Suggestions on how to challenge noise issues from wind turbines.
By Emyr Griffiths.
I must inform you that I am not a qualified acoustician, nor an environmental health expert, but I will try to give you some suggestions to help you tackle this issue.
If you would like to find out more about Low Frequency Noise (LFN), please visit the following links on our web site:
I have researched wind turbine noise issues for over 8 years since my wife and I experienced low frequency wind turbine noise.
My wife and I live near Talley, Carmarthenshire. Our nearest sizeable wind farm is over 8 miles away - Alltwalis wind farm - which was commissioned in Sept 2009. My wife started hearing unexplained LFN in Dec 2006. It took us 2 years to realise that she started hearing LFN after a wind farm was commissioned 25 miles from our home. Further observations over a number of years support our hypothesis that the distant wind farm was the source of the LFN my wife could hear during that time. Rather than repeat the whole story here, please go to the following link on The Mynydd LLansadwrn Action Group web site where you can read our story:
S ome people are very sensitive to LFN - I'm much less sensitive than my wife. I only started hearing LFN for the first time in Dec 2013. Since then I've been able to hear it much of the time. It tends to be more noticeable indoors because:
1) The building walls filter out the louder higher frequency noises which can mask the LFN
2) The building walls resonate and amplify certain low frequencies, which are dependant on the building dimensions and fabric structure.
Last year I believe the more intense LFN made my wife ill for over 1 month with symptoms identical to vertigo and travel sickness. The doctor diagnosed labyrinthitis even though we told him we suspected that exposure to LFN was probably the cause of the illness. We are also confident, due to prevailing wind direction at the time, that Alltwalis wind farm near Pencader was the source of the offending LFN during that period - over 8 miles from our once very home rural home.
What is the compliance standard for wind turbines re noise levels?
The wind industry has known about the health problems attributed to exposure to low frequency noise since before 1987 but they continue to deny a correlation - very much the same tactic employed by the tobacco industry years ago when researchers reported that many lung cancer incidents may be attributed to smoking. The governments also know about the health problems associated with LFN and they continue to deny any knowledge, nor will they commission an independent study.
The wind farms only have to comply with the ETSU-R97 noise guidelines which were drawn up in collusion between the UK govt & the wind industry representatives in 1997 when wind turbines were much smaller. In a nutshell, the guidelines ensure that noise compliance is stacked heavily in favour of wind farm developments.
The ETSU-R97 guidelines only require developers to:
1) Measure A-weighted noise. The bulk of noise emissions produced by modern wind turbines are below 10 Hz in frequency. Employing A-weighted measurements filters out the vast majority of the low frequency component of wind farm noise which enables wind farms to comply with the ETSU-R97 guidelines - i.e. the noise guidelines are a political fix to ensure wind farms can get built.
2) Measure noise outside a property close to a proposed wind farm development. It ignores the fact that a house can resonate and amplify low frequencies indoors (much like placing a vibrating tuning fork on a piano, which amplifies the vibrations of the tuning fork)
3) ETSU R-97 also assumes a lower noise level indoors due to attenuation (reduction in noise levels by walls, windows and doors). Low frequency noise, however, passes easily through walls, etc.
What actions could you take if you are affected by wind turbines noise?
1) Try to ‘buy’ time so you can gather evidence
2) Establish your rights:
Look at your council’s web site to see if the Environmental Health Dept. have stated their policy online. I do believe that your County Council have a duty of care to protect people's health when considering planning applications.
For example see Carmarthenshire CC's (CCC) web site on their "Environmental Health" page:
I quote the opening line on their site:
"We're here to protect the public's health and improve the general quality of life."
3) Try to get advice from an independent Environmental Health professional who should be knowledgeable on the laws governing noise pollution and should know your rights and the best steps to take to try and stop the noise pollution. Acousticians who produce noise surveys for wind farm developers are also under a duty of care to safeguard the health of people when making their recommendations. I think most acousticians have no idea how seriously long term exposure to irritating audible and inaudible noise can adversely affect people's health.
4) You need to remind the council’s Environmental Health and Planning Department’s of their legal responsibilities to protect residents' health when considering planning applications.
5) Establish the noise levels:
You can take private legal action against a noise polluter, even if the noise problem complies with current regulations (ETSU-R97 for wind turbine developments). An environmental health expert should be able to advise you on this matter.
6. Record the noise:
* Ask your council to monitor the noise in your home. If your council does not have the necessary equipment to monitor the noise problem in your home you should try to get them to postpone all wind turbine applications that may affect you and your neighbours until a noise assessment has been carried out. I do believe that cumulative impact on noise problems is a planning issue.
* If you can find an independent acoustician with suitable equipment to monitor your noise complaint - including noise in the low frequency spectrum - you should contact your council and suggest that they pay for the cost of conducting the cost of the noise monitoring. They may not agree due to tight budget constraints. An independent environmental health consultant should be able to advise you on what can be done and paid for by 3rd parties.
* If you can get the noise complaint monitored I would insist on getting a copy of the data so you can get it assessed by another independent expert if necessary.
* Consider using an App to record the noise e.g. record the sound via a mobile phone and view the sound as a spectrogram - a sound picture.
Who can help?
1) Register your experiences and concerns with your AMs. MP and MEP as we have done and try to press for action on your behalf
2) Register your health problems with your GP and inform your MP, AM and MEP of your experiences.
3) Here are some links which might help you in if you are in Carmarthenshire. I expect there will be similar resources on your Council’s web site.
Carms CC Noise pollution link:
Online noise complaint form:
4) If you get no success from the council, there are 2 more sites where you can get further information and impartial advice:
The UK Noise Association is a voluntary non-charitable, non-profit making campaigning organisation.
The Noise Association is our charitable wing that carries out research and produces publications from time to time.
Noisedirect is an independent and impartial advice line for noise related issues.
Quote: “ At Noisedirect, experienced Environmental Health Practitioners will listen carefully to your noise problem and provide low cost, fixed fee practical advice. Whether you need advice on noise nuisance, protecting amenity, workplace noise, preventing noise problems from arising, or are the recipient of complaints of unreasonable noise; our unbiased advisers can help. ”