Questions have been raised over the recent delivery of replacement parts for the controversial wind turbines located just over the Bourne town line in Plymouth.
Delivery of the new parts was made via Head of the Bay Road, but some folks wondered why permission to use a town road was not secured from the Bourne Board of Selectmen. Others questioned the town’s integrity at allowing delivery through the town of parts to wind turbines that the Bourne Board of Health has called “a nuisance” that interfere with public health.
Notice of the delivery was posted at the Bourne Police Department’s Facebook page, advising residents that windmill blades were being delivered between the hours of 1 AM and 4 AM on Friday last week, February 12. The vehicles making the delivery went from Route 25 East to the East Rotary in Buzzards Bay and on to Head of the Bay Road to Keith Mann’s cranberry farm, where the wind turbines are located.
Bourne police additionally cautioned people that the windmill parts being replaced would be removed via the same route, in reverse, on Tuesday, February 16, between the hours of 1 and 4 AM. Bourne Police Lieutenant John R. Stowe Jr. confirmed delivery of the turbine parts last Friday morning. The date to take away the old turbine blades was changed to Wednesday morning, Lt. Stowe said.
In July 2015, Future Generation Wind, the turbine installers, went before the Bourne Board of Selectmen seeking permission for use of town roads. Delivery of the individual parts for the four turbines involved a total of 36 vehicles, weighing upward of 280,000 pounds, with a length of 178 feet and a width of approximately 16 feet.
The selectmen took several months to work out an agreement before granting approval. The agreement included a 16-item order of conditions covering police and fire details, efforts to be taken to protect town roads, sewer lines and drainage pipes, and subsequent road inspections by town officials. A $1 million bond in the event of damage to town property was also in the agreement.
In April 2016, a transformer to power the turbines was delivered to Mr. Mann’s farm via Main Street, a town road, in direct disobedience of an agreement to use the Route 6 and 28 Bypass Road, a state road. Former Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino told the selectmen at the time that “the town will be more than skeptical in future dealings with all of the companies involved.”
This week, Judith M. Froman, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said the recent deliveries were “markedly different in scale and scope than the major deliveries in 2015.” For that reason, Ms. Froman said, there was no need to bring the matter before the board of selectmen again.
“Arrangements were appropriately made between the delivery company and the town,” she said.
The deliveries prompted criticism of town officials by people who have been opposed to the giant wind turbines since their installation. Joanne Levesque of the Buzzards Bay Citizens Action Committee wrote the selectmen and expressed indignation that the town would grant permission, “so that the facility can resume harming the health and well-being of adjacent neighbors which include many Bourne families.”
In her letter, Ms. Levesque noted that the Bourne Board of Health wrote the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and labeled the windmills “a public health nuisance” that was “deemed injurious to public health.”
“I find it outrageous that the Town of Bourne is allowing transport of turbine components (blades) which will contribute to the public health harm experienced by neighbors in both Bourne and Plymouth who live much too close to this industrial wind power plant facility,” she said.
Residents of both Plymouth and Bourne have complained for years that the turbines are too loud and that their continued operation has jeopardized public health. Members of the Buzzards Bay Citizens Action Committee have cited noise and flickering lights as disrupting residents’ health and peace of mind since the windmills went into operation.
Ms. Levesque also pointed out that in February 2020, the Plymouth Board of Health unanimously declared the wind turbines a public health nuisance. She also cited a section from the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards Legal Handbook that states that a permitted use cannot create nuisance conditions upon a neighborhood or community.
“Unfortunately, under threat of legal action by Con Ed, local boards are fearful of taking lawful action to eliminate/abate the nuisance,” she said.
The turbines were erected in 2015, in spite of opposition from residents who expressed concerns over the disruption to their lives and health. Residents pleaded with town officials, including the board of selectmen and the board of health, to take some form of action that would halt use of the wind machines.
A Barnstable Superior Court ruling dated April 8, 2016, denied a request from the Town of Bourne for a preliminary injunction prohibiting operation of the wind turbines. Judge Gary A. Nickerson ruled that, because the turbines are located in Plymouth, the Bourne Board of Health had no jurisdiction.
The ruling cited the Bourne health board’s own wind energy conversion system regulations prohibiting anyone from building such a system in Bourne unless it is in compliance with the regulations. Judge Nickerson ruled that the regulations do not authorize the board of health to regulate wind turbines in Plymouth.
However, Judge Nickerson said the Bourne health board has “broad powers to regulate and prevent nuisances that affect public health.” His ruling ended with the proviso that the board of health might have future legal recourse to combat a nuisance to the town and its residents.
At a meeting in October 2018, the Bourne health board voted unanimously to send its letter to the Plymouth board of health and the state DEP. The letter did not contest the permitting of the turbines but cited the windmills as a nuisance that interfered with residents’ abilities to live their lives.
Last March, before the state shutdown due to the pandemic, Plymouth’s health board labeled the windmills “a public nuisance.” Chairman Barry W. Potvin said the board did “extensive research on the matter including a review of documentation regarding the permitting process and associated studies of noise levels.”
Subsequently, the windmill’s owner, Consolidated Edison, has insisted that the board’s description of the windmills as “a public nuisance” be rescinded. The company has also insisted on an in-person hearing in front of the board of health to defend the windmills.
Con Edison, Mr. Potvin said, has threatened legal action if his board takes action against the turbines before such a hearing takes place. The health board cannot accommodate Con Edison’s demand due to the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Potvin said.
However, he said, “the declaration of public nuisance remains in effect.”