Health Impacts of Industrial Wind
Conference, Sept. 10, 2019, at Erie County Community College, Williamsville, N.Y., sponsored by state senator Robert Ortt. These videos are provided by courtesy of Citizens of Lincoln, N.Y. Summary outline notes are presented below.
Jerry Punch, audiologist, talks about wind turbine sound and infrasound and its impact on the human body. (38 min.)
Robert Rand, acoustician, discusses the mechanics and physiological effects of wind turbine infrasound and setbacks. (38 min.)
The participants answer: “Is it wise for Lincoln, N.Y., to allow six 500′ turbines at 3.2 MW to be built ~1,400′ from 34 homes [and only 600′ from some, and less than 1 mile from 121 homes]?” They explain why a 1.24-mile (2-km) setback is needed. (6 min.)
Summary provided by Tom Erlandson, Chair of the Chautauqua County Health Board, based on notes taken during the forum:
Introductory Comments by NYS Senator Robert Ortt, Forum Sponsor
- On August 4, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Chapter 388 of the Laws of 2011 that enacted Article 10 of the Public Service Law. Article 10 now governs Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs).
- The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) sets zero net carbon emissions by 2050 – it involves public health considerations, among others.
- Senator Ortt introduced the other speakers.
Dan Stapleton: Director of Niagara County Board of Health, member of WNY Public Health Alliance Board of Directors, President of NYS Association of County Health Officials
- Developers have burden to prove IWTs are safe – public should not have the burden of proving IWTs are not safe.
- Concerned about lakes becoming contaminated by IWT fluids, lost sleep, unanticipated health effects of IWTs.
- Resolutions read that thorough environmental impact studies be done for IWTs.
Dr. Jerry Punch: PhD audiologist; studied IWTs in 2009 in the “thumb” of the lower peninsula of Michigan
- Affected families left home, using motels at night.
- IWT noise much more annoying than noise of trains or cars.
- Referred to various studies:
- “Wind Energy Comes of Age” – Paul Gipe 1995
- “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment” – Dr. Nina Pierpont
- Cooper and Chan: Australian study on Wind Turbine Syndrome
- “Low Frequency Noise and Health” – Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira (Portugal, 2007-13)
- Berglund, B, et al. 1999 – Guidelines for Community Noise, WHO, Geneva
- Mentioned cortisol – a hormone involved in stress.
- Stated that sleep disturbance is the most well documented effect of IWT.
- Stated that sleep disturbance affects health: hypertension, memory, etc.
- Outer hair cells in the inner ear are sensitive to infrasound.
- Infrasound can lead to motion sickness – involves balance, vision, muscle receptors.
- IWT setbacks are not sufficient to protect human health.
- EPA noise regulations not updated since 1978.
- Setback distance is the most effective way of controlling IWT problems:
- 1.25 miles from property line minimum
- 1.5 miles from property line last month in Madison County, Iowa
- See conclusions in Punch, J.L. & R.R. James: “Wind Turbine Noise and Human Health: A Four-Decade History of Evidence That Wind Turbines Pose Risks.” 2016 [link]
Rob Rand: Professional acoustic investigator since 1980; has been investigating IWTs since 2009
- Rand quoted from the Code of Ethics of the National Society of Professional Engineers: “Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.”
- Meters do not measure noise impacts, only noise levels.
- Wind turbines sited primarily in rural areas and are touted as pollution-free.
- Distance is the only reliable noise control option available for wind turbines so far. Most places do not have enough distance.
- Background noise in rural areas is low – 20-25 dBA at night. Annoyance is “perceived by individuals or groups to be adversely affecting them. Above 35 dBA is incompatible with rural living without annoyance” – American National Standards Institute.
- The quantity, ubiquity, and consistency of anecdotal complaints do have epidemiological significance.
- Re wildlife – studies with badgers show elevated cortisol levels resulting from infrasound. [link]
- Nauseogenesis – a nauseogenic factor is associated with IWTs.
Gary Abraham: Attorney
- Article 10 governs industrial wind projects producing greater than 25 megawatts.
- The Cassadaga wind project is the first Article 10 project.
- It is not realistic to regulate mean/average noise level with IWTs – the noise output is not a steady hum, but is a pulse produced during the blade downstroke.
- Siting board continues to use mean/average noise level.
- There is not much optimism in NYS about Article 10. NYS Home Rule is the only reason for optimism in New York State.
- Towns must pre-adopt 35 dB noise level limits.
- Towns must draft laws to protect people.
- Re upstate NYS electric energy picture:
- The upstate grid is separate from the downstate grid.
- The upstate grid is already getting 90% of its electricity from water power and nuclear power sources (i.e., clean energy). Still we keep building IWT projects.
- Towns can limit tower height, e.g., to 400 ft. (676 ft. towers in Town of Guilford, NY (Chenango County).
- Towns can adopt 35 decibel limits.
- Get your town to pass a proper wind law!”
Following the more formal part of the forum program, three individuals gave their personal testimonials of how they and their families have been affected by IWTs. One of them was Lynn Bedford, who lives on Cable Road in the Town of Arkwright.
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