By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News
American-based expert witnesses for those opposed to a Thamesville-area wind farm levelled criticism at provincial reports on wind turbines during an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Chatham Tuesday.
The Kent Breeze Wind Farm project, owned by Suncor Energy, is being challenged by appellants Katie Erickson and Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. on the basis that noise from wind farms can cause harm to human health, including sleep disturbance, psychological stress, inner ear symptoms and headaches to those living near the structures.
New York resident, Dr. Arline Bronzaft, who gave testimony as an environmental psychologist, slammed the report titled Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects, an Expert Panel Review, prepared for the Canadian and American wind energy associations.
She said the report didn’t include a full range exploration of studies dealing with the impact of noise in human behaviour and performance.
“Annoyance is a very serious effect,” Bronzaft said, adding it indicates a person is being bothered and disturbed and there is an impact on the body creating stress.
She said when it comes to wind turbines, so little weight has been given to the quality of sound.
Sound and noise are two different things, she added.
“Sound is what we measure,” Bronzaft said. “Noise is how the human being interprets that sound.
“A dripping faucet may not measure that loud, but it sure can keep someone awake,” she added.
Andrea Huckins, lawyer for the Ministry of Environment, said if she agreed wind turbines can cause some harm, would Bronzaft agree the harm could be mitigated?
Bronzaft said she didn’t know.
“All I know is that people are complaining that it’s disruptive to their lives,” she said.
Dr. Carl Phillips, a Harvard graduate who is an expert in epidemiology, which involves the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events, was critical of a recent study released by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, titled: The Potential Health Impacts of Wind Turbines.
Phillips called the study flawed because it barely touches on the huge collection of adverse events reported by people living near wind turbines.
He said adverse event reports, numbering much less than the number of reports surrounding wind turbines, are widely used in the pharmaceutical industry to address issues arising from drugs.
Phillips said adverse event reports “are the cornerstone for identifying emergent health issues.”
Albert Engel, lawyer for Suncor, asked Phillips if he has conducted a study of people living near the Kent Breeze Wind Farm to determine what the effects the project will have on their health.
Phillips responded: “I don’t think anybody knows how to do a study at this point to determine susceptibility (to harm by wind turbines).”
The hearing resumes Wednesday when the appellants are expected to call their final expert witness, Dr. Robert McMurtry, the former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario, who is currently serving as a board member of the Institute of Well-Being.
After Wednesday, the hearing is slated to resume in March with nine more days scheduled between Chatham and Toronto. The tribunal heard Wednesday that all the evidence is expected to be presented by March 31. However, all sides will need another two weeks to prepare their final submissions.