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Massachusetts towns address turbine noise issues

Health, Human impacts, Wind turbines Add comments

A trio of towns in southeastern Massachusetts continue to address turbine noise issues in response to neighbor complaints about sleep disruption and health effects near small wind farms of three to four turbines each.  

In Falmouth, which was the first of the towns to have turbines begin operating close to homes, the affected neighbors have joined a committee charged with coming up with a set of options to present to the Selectmen, hopefully in time for the November town meeting.  

Across the bay in Fairhaven, where even more people live within a half mile or so of turbines that began operating this spring, the Board of Health has received over a hundred complaints, and asked the developer to submit a plan for how he might be able to reduce noise and flicker issues; the first response, received this week, was more focused on doubting the veracity of the complaints.  Sumul Shah, the developer, stressed that nearly two-thirds of the 132 complaints had come from either plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the town seeking to dismantle the turbines or others who had publicly voiced their opposition to the turbines before they were operational, suggesting that since some others seem to tolerate the noise, those complaining should be able to also.  Ed. note: Indeed, many nearby neighbors objected to the turbines as they were being permitted, based on the problems that had cropped up in nearby Falmouth.  The fact that some of these same people are now experiencing noise issues should not come as much of a surprise to anyone; about fifty of the complaints have come from people not involved in either effort to stop the turbines.

Board of Health member Barbara Acksen said she was appalled by Shah’s letter, saying “We were not at all pleased with the report. He should just be responding to the data and not casting aspersions on people who complain,” she said. “You can’t just say ‘Well, these people didn’t like the turbines before so their complaints don’t matter.'”  Shah says that he can’t consider mitigation options until it’s determined whether the turbines are out of compliance with state or local noise statutes; the state DEP will begin noise tests sometime in the coming month. it appears that this may become another in a series of projects in which a wind farm may operate largely or totally within its permitted noise criteria, while still causing widespread noise issues for neighbors.  This situations suggest that many noise standards may not be sufficient in communities used to peace and quiet, yet home to a moderate density of homes.

Meanwhile, in Kingston, residents continue to express dismay at turbines that began operating earlier this year.  Chris Dewitt said his heart aches at the impact these turbines have had on his family and his neighbors. He said he personally has been woken up early in the morning, around 3:30 a.m. one day and 4 a.m. the next, because of the noise of the turbines. “This is not sustainable,” he said. “Think about this decision in respect to the people.”

One of the more revealing comments I’ve seen lately about living near turbines was in a comment submitted to the paper that ran the Fairhaven story:

I live 2/3rds of a mile away from them. Not a day doesn’t go by I don’t hear them. Not 1. I say again 2/3rds of a mile away! How loud do they need to be for them to be heard at that distance – constantly? Most nights the noise isn’t loud enough to keep me awake. Sometimes it is. So it is my experience that the people who live much closer have a very very legitimate complaint. I can’t imagine living closer to them.

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