Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gas Plant Blows Up: Crows Blamed

One of the gas plants near Port Campbell and the Great Ocean Road "blew up" yet again today (approx 8.30am 19 November 2012). Though there are four gas plants in this part of south-west Victoria near the 12 Apostles there is every chance it was the Origin gas plant that 'exploded'. 

The diabolical roar and shooting flames looked remarkably similar to the other explosions of sound and the towering flame that is a regular occurrence at the Origin (formerly Woodside) plant.

Just last week (13 November 2012) a similar explosion happened and for the first time one of the spokes people from Origin decided to put a little spin on the 'explosion'. An Origin staffer wrote to us to try and explain the flaming roar that could be heard for many kilometres: "caused by a crow coming into contact with the main power source where it enters the gas plant and shorting out the circuit," they wrote.

What is laughably remarkable about this is that there is no admission from Origin about accepting responsibility for 'blowing' up this rural area. Pushed on this matter Origin would doubtlessly blame events over which they have no control and for which they could never have planned.

Though they might not publicly talk about that either because such an admission will raise the point about what other potentially far more catastrophic events has Origin not accounted for? 

it is now nine months since the EPA met with residents concerned about the life-wrecking noise coming from the Origin plant and still they have done nothing. The EPA are becoming much like the Corangamite Shire - on the issue of gas plant noise the shire has long been devoid of ideas and leadership.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ill wind blows a headache

The article below  is about rural noise from wind farms but subsitute the words 'wind farms' with 'gas plants' and it could equally apply to the Origin gas plant and others near the Great Ocean Road and Port Campbell in south-west Victoria.  

Indeed, this paragraph, taken from the article, succinctly sums up a lot of what is happening during the gasification of Victoria's south-west: "The debate . . . has been polarised by ideology and is characterised by mistrust. And bubbling away in the background, as collateral damage, has been a good deal of rural misery, including claims that . . . noise . . .  is having a debilitating effect on those who live nearby.

  • From:The Australian
  • November 03, 201212:00AM
Wind turbines
Increasingly, questions are being asked about the viability of wind energy. Picture: Stuart Mcevoy Source: The Australian

WHEN wind farm developers knocked on David Mortimer's door offering good money to use part of his marginal South Australian cattle property to host two wind-turbine towers, he was both flattered and eager to accept.

"We were very much in favour of it," Mortimer tells Inquirer. "In fact we were surprised we were going to get paid because we thought we were doing our thing for green energy and the world."
Sixteen years later, Mortimer wishes he had never answered big wind's call and says he would happily give up the money if his new neighbours would pack up their machines and go away.

Mortimer's dilemma - and the fact he has become Australia's first wind-turbine host to turn whistleblower on the potential health impacts of living near wind farms - contains a serious warning for Australia as it prepares to recommit to a target of more than 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Research group RepuTex estimates more than 11,000 megawatts of renewable capacity will be required in the next seven years to meet the renewable energy target, and more than 80 per cent of it will come from wind.

Australia's renewables push comes despite growing concern worldwide about high-cost subsidies and rising electricity prices.

Germany is pushing ahead with new coal-fired electricity plants to replace nuclear, as political and public concern over the cost of electricity escalates. Britain's once-green Conservative-led government is in open revolt over wind. New British Energy Minister John Hayes this week ordered a new analysis of the case for onshore wind power as costs rise and opposition grows. Declaring "enough is enough", he said the great wind rollout had been based on "a bourgeois-Left article of faith based on some academic perspective".

As in Australia, despite industry claims of widespread community acceptance, questions are being asked about wind energy's cost, efficiency and aesthetic.The debate about wind has been polarised by ideology and is characterised by mistrust. And bubbling away in the background, as collateral damage, has been a good deal of rural misery, including claims that low-frequency noise from wind turbines is having a debilitating effect on those who live nearby.

Low-frequency noise is not unique to wind turbines, and the effect it can have on quality of life is well documented by the World Health Organisation, but there has been a deep reluctance by wind companies to release the information that would allow independent assessment of the acoustic impact of the turbines they are operating.

Submissions closed yesterday for a federal Senate committee inquiry into legislation that would make public wind-speed, noise and operational data held by wind-farm operators. Under the legislation, proposed by senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon, if a wind farm generated excessive noise, it would not receive renewable energy certificates, which is how wind farms make their money. There is no guarantee the Senate inquiry will recommend the legislation.

The wind industry lobby group, the Clean Energy Council, says Australia already has some of the toughest wind-farm guidelines in the world in relation to noise. A previous Senate inquiry recommendation that urgent, independent studies be done into the possible health effects of living near wind turbines has yet to be acted upon.

Supporters cite reviews, many of them wind-industry sponsored, to dismiss claims of health effects. Others say none of the literature reviewed has been of studies of people living near large operating wind turbines. Simon Chapman, professor in public health at the University of Sydney, has argued that claims about health effects is a classic case of psychogenic illness, a "communicated" disease spread by anti-wind interest groups.

Chapman, a long-standing anti-smoking campaigner, is an aggressive advocate of wind energy, and equates complaints about wind turbines to early fears about microwave ovens, televisions and computer screens.

In an opinion article published in New Scientist, Chapman ridiculed complaints and said in a 35-year career in public health he had never encountered anything quite so apocalyptic.
Chapman's comments have infuriated those people pushing for proper research into what is causing people who live near wind turbines to complain.

Just as Chapman accuses anti-wind farm campaigners of exaggerating claims of ill health, others say the denial of a problem by the wind industry and people like Chapman is victimising the complainants and worsening their condition.

Mortimer has an open mind on what is behind the head-pounding and other symptoms that he says started shortly after the turbines arrived, and disappear when he leaves town for respite.
"I am still not saying categorically that it is the wind turbines that are causing my problems," Mortimer says. "But rather than take it seriously and try to find out, we have got Simon Chapman making absolutely scathing remarks and putting blogs on the internet on all the problems."
Wind company Infigen, which operates the wind turbines near Mortimer, says he has yet to make a formal complaint.

According to the company's investor relations manager, Richard Farrell: "The experts have found no credible evidence that directly links wind farms to adverse health. Evidence cited to support such claims is anecdotal."

Mortimer, who is fighting to stop more turbines being built near the home he relocated to - in part to get way from the initial wind farm development - says he does not blame Infigen for not wanting to believe him.

To support claims about health effects, Waubra Foundation chief executive Sarah Laurie cites peer-reviewed published work of Daniel Shepherd which, she says, provides "incontrovertible evidence of sleep disturbance and adverse impacts on health".

Chapman declined to discuss Shepherd's work but said he would write about it on his blog.
Laurie also accuses Chapman of failing to include "the most important literature review detailing the peer-reviewed published research on the then known adverse health impacts of low-frequency noise on human health" when he oversaw the National Health and Medical Research Council's "rapid review" of wind turbines and health in 2010.

Laurie says Chapman's co-reviewer in the NHMRC report, Geoff Leventhall, was the lead author of work published in 2003 that linked low-frequency noise and health effects.
Laurie is not alone.

Environmental scientist and acoustics expert Bob Thorne has submitted for peer review and publication the results of a scientific survey of people living near two Australian wind farms. Thorne's results show wind-farm noise and wind turbine-generated air-pressure variations can cause serious harm to health.

Acoustic engineer Steven Cooper says he is convinced "there has been a significant injustice done to the people of rural Australia". "I am not an anti-wind farm advocate, I am an acoustic engineer," he says. "And if you can operate the wind farms without creating a noise disturbance, or sleep effect, or health impact, there would be no objection."

Cooper says there are reasons why the siting and monitoring of wind turbines requires close attention in regional areas, because of the low levels of background noise at night. All industrial noise guidelines include the concept of background noise and are based on the understanding that if the noise source exceeds the background level by 5dB(A) (decibels) then the noise will be "noticeable".
If it exceeds that level by more than 5dB(A) then the noise source will be "annoying" for a significant number of people exposed to it.

The term "annoyance" has a specific meaning in acoustics and includes adverse health effects, both physiological and psychological, including sleep disturbance, sleep deprivation, anxiety and stress.
Cooper says limiting noise levels to 5dB(A) above background levels is a general acoustic principle directed at preventing "annoyance" arising in a number of contexts - industrial noise, aircraft noise and road noise, for example - but he suspects some wind turbines have been able to operate well outside this guideline. This is because the wind-farm noise guidelines used in Australia rely on the assumption that increasing wind speed leads to increasing background noise, which will "mask" noise from wind turbines.

Cooper says his research shows this is not always true, particularly where turbines are located on hills and ridges elevated well above the rural homes below, and developers claiming to be concerned about noise nuisance from their turbines should be ready to support uniform national legislation protecting both parties' interests.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh says it would make no sense to introduce an arbitrary federal requirement that was at odds with state planning systems for wind farms. "It would set a dangerous precedent that could potentially affect all industries that operate under the planning system."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Senate Submission from the Great Ocean Road

3 November 2012

Massive noise from the gas plants near Port Campbell and the Great Ocean Road this morning. The EPA have a phone number they would like people to use to advise them of pollution, like when we are forced to experience what we call another gassing; toxic noise from the co-located Origin and TRU energy gas plants.

We've reported to the EPA number as other affected residents have but nothing ever happens. Some of these affected locals met with the EPA in February 2012 to discuss ways to make the gas plants accountable for their noise. Nothing has ever happened.

When will the EPA and the Corangamite Shire act to protect  people being affected by this industry which, given it regulates itself, is essentially unregulated since the EPA has no presence in south-west Victoria and the Corangamite Shire is impotent and devoid of ideas?

Perhaps the Australian Senate will hear, or at the very least read and take note, our recent submission to them on rural noise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

City of Lights on Great Ocean Road

The total darkness of rural nights can overwhelm some overseas visitors to Australia. Many, especially those used to big Asian cities, can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable on nights when the stars and the moon are hidden by clouds and the world is dominated by a cloak of black rather than a sheen of neon.

Some visitors might then consider it fortunate that an industrial glow lights the night sky near the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. The lights and flame from the gas plants near Port Campbell would almost certainly be mistaken as a city by some visitors unfamiliar with the coast. Some though might even think the city was burning thanks to the red glow of the flame which lights up the night sky.

The Origin plant (left): picture taken inland from the ocean road
But as far as I know there have been no recent phone calls to the local CFA to report a fire. There have however been plenty of calls to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) about the toxic gas plant noise. One fella tells me he logged at least 70 phone calls with the EPA. When one gas plant operator, Origin, tabled the number of complaints about noise at a recent community meeting they allegedly suggested just one noise complaint (in a three month period) had been received.

The numbers, like polluting the night sky of one of Australia's most popular tourist coasts, don't make sense - no matter where you might come from.

I have since been told by a fella who wants to remain anonymous - he's worried the gas plants my not use his services if he is critical of them - that people have  reported fires that turn out to be the gas plant flame. The flame that can be seen is supposedly the emergency flame. There is a device which allows for a flame to operate nearer ground level (and would be much less visible - but it's probably not working correctly and so isn't used). The Origin gas plant was first owned by Woodside and it has been plagued by operating problems since first commissioned some five years ago.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yet Another Explosion at Origin Gas Plant: More EPA Inaction

Below is a copy of an email sent to the EPA following yet another explosion from
the Origin gas plant at Port Campbell, near the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles

Dear EPA,

The Origin gas plant has exploded (1.50pm 27 September) yet again - I wonder how many times this happened without Origin being held to account in the two months we were away.

Also, as directed by the EPA we called the pollution line last week when the noise was a constant for more than 24 hours.

We asked for someone from the EPA to get in touch with us to advise on what action would be taken following our complaint

Not surprisingly we haven't heard from anyone at the EPA.

us and us

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Reminder to the EPA

In August (2012) the EPA announced in a strategic plan that finally it was finally going to take the toxic noise produced by the gas plants near the 12 Apostles seriously. This gave us hope that the EPA might actually start fulfilling their charter and actually begin to do something in regard to policing the industrial noise in south-west Victoria.

It's the middle of September (2012) and not surprisingly we are almost certain nothing yet has happened in this regard. So below is a reminder about some readings that were taken more than three years ago, before Origin bough the troubled Woodside gas plant.

Woodside Readings from Sat 31 Jan 2009

LEQ average: 51.7dBA
L90 average: 40.8dBA

Sun 1 Feb:

LEQ average: 48.3dBA
L90: 40.8dBA

Of course, nothing has ever come of this or anything else


Mr and Mrs Rogered

Note: the gas plant is only licensed to emit 35db of noise. Noise is not a linear measurment and the above readings are more than double the licence limit. The EPA of course did not act on these readings

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Street Talk

The EPA might be finally starting to take our claims about noise seriously if articles at the Standard and the ABC are any indication. But it's still talk on the EPA's behalf and we can only wonder how long these compliance plans will actually take to implement (my family and other concerned residents met with the EPA in February 2012 and nothing yet, not one second of noise monitoring, has happened).

Talk in some respects however can be good. Over the past few months we have received  emails and phone calls and street talk from locals who appear increasingly disaffected by Origin Energy (and other gas plants) and the gasification of the south-west coast. And that is from what is happening onshore.

Origin has plans to explore more of the Southern Ocean for gas reserves. One can only wonder if they will ever stop to consider the fisherman from Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and Warrnambool who will be again affected by their planned seismic booms. Doubtless the fisher folk will, if they haven't already, join an increasingly long line of disaffected south-west coast residents.