In the rush to develop wind projects locally let’s not brush aside issues of public health and safety.
One of these issues concerns wind turbines and setbacks. As I recall, Ripley has no established setbacks and Westfield has setbacks of 1 1/2 times turbine height or about 600 feet. This may be adequate as a fall zone in the event of a turbine collapse but it is inadequate to address hazards during routine operations. It is also out of step with what other NYS communities require, i.e. Cohocton and Duanesburg, NY setbacks are 1,500 feet, Hamlin, NY has 1,200 feet setbacks, and Lyme, NY just adopted setbacks up to 4,500 feet. Dr. Paul G. Carr, a professional engineer, has reported ice throws greater than 1,600 feet at the Maple Ridge wind facility. An article in Business Week in August 2007 cited several instances of pieces breaking off rotors and being flung several hundred feet. Interestingly, The Buffalo News (February 20, 2008) reported the City of Lackawanna was increasing the setbacks for new turbines being added to the Steel Winds facility to 2,000 feet from the highway.
Turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems cautions technicians in its “Vestas Safety Regulations for Operators and Technicians Safety Manual” on page three: “Do not stay within a radius of 400 m (1,300 ft) from the turbine unless it is necessary. If you have to inspect an operating turbine from the ground, do not stay underneath the rotor plane but observe the rotor from the front. In case of a fire during an uncontrolled operation, do not under no circumstances approach the turbine. Evacuate and rope off the turbine in a radius of a minimum of 400m (1300 ft.).” Ask yourself, if it is not safe to STAND within 1300 feet of an operating turbine, how safe can it be to LIVE there?
Some wind developers in New York are urging their prospective host communities to adopt noise ordinance restrictions at residences of 50 decibels. This contradicts research the World Health Organization (WHO) has conducted which found sound levels at night should not exceed 30 decibels to protect the health of children. Experts say young children are more sensitive to noise than adults. (Report on Second Meeting on Night Noise Guidelines, WHO, December 6-7, 2004.)
Furthermore, nighttime noise of 50 decibels (light traffic noise) or greater has been found to produce adverse health effects in adults with exposure over a long period of time. In a peer-reviewed study, the WHO found such exposure can increase the levels of stress hormones circulating in the body even if the person is asleep. Prolonged exposure has been linked to premature death from cardiac disease, as well as heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure, and problems with the immune system. (WHO Working Group on Noise Environmental Burden of Disease, December 2007.)
Attention also needs to be given to emergency response services, communications, and wind turbines. Care must be taken to locate turbines outside the signal pathways of emergency communications systems so those communications are not disrupted. I spoke with a helicopter pilot who airlifts sick and injured patients from the scene to acute care/trauma centers for treatment. I told him about the number of turbines planned for the Ripley-Westfield area and asked how that would affect their operations.
He said the turbines would definitely be a hazard. He explained that emergency management personnel would need to develop plans for getting sick/injured people out of the affected area to a location where the helicopter could safely land. He stated either a location would need to be designated where it would be safe for the helicopter to land, or the patient could be brought to Westfield Memorial Hospital and the helicopter could pick them up there if no wind turbines were located near the hospital.
These issues need to be properly addressed up front or they will come back to haunt local officials and residents.
By Edna McGinnett
22 May 2008
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