Health Board Commits To Drafting Turbine Regulations
By: Diana T. Barth
Bourne is going to have a set of health regulations governing wind turbines, board of health members said yesterday.
For most of last night’s four-hour meeting, health board members listened to conflicting information regarding the impacts of living near those turbines.
The testimony, provided by both the proponents and opponents of the New Generation Wind project in Bournedale, left board members, they said, with more information than they were capable of processing, on “information overload.”
For example, proponents of the project—seven large turbines on more than 400 acres—told the board that there are no harmful health effects generated by wind turbine noise, although, they said, there were always some people who found some sounds annoying.
Opponents then argued that the effects of infrasound, or low frequency noise, and other effects needed further study; sleep deprivation, “stress-mediated disorders,” difficulty concentrating, and other issues leading to the loss of quality of life had been experienced by some people exposed to turbine noise.
Douglas L. Sheadel of Modeling Specialties, the proponents’ sound expert, used charts and graphs to explain complex principles such as “amplitude modulation” and described how two differing sets of internationally accepted software programs were used to model what sounds would be heard at the edges of the Bournedale property.
He was followed later by the opponents’ expert, Carl V. Phillips, PhD, an epidemiologist who argued that reports from individuals who say they suffered because of the noise—reports that some people dismissed as “anecdotal evidence”—could not be ignored.
Proponents argued that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the town’s bylaw both used the same flexible, reasonable noise standards to regulate sound, and that Bourne’s wind turbine bylaw called for shutting down a turbine if it were to be in violation of those standards.
They said they thought another, separate set of board of health regulations unnecessary.
Opponents argued that the noise standards had been first proposed in 1972 and did not take into account recent studies.
They also said that shadow flicker, the phenomenon caused when the sun shines through rotating blades, was an issue. Those proposing the wind turbine project explained, however, that shadow flicker could be mitigated and the newest turbines, like the Nordex machine they were considering, could detect conditions that would cause shadow flicker, and could, if necessary, be programmed to automatically shut down in certain circumstances.
Opponents disagreed with the reports of the New Generation Wind expert, Robert J. McCunney, who found no adverse health effects from living near turbines. Wind turbine supporters argued that Michael Nissenbaum, one of the experts on whom many opponents relied, was not able to convince a Canadian judge that he had the qualifications to testify as an expert. Neither of those two experts was present.
That disagreement, and others like it, had board member Galon L. (Skip) Barlow commenting that he did not care what some judge in Canada or some lawyer had to say.
After all of the testimony, as it neared 11 PM, board member Stanley Andrews said he, personally, had heard enough to at least conclude that wind turbines carried some health impacts. He said the board should craft a set of reasonable regulations for them.
The standing-room-only audience that packed the Jonathan Bourne Library’s community room reacted well to that statement.
One audience member stood up to say that she hoped that any regulations the board created would allow a mechanism to address a problem if it affected even one person. She did not want to see the complaints of the two or three percent of the population who are affected by wind turbine noise to be ignored.
Many of the audience members belong to Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, a group of more than 100 who, he said, were the “sleeping giant that this project awoke.”
Quite a few audience members had come from Falmouth, where residents are having problems with the turbines in their neighborhoods.
Project proponents differentiated their newer, more modern turbines from those in Falmouth, and commented that no process had worked to mitigate any potential problems in advance; that the problems that occurred in that town’s machines had to be addressed after the turbines had been erected.
Mr. Barlow said the board should start by discussing appropriate setbacks, since many problems might be alleviated by distance, a suggestion that solicited audience applause.
Setbacks, more commonly a zoning issue, were set aside in favor of beginning with noise, or sound, regulation.
That discussion will begin on Wednesday, February 23.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.