Report on June 5th ERT Hearing on Human Health Appeal
The Environmental Review Tribunal heard Ministry of Environment (MOE) witness Dr. Kieran Moore, independent presenter Dr. Alban Goddard-Hill, and Gilead Power witness Dr. Werner Richarz.
Qualifying of Dr. Kieran Moore
Dr. Kieran Moore is the associate medical officer of public health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. He is also an associate professor in emergency medicine at Queen’s University. He has not carried out research on industrial wind turbines (IWTs), but he said he keeps up to date on the scientific literature because of the Wolfe Island wind project.
There were no objections to Dr. Moore being qualified as a “physician with expertise in family and emergency medicine, public health, and preventive medicine.”
Examination of Dr. Kieran Moore
Dr. Moore noted that as the medical records of APPEC’s witnesses do not provide a complete exposure history, diagnostic errors could easily occur. He said further complications can arise from patient bias, drug interactions, and fluctuating chronic conditions such as depression and fibromyalgia. Referring to three patients, he commented on the difficulty of diagnosis but suggested alternative explanations for their insomnia, which he said, in any event, is prevalent in the general population.
Dr. Moore supports the findings in the report by Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, that IWTs are a not a cause of direct adverse health effects. He outlined the Bradford-Hill criteria for causation and said these are difficult to apply because a biologically plausible pathway for IWTs is unknown and IWTs are reported to have multiple effects rather than a single health effect. He called Dr. McMurty’s case definition a “hypothetical syndrome” in which third-order criteria include many conditions present in a large population. He said annoyance is “a normal state, not a disease,” and he suggested that it may be due, not to noise, but simply to hearing and seeing IWTs.
Dr. Moore compared “harm to human health” to a pyramid in which death is at the top, fatal diseases and permanent chronic diseases below, and so on. He said serious harm is irreversible. He also questioned the World Health Organization’s definition of health (”complete sense of well-being”) as “unrealistic”; he preferred “resilience to stress.”
The Precautionary Principle, according to Dr. Moore, cannot be used for IWTs because there are no significant health effects and no certainty of causation. The MOE’s compliance protocol is a sufficient precaution.
Cross-examination of Dr. Moore
Gilead Power lawyer Bryn Gray had no questions.
APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie confirmed that (1) Dr. Moore had reviewed only the witness statements and medical records, not transcripts of testimonies, (2) no “exposure history” is documented, and (3) Dr. Moore had made no diagnoses.
ERT Panel Questions
Co-chair Robert Wright asked for clarification on the Precautionary Principle. Dr. Moore said that it required adequate evidence of causation and high probability of significant harm.
Mr. Wright also asked about direct effects of IWTs located on Crown land to which the public has access. Dr. Moore said signs might warn people of the risks.
Co-chair Heather Gibbs asked about indirect pathways such as sleep deprivation causing adverse health effects. Dr. Moore said that sleep disorders are common and IWTs would cause no problems because of current noise limits and setbacks.
Presentation of Dr. Alban Goddard-Hill
Dr. Goddard-Hill was qualified as a “physician in general practice and family medicine.”
Dr. Goddard-Hill noted that reports of sleep disorders are increasing in Ontario and that sleep problems can lead to a wide range of physiological and psychological effects. He said that IWTs would cause sleep deprivation in some people, with potentially fatal consequences. He referred to articles in an appendix to his written presentation that linked sleep deprivation to drowsiness in drivers and to fatal motor accidents.
Examination of Dr. Werner Richarz
Dr. Richarz provided a primer on acoustics and IWTs. The A-weighted measurement scale is a convenient way to mimic human perception of sound. Sound is attenuated by distance and atmospheric conditions, as well as by the absorption of vegetation, ground, and structural barriers. Infrasound is at the frequency range below 20 Hz (hertz), and it is not audible at 550 m. Low-frequency noise (LFN) is defined as 10-100 or 20-200 Hz.
The noise from IWTs is both mechanical (e.g. from gears and generators) and aerodynamic (from the rotating blades and atmospheric airflow, or turbulence).
Amplitude modulation is usually small and not perceptible: one dBA, 1% of the time. The “swoosh” sound comes from broadband noise that rises and diminishes. Newer turbines have smoother operation.
Dr. Richarz considered three studies of turbine noise. He said that tests at witness Nicole Horton’s house show the turbines are in compliance. The study at the Shirley, Wisconsin, wind project may have identified peaks of LFN, but these were not audible and LFN is “not a serious issue” for health. The results in Dr. Thorne’s study of turbine noise suggest that other sounds had contaminated the measurements.
Dr. Richarz concluded that the Ostrander Point project poses little harm because the area is sparsely settled and residents would not be exposed to more than 40 dBA of noise.