Complaints about wind turbine noise from the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm could find their way into the court system this year, depending on what happens in the coming weeks.
A Jan. 31 deadline for repairs to be made has passed, and Juniata Township residents still are asking for relief.
Engineer Paul Heishman of Mechanicsburg, an expert in measuring noise levels, has started a study to determine if the noise is louder than permitted by township ordinance.
Portage Township in Cambria County plans to have Heishman conduct a separate study, Supervisor Ed Decort said.
If Heishman determines the noise is excessive, Juniata officials say they will move forward with steps to enforce their ordinance.
Solicitor Michael Routch said that means sending a violation notice to owner Babcock & Brown, telling the company it has 30 days to come into compliance before the township starts imposing daily fines. If needed, the township can go to district court for help, Routch said.
Heishman told the Mirror last week that he has no target date to finish his work because progress will be influenced by weather and weather-related factors.
He also said he has to finish reviewing the noise study Babcock & Brown commissioned in late December.
That study, by Epsilon Associates, used readings collected on four consecutive days. It concluded that under the worst conditions, turbine noise does not violate the township ordinance.
Routch, who previously wrote to Babcock & Brown seeking for the noise to be addressed, advised supervisors and residents that they must wait for Heishman’s report before taking additional action.
While Routch received no written response to his letter, company personnel in January pledged to remove peeling tape from wind turbine blades, an action expected to reduce the noise. The work was to be done by Jan. 31.
‘‘We’re still living with it,’’ Todd Stull told Juniata supervisors at their recent monthly meeting.
His wife, Jill, said she has collected the names of 60 people from Juniata, Greenfield and Portage townships who object to the turbine noise or shadow flicker. Her desire, she said, is less noise.
‘‘I want them to slow down [the turbines] so I don’t hear them. … I want to be able to live with them peacefully,’’ she said.
In Greenfield Township, supervisors say they will enforce ordinance violations but will wait to learn what Heishman tells Juniata.
‘‘I need some substantial verification,’’ Greenfield supervisors Chairman Alton Ebersole told Juniata residents asking for help.
He said Greenfield residents have not filed complaints with the township, but Jill Stull said her petitions include names of 18 or 19 residents of Greenfield’s Piper Hollow.
Greenfield supervisors said they would enforce their ordinance to quiet wind turbines inside the township’s border if they are disturbing residents in a neighboring township.
‘‘The ordinance has to be enforced where there is a violation,’’ Supervisor Bill Lightner said.
Greenfield Supervisor Ed Helsel, whose property borders the Stulls, said the noise varies.
On a morning when Helsel considered it to be loud, he said he shut the window and could barely hear it.
Jill Stull, whose property is closer to turbines, said she shuts her windows and stills hears the noise.
‘‘They’re loud enough to make me wake up,’’ Todd Stull said. ‘‘This is noise pollution.’’
In 2005, Juniata, Greenfield, Portage, Washington and Cresson townships adopted identical ordinances to govern wind turbines.
Portage Township solicitor Calvin Webb said at the time that the 11-page document covered every issue that could be a problem.
Todd Stull said the ordinances don’t require an environmental impact study that would have taken topography and wind impact into account.
“If they did an environmental impact study, the [wind turbines] would be farther than 2,000 feet from my house,” he said.
By Kay Stephens
10 February 2008
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