Board Gets An Earful About Health Effects Of Wind Turbines
By: Diana T. Barth
The Bourne Board of Health began Wednesday what its members expect will be the long process of learning all about the health effects of living near industrial-sized wind turbines.
Chairman Kathleen M. Peterson made it clear at the outset of this week’s meeting, one held at the request of residents, that the board would not be taking any vote on the New Generation Wind LLC proposal to build turbines in Bournedale—a project that is now before the Cape Cod Commission.
Ms. Peterson indicated, however, that the board would eventually be reviewing that project, if and when it is approved by that regional body and comes before the town.
Ms. Peterson explained several times to meeting attendees that the board was not interested in anything but health and environmental issues associated with the turbines, and that it would be taking in information in small doses, so that all of the data could be understood.
She said the board would be consulting its own experts and would be listening to both sides of the proposal.
Because the residents had requested a board of health review, Ms. Peterson allowed Mirasol Drive resident J. Hendrick Leuke, a project abutter and spokesman for the neighbors opposing the project, to speak first at Wednesday’s meeting.
Mr. Leuke began by outlining the project, which would involve siting seven large wind turbines on 420 acres in Bournedale. He then presented a slide show prepared by Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. He had made a similar presentation to the members of the Cape Cod Commission subcommittee who had already held two evening meetings in Bourne to collect testimony in regard to the turbines and to the Bourne Board of Selectmen.
That presentation offered conclusions based on studies collected from various sources, many online, concerning noise, particularly low frequency and ultrasound, and shadow flicker, which is the effect caused by sunlight shining through rotating blades.
In his presentation, Mr. Leuke linked the sound made by wind turbines to both annoyance and sleep deprivation and then cited the World Health Organization’s conclusions on the health effects of that deprivation. He also cited the Buzzards Bay Water District’s decision not to release any project land from its current designation as a potential water supply area.
Board of health member Galon L. (Skip) Barlow told Mr. Leuke that the board would need to see the actual studies, rather than the group’s conclusions, before making any future decisions.
New Generation Wind consultant John Lipman of Lipman Development Strategies did not attempt to refute the neighbors’ presentation, given that the project is not as yet before the board or the town, but did say that the project proponents would be presenting scientific information to the Cape Cod Commission subcommittee at its meeting on Monday.
He did, however, outline the process for the board, one that would allow the commission to impose conditions or request changes to the project, if approved, before sending it to the town. The planning board would then be able to, in turn, review the project under the town’s wind energy conversion bylaw passed in 2007 and amended at last May’s Town Meeting.
That bylaw would, for example, require that a turbine whose noise exceeded 10 decibels above the neighborhood’s ambient noise level be shut off until the noise problem could be corrected, Mr. Lipman said.
Chairman Peterson, however, told him, in turn, that they would be reviewing different aspects of a turbine project than those considered by other town boards.
She asked Mr. Lipman if he knew whether a wind turbine project could be reviewed by the board of health under the site assignment process used in locating a power plant, such as the Mirant Canal Plant in Sandwich. Project proponent Tudor G. (Jerry) Ingersoll said the wind turbine project fell well below the energy threshold for such a review.
Mr. Barlow noted during the meeting that the board of health currently had no wind turbine standards but said that it would, before the end of its consideration of the question.
Neighbors of the project, who packed the town hall’s downstairs conference room, expressed their concerns over the possible effects of the turbines, with a Pilgrim Pines resident objecting particularly to siting large turbines near to the brand-new Bournedale Elementary School. Several residents from other towns also spoke.
The board of health heard from Falmouth resident Barry A. Funfar, whose Ridgeview Drive home is located next to a turbine that is 397 feet from base to blade-top, shorter than the 492-feet turbines proposed in Bournedale.
A Vietnam War veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Funfar said that the turbine turned his garden into a “torture zone.” He commended Bourne’s board of health for weighing in on the issue early, something he said Falmouth’s health board did not do.
Falmouth resident Neil P. Andersen invited Bourne residents to visit his 211 Blacksmith Shop Road property and hear the Falmouth turbine, one that a Bourne resident said sounded like a jet airplane.
Another Bourne resident who works in Falmouth commented that he could, at times, feel the effect of that turbine from inside the building in which he works.
Sandwich resident Charles W. Kleekamp, a retired professional engineer, rose to ask that the board consider working with an objective noise standard, one measured by a decibel level, rather than a subjective standard, such as annoyance. He told the board, by way of example, that voters at Sandwich Town Meeting heard a proposal to change noise standards in that town proposed by homeowners who were annoyed by the sound of wind chimes and the waving of their neighbor’s flag.
The next review of the project is Monday’s commission subcommittee meeting, set for 6 PM in the Bourne High School library.
The board of health will be considering all of the material submitted by the residents and will next be discussing the issue at its second meeting in January.
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