Report on June 3rd ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard the commencement of Gilead Power’s and the Ministry of Environment’s case. Shant Dakouzian, noise assessment consultant, testified for Gilead, and Denton Miller, Approvals branch, for the MOE.
Qualifying of Shant Dakouzian
Gilead Lawyer Bryn Gray sought to qualify Mr. Dakouzian as an “expert in noise assessments for wind farms.” Mr. Dakouzian is a professional engineer with a B.Eng. from McGill University. Since 2006 he has worked on noise assessment of 50 wind power projects. Currently, he is team leader and project manager for noise assessments with G. L. Girard-Hassan, the world’s largest renewable energy consultant.
APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie confirmed that Mr. Dakouzian has no publications on noise assessment and is not a psycho-acoustician or an expert on medical or health assessment of noise.
The ERT panel qualified Mr. Dakouzian as proposed.
Examination of Shant Dakouzian
Mr. Dakouzian supervised the Girard-Hassan employee who carried out computer modeling for the noise of Ostrander Point turbines. He reviewed the MOE guidelines for the project, checked the data on receptor distances, verified the parameters in the computer model, and co-wrote the consulting report. The predicted noise for the project complies with the MOE’s Class 3 regulations (rural area with a population of less than 1000) and night-time noise limit of 40 dBA.
The measurements, Mr. Dakouzian explained, are audible sound levels averaged over time as calculated at 4.5 m above each receptor site (e.g. centre of a residence), with each turbine operating at maximum sound output. He said the model gives conservative results by considering all receptors as downwind from all turbines and by using conservative parameters for ground absorption, temperature, and humidity. The results reflect worst case scenarios that might happen from time to time.
Bryn Gray then asked Mr. Dakouzian to report his observations of the receptors when he visited the project area last week. Mr. Gillespie objected to evidence not cited in a witness statement as well as to the relevance of such evidence.
ERT co-chair Robert Wright upheld the objection.
MOE lawyer Sylvia Davis had no questions for Mr. Dakouzian.
Cross-examination of Mr. Dakouzian
Mr. Gillespie confirmed that Mr. Dakouzian is not a specialist in directly measuring the noise output of Industrial Wind turbines. Noise assessments use power levels provided by turbine manufacturers. The computer models simulate noise emissions taken at one-minute intervals and averaged over an hour. The ISO standard for measurement is exclusively the A-weighted scale. The MOE’s guidance rules do not distinguish between permanent and seasonal residences.
ERT Panel Questions
Mr. Wright asked Mr. Dakouzian to explain A weighting. He said it was a filter that indicated how the human ear hears sound.
Mr. Gillespie sought clarification. Mr. Dakouzian said the computer model filtered, or A-weighted, the manufacturer’s sound data. The data can be filtered as either a first or last step in calculations, but the results are identical.
Qualifying of Denton Miller
Denton Miler, a professional engineer with a B.Eng. from Waterloo, has worked for the MOE for 22 years and has reviewed over 30 wind projects. He assisted in development of the MOE’s 2008 noise guidelines and a later compliance protocol. Currently, he is a senior review engineer for Renewable Energy Approval assessments and also coordinates assessment of compliance complaints.
Mr. Gillespie confirmed that Mr. Miller is not an expert on medical or human health issues.
The ERT panel qualified Mr. Miller as a “noise engineer with expertise in MOE noise guidelines and compliance protocols for wind turbines.”
Examination of Denton Miller
Mr. Miller said he had reviewed the Ostrander Point project with respect to noise guidelines and good engineering practices, and had made recommendations for compliance. He explained that MOE guidelines allow for noise bursts above 40 dBA due to the “masking effect” when ambient sound rises as a result of higher wind speeds; thus, turbine noise could be as much as 45 dBA at a wind speed of 8 m per second and a maximum of 51 dBA at 10 m per sec. He said the World Health Organization guidelines call for a yearly average of 40 dBA at night, while the MOE specifies 40 dBA as an hourly average. In addition to double checking consultants’ noise assessments, the MOE requires acoustic audits once projects are constructed.
Mr. Miller also explained the process for handling complaints. He said that the MOE investigates complaints from residents living within 1500 m of a wind project. Complaints can lead to the installation of noise monitoring equipment, which is activated by residents upon instances of annoyance. The results of monitoring in the Stephana Johnston case were inconclusive, but no follow-up has occurred. Noise levels averaging 44 dBA in the Mike Davey case have led to a second monitoring session, now underway.
Mr. Gray had no questions.
Cross-examination of Denton Miller
Mr. Gillespie confirmed that neither the proponent nor the MOE has conducted a human health assessment for the Ostrander Point project. Mr. Miller admitted that the MOE’s compliance protocol did not address infrasound and low-frequency sound.
Mr. Miller was also challenged on several apparent inconsistencies in the MOE’s regulations and practices:
1. The MOE did not assess cumulative noise effects of the White Pines wind project, despite its notice of commencement published in April 2008. Mr. Miller said it may have been “in the process of being planned” (a phrase used in the regulations), but there was no draft site plan for turbines.
2. The MOE requires identification of all receptors within 2 km of a project, but noise assessment only within 1500 m.
3. The ISO standard used for noise modeling is not verified as accurate beyond 1000 m.
4. The ISO standard is accurate only within +/- 3 dBA; however, modeling of predictable worst case scenarios relies on average noise levels, not the maximum variability.
ERT Panel Questions
Co-chair Heather Gibbs asked about compliance assessment. Mr. Miller said that monitoring equipment is a screening tool. A noise audit is required to determine non-compliance.