Waubra Community Acknowledge Health Problems

In an article in the Ballarat Courier on 6th November, 2013, some members of the Waubra community have acknowledged that some members of the local community have experienced health problems since the wind turbines commenced operating, and expressed sympathy for their situation.

The Waubra Foundation welcomes this extremely positive development and public acknowledgement of the existence of a problem for some local residents, by members of the Waubra community.

The historic denials of any noise related health problems by some individuals in Australia, particularly those with financial connections to the wind industry, and the victim blaming attitude towards people who have been badly damaged by the noise pollution from the wind turbines, has resulted in considerable additional distress to those adversely impacted.

Some of these people have been forced to leave their homes either permanently, or to sleep at night, or for periods of time away during the day, in order to reduce their cumulative exposure. Some people who previously worked from home have found they have to work away from their homes, in order to reduce the health damaging impact of the noise pollution. Farmers have found they can no longer work in parts of their farm under certain wind and weather conditions. One severely impacted family were unable to work on their farm without becoming seriously unwell, and were forced to sell.

This is why the Pyrenees Shire Council acknowledged the existence of a problem which could no longer be denied. Council Minutes for the Ordinary meeting of 19th March, 2013 stated the following:

Extract from page 17

“Council has had direct experience in dealing with this issue, and there can be no doubt that dwellings in close proximity to wind turbines (within 2km) have/will have the potential to be profoundly noise affected – to a point where the amenity of their occupants will be seriously diminished”

The adverse impacts on health and sleep at Waubra extend well beyond 2km for some residents.

Ballarat Sleep Physician Dr Wayne Spring submitted the following comments to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry in November 2012: (Download the full submission →)

“As a Sleep Physician, working in Ballarat in Western Victoria, I have already been seeing patients from Waubra, Leonard’s Hill, Glenthompson and Cape Bridgewater who have disturbed sleep which has coincided with the commencement of operation of nearby wind farms.

 I do not believe that we yet know the full extent of the consequences to these people of their exposure to wind farms or even the cause of the untoward effects which may not just be from “noise”

Nonetheless, assessment of noise is a start in the monitoring of what is going on.”

The Waubra Foundation was established in March / April 2010 to facilitate acoustic and clinical research by independent researchers, to ultimately assist those people who had courageously started to speak out publicly about the problems they had experienced since the turbines started turning. We celebrate their courage, and will continue to support them until their problems are satisfactorily addressed.

The Foundation is keen to work with all concerned and compassionate members of the Waubra district to ensure the responsible authorities address the noise pollution problems which have plagued the Waubra Wind Development since it commenced operating four years ago, and which resulted in the wind developer Acciona buying out at least seven properties because of noise pollution, which made the homes either uninhabitable or non compliant with the noise pollution guidelines.

For too long there has been either denial of a problem, and buckpassing between the Victorian State Government Planning Department, the Environment Protection Authority, and the local council. The Victorian Health Department have been missing in action on this issue, despite the then Minister for Health being advised of wind turbine related health problems in 2004 by Dr David Iser, from Toora, and despite the Pyrenees Shire Council specifically requesting the Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester conduct a health impact assessment well over a year ago.

For too long, Acciona have denied the existence of any wind turbine noise related health problems. The wind industry practice of silencing sick residents who were bought out has meant that the problems would have remained hidden, but for the courage and persistence of people like Noel Dean and his family, Donald Thomas and his family, Trish Godfrey and her family (subsequently gagged), and others.

The Minister for Planning in Victoria, Mr Guy, admitted in State Parliament in Victoria on 18th April 2013 in response to a question from Mr Greg Barber (Victorian Greens) that “I am advised that Waubra has not yet had its compliance signed off”

This is an extraordinary situation, because the Waubra Wind Development, despite not ever being considered compliant, has been given more than $80 million in Renewable Energy Certificates by the Federal Clean Energy Regulator, since Waubra Wind Development commenced operating in 2009.

Renewable Energy Certificates are funded by all electricity consumers, via electricity bills.

The Clean Energy Regulator has been made aware of the lack of compliance at the Waubra Wind Development, yet despite this has chosen to continue to issue RECS to a non compliant wind development.

This is fraudulent.

The continued operation of a non compliant wind development is also predictably damaging people’s health from unregulated noise pollution. No independent noise monitoring has ever been conducted by either the Victorian Department of Planning or the Pyrenees Shire Council. Acoustic data provided by the residents which supports the concerns about non compliance has been ignored by the Minister for Planning and his Department.

The Victorian Department of Planning and the Pyrenees Shire council are both refusing to release to the public or to Senator John Madigan’s office an independent peer review of Marshall Day’s post construction noise assessment by independent acoustical firm Heggies, commissioned by the Department of Planning.

Why is this document not in the public domain and accessible to the residents forced from their homes, or suffering health problems? Who is obstructing its release? What does it say about both compliance, and the work conducted by Marshall Day?

The Waubra Foundation is of the opinion that what has gone on at Waubra is the tip of the iceberg with respect to RECS fraud in Australia, and that other wind developments where noise complaints have been made by the neighbours may also not be compliant.

Currently the Clean Energy Regulator just accepts the wind developers’ word that their development is compliant with the noise pollution regulations. The Clean Energy Regulator does not require any sort of external audit or independent compliance check.

There is an urgent need for a full investigation at all wind developments where neighbours have reported noise related sleep and health problems, and mandatory transparent real time noise monitoring, as was suggested by the legislation proposed by Senators Madigan and Xenophon in the Renewable Energy (Excessive Noise) Bill, the subject of the second Federal senate inquiry in November, 2012. It is the Waubra Foundation’s strong opinion that such noise monitoring should cover the full spectrum of noise emissions, not just audible noise measured in dBA.

The fact that the wind industry lobbied furiously to ensure the transparent noise monitoring did not happen suggests that the wind industry and the acousticians who work for it as paid consultants are well aware of what such monitoring may reveal.

There is also an urgent need for the multidisciplinary research recommended by the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry, chaired by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, in June 2011.

Such multidisciplinary research at wind developments and other noise polluting facilities such as CSG field compressors, mines, and gas fired power stations where similar health problems have been reported from low frequency noise pollution will help determine safer operating parameters for these facilities, as well as assist with ensuring siting decisions are made with a truly precautionary approach with respect to protecting the health of neighbours, regardless of whether they receive any financial benefit.