FALMOUTH – A town-sponsored study shows the 1.65-megawatt wind turbine at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility doesn’t exceed state or local noise limits, but the findings fail to appease residents who say the noise is intolerable.
The study, presented to residents and some town officials yesterday, found that noise generated by the town-owned turbine approaches but does not exceed guidelines set by the town or by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The town’s noise limit is 40 decibels; the state’s limit is 10 decibels above a given location’s level of ambient, or background, noise. In the area of the turbine, the ambient noise level averages about 29 decibels.
The study indicated some locations – including near homes on Blacksmith Shop Road, Ambleside Drive and Ridgeview Drive – “approach that 10-decibel mark” outlined by the state, said Christoper Menge, senior vice president and principal consultant for Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc. of Burlington, which conducted the study.
Even just below the state and local limits, that’s more than some residents can handle. They said the turbine brings daily strife in the form of a pulsing hum that’s similar to the sound of a jet flying overhead.
“We’re aware of it 100 percent of the time,” said Neil Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road.
Andersen said he and his wife, Elizabeth, have tried everything from noise-reducing headphones to sleeping in the basement to get away from the turbine’s hum.
They and several other neighbors commissioned their own study, which was also presented during yesterday’s meeting.
That study, completed by Noise Control Engineering Inc. of Billerica, monitored noise only at the Andersens’ house. It found that sound usually stays within acceptable levels – with a few exceptions where the sound pulsed to just above the town’s limit – but wavers up and down on the decibel scale, said Michael Bahtiarian of Noise Control Engineering.
Bahtiarian said the turbine’s pulsing noise is akin to an air conditioner that shuts off every second then immediately turns back on at a random speed, something that could be more annoying than an air conditioner running constantly.
That finding was backed by some neighbors who expressed concern at the meeting that the town didn’t understand the stress that the turbines are putting them under.
Further concerning the residents are plans for a second, identical turbine on the same parcel of land, which Harper said the town hopes to have completed by winter.
Menge said the town-commissioned study found that, when both turbines are operating, noise levels at the two homes on Ambleside Drive closest to the new turbine could exceed the state’s noise limit and could reach the limit at a third home on the road.
“We’re pushing the envelope here,” Menge said.
The homes on Ambleside Drive are slightly closer to the site of the second turbine than the homes on Blacksmith Shop Road are to the first turbine, he said.
Assistant Town Manager Heather Harper said the town is moving forward on the second turbine’s construction despite the possible noise problems but “will have to develop modifications.”
Affected residents may have to wait awhile before the turbine issue is resolved, however. Harper estimated it could take 12 to 18 months “to really determine what the impacts are and what the mitigation strategies might be” for the two turbines.
That may not be soon enough for some living in the area.
“We cannot live with the turbine,” Andersen said. “Either the turbine gets regulated quite a bit, or we move.”
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