Collector – PAC Hearing NSW. Speech from Waubra Foundation

Speech to Planning Assessment Commission (NSW) COLLECTOR WIND FARM Hearing, October 30, 2013
Delivered by Waubra Foundation Director Charlie Arnott for CEO Sarah Laurie

Mr Chairman and fellow Commissioners,

The Waubra Foundation advise each of you that it is inevitable that serious harm to the health and quality of sleep of many members of the community living within 10km of this proposed wind development at Collector will occur, over the lifetime of this project, if each of you decide to approve it with the conditions as listed.

We wish to clearly point out that the actual noise IMPACT from wind turbines this size (let alone smaller wind turbines) on humans has not been assessed by the proponents at all, and because of that alone, the NSW Director General’s requirements have not been met.

Quoting noise modeling predictions of audible noise, as the proponents and their acoustic consultants have done, is not enough. Too often, pre construction modeling significantly underestimates the post construction noise. It is simply not good enough to say that “we didn’t know it would be so loud” as Roaring 40’s did at Waterloo to badly impacted residents.

We note that Sinclair Knight Merz did the pre construction noise modeling assessment at Waterloo, and the responsible person was Dr Norm Broner. There have been five home abandonments at Waterloo, and consistent reports of people impacted by the noise and sleep disturbance out to 10km. The residents report these impacts are worsening over time.

The best knowledge about the ACTUAL noise impacts on populations from larger wind turbines rather than noise prediction modeling by the proponents can be gleaned from the recent systematic data collection from population noise impact surveys conducted at Cullerin in NSW, Macarthur in Western Victoria, and Waterloo in South Australia. These anonymous surveys demonstrate adverse impacts on sleep out to between 7.5 to 10km from the closest wind turbine, in up to 75% of the responding households out to 7.5km at Cullerin for example.

The PAC members who decided to approve the Bodangora Wind Development reported they were advised by NSW Health officials Professor Wayne Smith and Dr Jeremy McAnulty that there was “no published scientific evidence to link wind turbines with adverse health effects”.

This extraordinary advice from NSW Health officials is untrue.

Examples of two recent peer reviewed published papers showing clear evidence of sleep disturbance and reduced quality of life, and sleep disturbance, depression and other symptoms were provided to the NSW PAC members as part of the Waubra Foundation’s Cherry Tree Statement. These two papers were both published in the journal Noise and Health, and the lead authors of each paper were Dr Daniel Shepherd, and Dr Michael Nissenbaum.

In addition a recently completed study at the University of Waterloo in Ontario has confirmed sleep deprivation, tinnitus and vertigo are being reported in greater numbers in neighbours to wind turbines. This has nothing to do with “suggestability” or “nocebo” and everything to do with the effects of noise pollution, especially infrasound and low frequency noise.

Given the severity of the adverse health and sleep impacts being reported by residents near existing wind developments, which are resulting in home abandonments, suicidal depression, and associated serious cardiovascular diseases, phrases such as willful blindness, fraudulent denial and criminal negligence spring to mind in this denial of existing accepted science about the consequences of exposure to environmental noise pollution.

The Bodangora PAC report then went on to describe sleep disturbance as a “difficult issue”.

Sleep disturbance is indeed a “difficult issue” for both the PAC members who made that recent Bodangora decision, and for the NSW Health and planning department officials who wrongly advised them there was no published scientific evidence.

There is NO evidence that the sleep disturbance reported by neighbours to wind turbines is related to anything other than the wind turbine sound emissions. The comment in the Bodangora PAC report that the sleep disturbance might be related to “broader concerns about a development” is a disgrace. Where is the data which supports that assertion? Who made the assertion? NSW Health department officials, or PAC members?

In contrast to this disgraceful assertion, Macarthur resident Maria Linke’s statement of evidence to the recent Victorian Cherry Tree case clearly shows that the impacts she experiences are related to operating wind turbines, and that she had no “broader concerns” about the development, whether awake or asleep, nor did she expect to be impacted by the Macathur wind turbines as she cannot see them from her home and she lives 5km away. Yet Maria Linke is regularly and repeatedly woken overnight, with disturbing sensations of vibration, sometimes with the audible wind turbine noise, and sometimes with other symptoms but no audible wind turbine noise. Her children have also described poor sleep from the turbines. Maria is not alone. The Macarthur Preliminary survey, tendered to the Cherry Tree VCAT hearing last week, showed there were adverse impacts on sleep in many households out to 8km.

Sleep disturbance is a “difficult issue” for each of you in considering this Collector wind development proposal, because of the overwhelming volume of evidence, which clearly shows that chronic sleep deprivation regardless of the cause, will itself result in deteriorating mental and physical health.

There is a large and growing body of peer reviewed published clinical studies, which confirm the serious nature of these problems caused by sleep deprivation. For example, the meta analysis by Professor Capuccio from Warwick University published in February 2011 entitled “Sleep Duration Predicts Cardiovascular Outcomes: a systematic review and meta analysis of prospective studies” stated in the conclusion that: People reporting consistently sleeping 5 h or less per night should be regarded as a higher risk group for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality”. There are certainly people living near wind developments who report exhaustion from night after night of less than 5 hours sleep, and poor quality sleep as well.

The Medical Journal of Australia has just published a number of timely articles listing the health damaging consequences of sleep deprivation, and the costs to the individual and the community. Those articles are part of our submission to you, and we hope you will read them, and carefully consider the consequences of ignoring this issue for this development.

Dr William Hallstein, an American psychiatrist at Falmouth, stated the following in a recent letter to the Falmouth Board of Health:

I am thoroughly acquainted with the turbine issues and neighbors who are affected. I have made it my business to spend significant amounts of time experiencing the turbine effects. I know exactly what they are describing and have experienced it. 

Turning now to the topic of sleep interruption and deprivation. Sleep disturbance is not a trivial matter. Children with inadequate sleep perform poorly academically, emotionally and physically. Errors in judgement and accident rates increase with inadequate sleep and fatigue for everyone: athletes, truck drivers, ship operators, aircraft pilots and physicians. No one is exempt. 

In the world of medicine illnesses of all varieties are destabilized by fatigue secondary to inadequate sleep. Diabetic blood sugars become labile, cardiac rhythms become irregular, migraines erupt and increase in intensity, tissue healing is retarded, and so forth, across the entire field of physical medicine. Psychiatric problems intensify and people decompensate. Mood disorders become more extreme and psychotic disorders more severe. 

People with no previously identified psychiatric illness are destabilized by sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation experiments have repeatedly been terminated because test subjects become psychotic; they begin to hallucinate auditory and visual phenomena. They develop paranoid delusions. This all happens in the “normal” brain. Sleep deprivation has been used as an effective means of torture and a technique for extracting confessions. 

I could work my way thru the presentation of 43 years of sleep deprivation observations, but that is more than the scope of this letter. I am writing because I have witnessed Town of Falmouth officials and members of other boards trivialize symptom reports from people living close to the wind turbines. I have witnessed attempts to discredit people who are being hurt by the turbines. 

Sleep deprivation breaks down individual defenses and mimics a broad range of physical and mental illnesses. Let’s hope the Town of Falmouth comes to its senses and stops the abuse.

Sleep disturbance is a “difficult issue”, because both the NSW department of Health and department of planning responsible officials are well aware that repeated sleep disturbance is the primary problem reported by residents at existing NSW wind developments.

In a recent example of how the developers treat these noise complaints, Infigen’s David Griffin admitted under cross examination in the Cherry Tree hearing that sleep disturbance and noise complaints from residents at Capital were just ignored and were not considered adverse health effects.

The decision by the NSW Department of Planning to conduct a wind turbine noise audit was specifically in response to publicity about community complaints, especially those about noise related sleep disturbance. The results of that audit have been given to the developers a year ago “for comment” but have never been released to the community for independent evaluation by acoustic consultants who have worked for the community to investigate these problems.

Why are these acoustic survey results at Cullerin and Capital still being hidden from the community?

What is the NSW department of Planning, and the wind developers hiding, and why?

If the wind developments are not in fact compliant with noise pollution regulations, this is a serious matter. In addition to harming the health of residents with illegal noise pollution, non compliant wind developments are committing fraud if they receive renewable energy certificates, knowing that their wind development is not compliant. The Waubra Foundation has very good reason to believe that breaches of noise pollution regulations are regularly occurring at some wind developments where noise complaints are being made.

There is no evidence that the proposed 35 dBA noise limit listed in the conditions for Collector will prevent the sleep disturbance and other reported symptoms, even if it was adhered to. The quiet background noise means that 35dBA would be well above background dBA plus 5. In addition, usage of only dBA excludes the very frequencies known to be causing these sleep and health problems for nearly 30 years – infrasound and low frequency noise.

NSW PAC members hearing the Bodangora case were told by the Waubra Foundation CEO and independent acoustician Steven Cooper about the 1985 Kelley field research, which found that infrasound and low frequency noise resonating within homes was causing the reported symptoms. Subsequent laboratory studies confirmed these effects. Dose response relationships were established and baseline exposure levels were recommended to protect people. These levels have never been adopted by any government – and no reason has been given for not using them to protect the health of residents from wind turbine infrasound.

This crucial Kelley research was dismissed by the unnamed NSW Planning department official, despite the admission that they were only familiar with “some” of this work, and despite Dr Neil Kelley explicitly confirming that this research data applied equally to modern upwind turbines.

NSW PAC members for the Bodangora hearing were also provided with letters from leading researchers such as neurophysiologist Professor Alec Salt and mechanical engineer Emeritus Professor Colin Hansen, expressing strong criticism about the Victorian Health department report issued recently which dismissed wind turbine infrasound as a cause of health problems. These letters were also ignored by those PAC members.

Crucial new expert acoustic evidence was presented by independent acoustician Les Huson to the Cherry Tree VCAT hearing last week, which showed evidence of a direct correlation 86% of the time between symptoms of painful pressure bolts felt in the back of the head described by another Macarthur resident Gus Gardner, and pressure transients generated from the wind turbines.

Mr Huson also found levels of infrasound up to peaks of at least 70 dB inside the bedroom of a brick veneer home 6.4km away from the nearest wind turbine, and showed there was no attenuation of wind turbine generated infrasound out to that distance. Macarthur wind turbines are VESTAS V112 3 MW turbines.

In his opinion Mr Huson also stated:

“I find it entirely plausible that infrasound can cause nuisance and disturbed sleep in communities surrounding wind farm developments similar to the Macarthur and Leonards Hill developments.” 

American family physician Dr Sandy Reider gave a detailed description of what his patient experienced living near a wind turbine in Vermont, identical to symptoms described by Australian rural residents:

About 3 weeks after the installation he began to experience quite severe insomnia, something he had never dealt with before, and he had no clue why….. He complained of abrupt waking 30 – 40 times a night, like a startle reflex, associated with some anxiety. As a result he was almost never able to fall into a deep restful sleep, very distressing for someone used to sleeping soundly for 10 – 11 hours every night. 

Additionally he developed a kind of pressure headache, ringing in his ears, and slight dizziness. These symptoms weren’t constant, but varied from day to day (eventually discovered to be related to wind speed and direction). His ability to concentrate diminished and it became difficult to get his work as a financial advisor done, as well as feeling irritable and somewhat depressed. 

…. Interestingly at no time at home did he actually hear any noise..” 

…. My patient was fortunate. He and his wife were able to afford to abandon their home, and they are now living happily from any wind turbine and feeling quite well.”

The community at Collector includes members who are particularly vulnerable to the noise impacts, including young children, a school, and elderly citizens, in addition to residents with chronic illnesses. Members of all these demographic groups living near other wind developments across south eastern Australia have noted new or worsening health problems with wind turbine noise, and Collector will be no exception.

The issue of harm to the health of children from wind turbine noise pollution is a serious one.

The state has a duty of care, yet the conditions suggested are nothing other than a licence to damage the health of vulnerable rural residents including children, because the suggested condition of 35 dBA will not protect them from sleep disturbing noise pollution, nor will it protect them from the potentially damaging effects of infrasound.

This damage to health is entirely consistent with what we already know about the adverse health problems which occur with exposure to environmental noise, especially night time noise which causes regular sleep disturbance.

The NSW department of Health and Planning officials who wrongly advised with respect to the Bodangora Wind development need to be held accountable for their false and misleading advice.

As PAC members, you cannot and must not ignore sleep disturbance and cumulative sleep deprivation as a serious issue in considering this development. If you approve this development, with these conditions, it is inevitable that serious and predictable harm to the health of members of the Collector community will result.

Documents for reading by the PAC Commissioners 

Wind Turbine Noise Impact surveys & case series  

Surveys relating to Cullerin, NSW (Repower 2MW turbines on ridge) (the 2012 survey was given to the PAC members hearing the Bodangora wind development matter)

Surveys/case series relating to Waterloo, SA (VESTAS V 90 3 MW turbines on ridge)

Survey relating to Macarthur, Victoria (VESTAS V 112 3 MW turbines on flat land)

Case Series at two Victorian wind developments, by Dr Bob Thorne, psychoacoustician

submitted to the Federal Senate inquiry, and the only study in Australia which combined acoustic measurements with health data, confirming an adverse effect on sleep quality, mental health and health related quality of life 

Details of peer reviewed published studies  

Two peer reviewed published studies from 2011 and 2012 confirming adverse health effects, which the PAC Bodangora report said Professor Wayne Smith and Dr Jeremy McAnulty told PAC members did not exist in August 2013 

Shepherd, D et al published in Noise & Health October 2011

Nissenbaum, M et al published in Noise and Health October 2012

Waubra Foundation CEO’s statement of evidence to the Cherry Tree VCAT hearing, given to the PAC members hearing the Bodangora Wind Development matter. It contains details of much of the relevant acoustic and clinical research up until February 2013 

Ontario’s University of Waterloo study – key findings from poster released October, 2013 

Other relevant material related to the NHMRC / Health departments 

Critiques of the NHMRC’s Rapid Review of 2010 (NHMRC document was also relied upon by NSW Health to support their inference to the PAC that there is no problem) 

2004 En Health document, published by the Federal Health department, since shelved

“The health effects of environmental noise – other than hearing loss” 

Witness statements from the Cherry Tree case in Victoria, October 2013 

Maria Linke (lives 5km away and cannot see the turbines, sleep disturbed since turbines started operating but fine when away from home. Children and husband also affected) 

Jan Hetherington (lives 3km away, no symptoms or sensations when away from home)

Andrew Gardner (lives 1.8km away, pressure bolts correlate directly 86% of the time with peaks of pressure measured by acoustician Les Huson) 

Les Huson’s expert opinion (extract from evidence given for Cherry Tree, 24th October, 2013) 

Sleep & Health related journal papers, and letter/testimony  

Professor Capuccio’s meta analysis 

Two articles in recent Medical Journal of Australia 

Mansfield, Hillman, Antic, McEvoy, Rajaratnam “Sleep loss and sleep disordersMJA 199 (Supplement) 21 October, 2013 S5 – 6

Hillman, Lack “Public Health Implications of Sleep Loss: the community burden” MJA 199 (Supplement) 21 October, 2013 S 7 – 10 

US Psychiatrist Dr William Hallstein’s letter to the Falmouth Board of Health 

US Family Physician Dr Sandy Reider’s testimony to the Vermont State legislature 

Kelley research from the USA in the 1980’s and relevant media articles

The Kelley research and its importance was referred to repeatedly by the Waubra foundation CEO in an oral presentation, and the 1985 Kelley major research document was also provided to the PAC panel members hearing the Bodangora wind development matter. 

Background information:

Kelley et al 1985 Field Survey Report

Kelley 1987 Laboratory Research, presented at American Wind Energy Association conference in 1987, California

Media articles, confirming the relevance of the research to modern upwind bladed wind turbines 

Letters critical of the 2013 Victorian Health department report

(the report was relied on by NSW Health, and it essentially denied that infrasound from wind turbines was of any concern. Both letters below were given to the PAC members on the Bodangora panel by the Waubra Foundation. 

Victorian Health Department Report 

Professor Alec Salt, neurophysiologist world leader in exploring the physiological effects of infrasound on the mammalian ear 

Emeritus Professor Colin Hansen, mechanical engineer and expert in the effects of low frequency noise from Australia, ARC grant recipient to measure wind turbine noise

Critiques of hypothesis on “suggestibility” or “the nocebo effect”  

Professional ethical issues for medical practitioners and acousticians – speech to Human Rights conference in Falmouth October 2013

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