Grima, T. Submission to Federal Select Committee on Wind Farms

Submission 374. Theresa Grima, NSW, Australia

I make this submission to the inquiry as a public submission.

My submission to the inquiry relates to the terms of reference (e) “The adequacy of monitoring and compliance governance of wind farms” and (i) “an related matter”.

“The noise polluters must be made accountable for their noise pollution – including the infrasound, low frequency noise and vibration. “

Whilst not directly related to wind turbines my submission to the inquiry and relevance to item (e) to outline the importance of an implementation of a regulatory system into low frequency noise and infrasound.

There is a need to address regulation of excessive industrial noise (not just wind turbines) especially in rural locations in the context of our environment.

Not only is there an issue with noise that the NSW EPA regulates but there is an issue with high levels of infrasound and low frequency noise that the various regulatory authorities fail to measure, regulate, and act upon to prevent serious harm to human and animal health. This needs to be addressed to adequately protect the health of the communities.

From our experience the concept of Regulatory Authorities to only look to audible noise external to dwellings and despite that the natural environment has ambient level below 30 dB(A) the EPA uses a base level of 30 dB(A) to which they then apply the standard background + 5 dB concept. However external ambient noise levels in our area at night are typically below 30 dB(A), with internal background level lower still. We moved to our house to experience a quiet and peaceful lifestyle removed from road traffic and the urban sprawl.

In light of disturbance we have experienced for some time, and thought it was coming from a coal mine we were astounded to find the NSW EPA or the Council do not consider internal noise levels, low frequency disturbance or infrasound inside our home.

We have experienced the same symptoms expressed by residents in proximity to wind farms and have found there is the presence of infrasound.

There is a need to address regulation of excessive industrial noise especially in rural locations. Not only the noise that the EPA regulates but the high levels of infrasound and low frequency noise that the various regulatory authorities fail to measure, regulate, and act upon to prevent serious harm to human and animal health. This needs to be addressed to adequately protect the health of the communities.

I believe there is a lack of cooperation in industry in general, when noise producing neighbours (mining or energy producers) initiates an investigation into noise complaints the suspected noisy neighbour is not always completely compliant with helping to ascertain their responsibility. It was my experience with Centennial Coal Springvale Mine they were very forth coming in providing a highly experienced acoustic specialist Steven Cooper to obtain readings from our property and theirs, but would not assist the findings by stopping the proposed source of disturbance which could potentially have implicated them but also could have exonerated their liability also. In other words they failed to cooperate with the “on off” testing.

I believe there needs to be a national noise pollution regulatory authority with strong powers, who is responsible for low frequency noise and infrasound. It should ensure complete transparency of this acoustic emission data, and industry should be made to use all means possible to assist. The noise polluters must be made accountable for their noise pollution – including the infrasound, low frequency noise and vibration. I believe that at present the regulation of industrial noise is the responsibility of the EPA and local councils who clearly are incapable in dealing with this issue.

There is NO accountability to us, the residents, and there is no way to prevent the acoustic trespass into our homes from these frequencies. We are completely dependent on the noise polluters, and the regulatory authorities, who fail us badly.

I am a Lithgow Blue Mountains resident who has been subjected to low frequency and infrasound noise for some years now, as have my family. I believe my source of disturbance to be Mount piper power station at Portland and an extraction fan from Springvale mine Lidsdale and this has recently been confirmed by Mr Cooper’s acoustic investigation. I was advised by a representative of Centennial Coal that I would receive Mr Coopers report by the end of April this has not happened. He informed me that they have enlisted another Acoustic group Global Acoustics to do in his words a lay persons understanding of Mr Coopers report. If at any time I receive Mr Cooper’s report I would like to add this to my submission.

The impacts on my family and myself are horrendous and debilitating. We are subjected to numerous sleep disturbances nightly, often feeling lethargic and lifeless the next day. The vibration experienced through the pillow (liken to a fish tank pump under your pillow) makes you sleep with your head raised by your hand as your shoulder and elbow rest on the pillow to mitigate the effects. We often try and sleep in different locations in the house to find the least affected area. I have problems with balance coupled with head/ear pressure and a pulsation. I have now developed memory issues along with a constant feeling of clouded thinking or brain fog. I fear how this is affecting my children and the ability to perform tasks in a safe manner such as driving and performing work tasks in a safe manner when sleep deprived. The longer we are exposed I suspect the more sensitive we become, I now experience a distressed feeling exposed to a similar sound like what you would expect from a shopping centres air conditioning units for example.

I have observed since moving to the area I am unable to successfully incubate poultry eggs although having had great success for many years prior. I have found what chicks do hatch have deformities and all die within a two week or so period. Others die in the shells that were unable to hatch as they have not fully developed correctly. These incubation periods correspond with times in my home where the vibration impacts are noticeably bad. I am not the only local person to have reported these impacts on our chicken embryos. I have included in my submission a document from the United States Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory(Effect of Vibration Frequency and Acceleration Magnitude of Chicken Embryos on Viability and Development Phase 1)This document accurately describes the same issues I have with my incubation of poultry eggs.

In my travels throughout the community I have been able to perceive the low frequency infrasound at various locations in the community. The most disturbing sensation is the Lithgow high school. Last year I had a meeting with the deputy principle regarding my daughter’s ability to learn in such a disruptive class environment.

The deputy principle proceeded to explain that the school was in crisis with behaviour and learning issues never seen before in their school at this scale.

This brings me to point out the NSW Government Health submission on recommendations into the Coalpac consolidation in the Lithgow region. It makes reference to effects of noise and vibration and states there is evidence to suggest environmental noise exposure may cause public risk to health and is recognised by the World Health Organisation and the US Centre for Disease Control. They also state the suggestion of long term effects of environmental noise exposure on sleep disturbance, children’s performance at school, hypertension and ischemic heart disease. I have attached to my submission The NSW Health Government Submission Recommendations document.

The SWAHS healthcare services has shown Lithgow’s cancer rate to be 20% greater than the state average, the rate of heart attacks 50% higher than rest of NSW and the rate of premature deaths before the age of 75 is almost a third higher than the state average. I know from living in this community that there are reports of noise nuisance out to 15 – 20 km from the power station, for example, and that it is well known in the district that there has been a low frequency noise problem for years. I also know that many people are too scared to speak out because they are worried about the impact speaking out may have on jobs, in an environment where jobs are being lost all the time.

I have made numerous attempts to obtain the SWASH Healthcare document referenced in the Sydney Morning Herald .The closest I have to obtaining that was speaking with Christine Dwyer, from my understanding is the senior research and evaluation officer of the Epidemiology unit SWASH. Christine was part of the project team in the Health Impact Assessment Report of Lithgow Council Strategic Plan 2007.Christine took my details and said she would get back to me regarding obtaining a copy. I have spent days trying to contact Christine but have been unsuccessful thus far. If I am able to obtain this document after my submission entry I would like to supply this at a later date.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/health-fears-for-lithgow-residents-amid-coal-boom– 20100605-xlr8.html

With Lithgow’s health statistics and the former statements by the NSW Government for Health, I ask why isn’t more being done to protect the community of Lithgow from infrasound and low frequency noise from a variety of sources when the impacts are clearly known to some in the NSW Department of Health, but denied by others in senior management positions currently? This is precisely why we are in need of a national noise pollution regulatory body with strong powers to compel cooperation from the noise polluters, and complete transparency of the noise emission data.

Lithgow may be a community reliant on coal mining and coal fired power generation for jobs but we paying the price with our health from unregulated noise pollution. If the noise pollution is properly and safely regulated, this does not preclude industry – it just means that industrial pollution is regulated to protect humans, just as is meant to happen with occupational health and safety at mines, for example. The cost to health care is outrageous from this systemic regulatory failure, and is borne not only by individuals in families such as mine but also the Federal Health budget through Medicare and the cost to the state and federal health budgets.

It is evident what is needed is a regulatory authority which acts to properly investigate, and regulate noise in low frequency and infrasound ranges, to properly protect the health and environment of rural families and communities. Why should Lithgow have to bear the brunt of unregulated noise pollution, regardless of the noise source?

I am aware that other mining regions such as Singleton, Mudgee, Gunnedah and Gloucester have Department of planning compliance officers in their area for mines, why is Lithgow excluded.

I am happy to speak to the inquiry if that would help the senators understand the severity of the impacts and why this issue is no different to the issue of unregulated uncontrolled wind turbine noise pollution which is causing the same health problems. I have every sympathy for any family who is adversely impacted by infrasound and low frequency noise having your family trapped in an environment you know is harming them is heartbreaking as a parent. Your home, your place of rest, recreation, learning and family life, becomes a living hell in which you are trapped – and there is nothing you can do to reduce the impacts inside your home. Knowing there is no legislation to protect you and your family leaves you feeling powerless.

I have attached to the submission

Regards
Theresa Grima

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