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Wind Turbine Highlights Unifor's Hypocrisy On Noise Hazards

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The National Day of Mourning sends "a strong message to all governments of their obligation and responsibility to strongly enforce health and safety laws and regulations," says Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, formerly the CAW.

There's a "serious lack of commitment," Unifor says of the provincial government, "to enforce the health and safety protections that we have fought for," so "unfortunately, the suffering continues." One of the hazardous dangers flagged by the union on its website notice is noise.

Meanwhile, a new online petition targets Unifor for its failure to comply with provincial health and safety protections, specifically noise regulations.

Unifor owns and operates the controversial CAW Wind Turbine, located on its property in Port Elgin, Ontario on the shore of Lake Huron. The turbine began operation in 2013 to generate money for the union. At the time, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) approved the turbine on the condition that the Union would conduct noise audits within the first two years of operation and provide MOE with the results.

Now, as the turbine begins its fourth year of operation, the tests and results are, at a minimum, two years late.

140 noise complaints prompted town council to pass a motion asking the CAW to honour President Ken Lewenza's commitment to shut down the turbine if it harmed residents.

MOE knew -- as did everyone else -- how important noise monitoring would be. Unifor's turbine is located just 210 metres from the nearest home, less than half of the 550-metre distance required by provincial noise regulations. MOE approved Unifor's turbine after the union had the community's zoning changed from a rural tourist/recreational classification to city semi-urban to allow for increased noise.

To further address noise levels, the union stated that its powerful 800kw turbine would operate at just 500kw (despite reduced revenue generation) and that it would self-monitor its operation. Since its startup, Unifor and MOE have received hundreds of noise complaints, day and night, from the nearly 200 families who live within the turbine's 550-metre radius. Still, the noise testing has not been done.

Back in 2013, during the turbine's first six months of operation, 140 noise complaints prompted town council to pass a motion asking the CAW to honour President Ken Lewenza's commitment to shut down the turbine if it harmed residents. The union dismissed the request.

In the turbine's second year of operation, the district MOE office asked the union to hire an independent acoustic consultant, conduct tests to determine if the turbine is exceeding ministry standards, and provide the results to the ministry. The test results have still not been received.

In the turbine's third year of operation, town council asked Unifor and MOE to meet and discuss the community's ongoing noise problems plus documents (obtained through a Freedom of Information request) that reveal incidents where the turbine's noise exceeded government standards. Unifor declined to attend.

Unifor's turbine is now in its fourth year of operation without the required tests showing proof of compliance. Nearby residents have even tried to conduct their own professional tests. But their efforts have been thwarted by MOE guidelines that require Unifor's participation. So, the families continue to suffer from the turbine's noise. And both Unifor and MOE are well aware.

The families hope their petition will generate enough public pressure to force Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, to enforce the noise tests and result in Unifor doing them. So far, nothing else has worked.

Will the union-promoted National Day of Mourning convince the provincial government to enforce legislation that protects health and safety? If so, what will it take to convince Unifor to comply?

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