Never send a boy on a man’s job. That is how the saying goes.
That is also what we saw again this week as the Chatham Kent legal action returned to Chatham, Ontario for more evidence for the CKWA group against the Suncor Kent Breezes wind project. As wind turbines are still being erected on the site for the development, three outstanding witnesses were called to give evidence that this project will cause serious harm to humans in the vicinity of the project.
Dr. Arline Bronzaft , Environmental Psychologist and Noise Specialist from New York City described the distinct difference between measuring sound (acoustics) and hearing unwanted sound (noise). Bronzaft stated that acoustical engineers were able to measure sound but were not qualified to evaluate the impact of that sound on humans. She also said that the quality or type of noise must be taken into consideration. Bronzaft quoted the World Health Organization which states that health is not a mere absence of symptoms.
In her testimony Bronzaft made it clear that the American/Canadian Wind Energy Association (AWEA/CanWEA) sponsored paper on wind turbines sounds and health effects was deficient as a scientific report. Bronzaft testified that the AWEA/CanWEA expert panel failed to fairly weigh the adverse impacts of noise on performance. In her testimony she stated the panel dismissed annoyance as a serious effect while defining annoyance as an intrusion upon one’s activities. She said that people find it more difficult to carry out activities when noise is intrusive and that continuous exposure to noise intrusions goes beyond annoyance. This can result in physiological disorders. She testified that there are many studies in this area.
Following Dr. Bronzaft’s testimony, Dr. Carl V. Phillips appeared before the tribunal. Dr. Phillips earned his PhD in public policy from Harvard completing his dissertation on environmental policy and economics. His teaching mainly focuses on how to make optimal public policy decisions based on scientific evidence and how to properly analyse epidemiological data.
Phillps stated that there is ample epidemiological evidence of health effects on residents from nearby wind turbines and that there is ample scientific evidence that wind turbines cause health problems.
Phillips criticized the Dr. Arlene King (CMOH) literature review on potential adverse health effects and wind turbines. He stated that the conclusion of this paper ‘stands apart’ from the actual report. He stated that the paper says that health effects are not possible. “No scientist would make that conclusion”, Phillips testified. He said that a list of available evidence supplied by the very CMOH paper ignores most of the available evidence. This “gives the reader a biased picture of what exists”.
Finally, Dr. Robert McMurtry, Chair of The Society for Wind Vigilance gave his testimony. Most importantly Dr. McMurtry spelled out in no uncertain terms that as a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons he must advocate for health for patients and communities. Dr. McMurtry identified the physician competency framework required to be a medical expert. It states that a medical expert is a professional, a communicator, a collaborator, a scholar, a manager and a health advocate. There could be no doubt that given Dr. McMurtry’s extensive work in Healthcare and Healthcare Policy in Canada over the life of his career as well as his leadership of The Society for Wind Vigilance, that he qualifies as a medical expert. In spite of that both lawyers for Suncor and the MOE claimed that he was not independent. After deliberation, the panel for the ERT decided to allow Dr. McMurtry’s testimony as an expert but would decide what weight to give to his evidence.
McMurtry reiterated a statement by previous experts who testified that the MOE ‘2008 Noise Guidelines’ written by Dr. Ramani Ramakrishnan were not “authoritative”. Dr. McMurtry testified that Dr. Ramakrishnan was neither a psycho-acoustician nor a medical doctor but an engineer who could only measure sound. He stated that there is no systematic effort to measure physical reaction and “dose response” to the level of sound generated by industrial wind turbines.
Dr. McMurtry also testified that he has met hundreds of people reporting adverse health effects in the past two and a half years since he began researching this issue. He also agreed with a statement by Brian Howe, Engineer with engineering firm Howe, Gastmeier, Chapnik who said that a nontrivial number of people would suffer adverse health effects such as annoyance and stress when exposed to wind turbine noise.
In concluding his evidence Dr. McMurtry stated that the case is clear; more likely than not, industrial wind turbines will be a source of serious harm for people living in the environs of the Kent Breezes wind development.
There is a week-long break in proceedings of the ERT. All will reconvene on March 2nd in Toronto.