At yesterday’s Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Kohler, Dr. Ollson’s (no, not a medical doctor, Ph.D., Environmental Sciences, Royal Military College of Canada) sonorous voice mimicked that of a well-worn preacher, tired of standing before his flock, using his best “LFN” voice to lull his attackers into complacency. “How well you talk. Really I feel quite drowsy. It is like being in church.” – Oscar Wilde.
But traditional Onkwehonwe Lester Green, who remains nimble and committed to teasing out the “inconvenient” bits of truth, had Chris paying attention. There was a prolonged discussion of pre and post construction studies of wind projects – as you might imagine, tests are not comprehensive at all, almost non-existent. No real health studies exist – yet. Perhaps the recent Waterloo and Health Canada studies will enter this space, but they are way down the road. The province of Alberta does require pre-construction base noise studies, Ontario does not. Given the bias, if not outright prejudice, of most of the contracted acousticians, such studies would need independent “peer-review”. The industry shouldn’t object to that. It’s a process that CanWEA latches onto – when it sees fit.
Asked if it wouldn’t be wise to do surveys of residents for health issues pre-construction, Ollson noted that base-line studies are invasive and anyway, they aren’t needed as the company uses “worst-case” factors somehow in its site-selection process. No further details offered – just a flat-out assertion. So, Chris got away with that – or so he thought. I really wouldn’t engage Ollson as an expert witness, he uses “ad hoc” comments and a smirk too many times. Lester then asked why there are so few pre and post turbine studies, “Is it a money factor?” Both Lester and Bill keep pounding away at the money factor, catching the witness(es) off-guard much like a parent who is embarrassed and tries to deflect the question. Yet it is central to the problems.
Ollson agreed that stress and anxiety can lead to serious health issues. But in standard industry fashion, he compared the impacts of turbines to be no different than if a hog or chicken barn were erected nearby saying, “…the change in environment is no different than what other people face.” A statement with zero credibility when one considers the large number of homes people have either abandoned or sold at a significant loss. The latter cases are now being documented and effectively presented by appraiser Ben Lansink.
Ollson went on to say that, “…if stress cannot be managed properly, it can lead to serious health issues.”
Panel Chair Robert Wright asked several good questions:
Q: Are there exceptions where it would be proper to do pre-testing for health issues?
To which Ollson replied, that he tries to identify such people at the “open house” meetings. We have seen this, and it’s really a tactic to gather as much info on those persons (invasive) as can be had and develop a strategy to “mitigate” the impact (for the wind project).
Q: Can you pre-test a project area for EMF? How onerous would it be to do so?
Here Chris squirmed and smiled but eventually had to admit “Yes”. It would take between 2 – 10 days to do the testing.
Ollson made reference to a “double-blind” study that purportedly showed that subjects were not able to distinguish intensity of EMF exposures. Then he said this proved that their sensitivity to EMF was suspect. Does he imagine humans are some sort of “rad meter”? I suspect one could have a different interpretation of the study. It wouldn’t be the first time he had misinterpreted a paper. Chris sings the chorus with gusto.
Q: The participating receptors may have turbines placed closer than 550 m and the sound will be greater than 40 dBA. If the property is sold, how can this be considered as representing “worst case scenario.”
Here Wright hit the nail on the head. Ollson quickly put on the lawyer’s robe and said Caveat Emptor.
Alexandra Pike really should have “stood down” as her muddled reprise only exposed more flaws. She tried to relegate the phenomena of shadow flicker as happening only in a room with windows, not being significant outside, or in Mr. Hyslop’s case, working in the cab of his tractor or combine doing field work. Trying to support her arguments, Ollson likened it to a car driving through the flickering light of trees. I happen to know of 3 people personally, who have migraine, and for whom the “flickering of light” in many such circumstances can trigger immediate migraine which can mean catastrophic loss of vision field – not a very safe condition in a vehicle be it a tractor, truck or automobile.
Alexandra Pike reminded Ollson that he had previously semanticized shadow flicker effect as a “nuisance or irritation as opposed to an annoyance” and asked him to explain the difference. Weary of the discussion, he labored to show the nuance of meaning he was trying to define, when the unsavy Pike interrupted to blurt, “So it’s a term of art.” – jolting Chris to sit up and interject, “No, it’s a term of SCIENCE ” and went on about how noise was a true “annoyance” and shadow flicker only an “irritation”. Now, if like Ms. Pike your eyes are glazing over, here’s the executive summary: because research into shadow flicker lags noise effects research by ~ 25 years, there simply isn’t the body of literature to support it being recognized as an “annoyance.” No one has really studied it. Again, caveat emptor.
Concluding her “house-cleaning” duties, there was a convoluted exchange between them which sought to clarify his position on suggested mitigation strategies to “reverse the condition” for wind turbine victims through “cognitive behaviour therapy”. In the UK a trial study on volunteers was performed – however, none of the subjects were from wind projects. It all kind of fizzled out and one wonders why the wind industry even clings to such a belief/hope – maybe eugenics is next!