MOE won’t shut down wind turbines during studies, employee reveals

Environmental review tribunal proceedings wrap up for Armow wind project

By Barb McKay

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is not in the position to shut down industrial wind turbines that are not in compliance with provincial approvals while noise studies are being conducted, according to a Ministry employee.

Heather Pollard, district manager for the Owen Sound branch of the MOE, was summoned to testify before the Environmental Review Tribunal for the Armow Wind Project in Kincardine on Thursday. The hearings have been held since December at the Best Western Governor’s Inn to consider if a Charter appeal against the project filed by Ken and Sharon Kroeplin is justified. The Kroeplins live on Concession 7, within the boundaries of the project, which will include 93 industrial wind turbines that will produce 180 megawatts of power. The couple launched the appeal fearing that the project, expected to be constructed this year, will negatively impact their health.

Pollard was summoned to testify by the Kroeplin’s attorney, Asha James, of Falconer LLP, to discuss some of the complaints her office has received about other operating wind energy projects, including the Enbridge project.  There are currently seven operating projects in the region monitored by the Owen Sound office and staff has received approximately 350 complaints about six, Pollard stated. The complaints were related to noise and health concerns.

“People usually indicate that they have sleep disturbances, headaches, nausea, tinnitus, vertigo; issues that they attribute to the wind turbines,” Pollard said.

James asked Pollard to explain the protocol in place to deal with complaints related to noise from industrial wind turbines. Pollard told the tribunal there is a four-step protocol, in place since 2011. When the office receives a concern about a project, staff first screen the complainant by asking a series of questions and referring to the original noise study conducted for the project during the provincial approval process.

Following that, Pollard explained, a Ministry employee will make a site visit and speak with the individual who made the complaint. Setback distances will be checked for compliance to the original site plan for the project.  If a turbine is not located where it appears in the site plan and the discrepancy is considered significant, the Ministry will ask the developer to remodel the project.

James asked Pollard if any projects have been found not to be in compliance. Pollard replied that one turbine within the Enbridge project is located approximately 29 metres from where it was positioned in the site plan. She acknowledged that the Ministry has received complaints about that turbine and an acoustics study has been conducted. The Ministry received the study report from Enbridge last week. An acoustics audit by the Ministry will be required.

James asked that while the study was being undertaken, did the Ministry require Enbridge to shut the turbine down.

“It is unlikely that we would be able to do that,” Pollard said.

Final testimony was given in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday.