility is to enforce the 40-decibel sound limit for the project, regardless of the minimum setbacks in legislation or the bylaw. “You have to meet that number,” he said.
Steve Brown, the town’s chief building official, has until June 2 to make a decision on whether to grant GenGrowth a building permit for its turbines. If not granted, the dispute could go to the Ontario Municipal Board.