RUMFORD – Panelists at a wind energy forum Wednesday night lambasted the state for not conducting more studies on the potential impact of wind farms and Dr. Dora Ann Mills, the state’s chief medical officer, for not pursuing possible health issues related to them.
The panelists warned that wind energy would be both more expensive and result in greater pollution.
About 50 people turned out for the decidedly one-sided presentation on potential wind farm development in Rumford and other locations in Western Maine.
The forum, sponsored by the River Valley Wind Education Committee, was held about a month before Rumford and Dixfield voters will decide whether to adopt wind energy ordinances.
Panelist J Dwight, an economist from Wilton and one of the four panelists, said using electricity generated from wind turbines would likely double utility bills by 2020.
“We have enough power already,” he said.
He said later during the forum that First Wind LLC of Boston, Mass., which proposes constructing about a dozen turbines on Black Mountain and an adjacent mountain, is financially bankrupt.
“This is a company that should be scrutinized,” he said.
Dr. Albert Aniel, a local doctor, said Mills has not had a study conducted on the effects of the Mars Hill wind farm on residents there.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is not interested,” he said.
Also speaking was Robert Rand, a sound engineer from Brunswick who displayed a series of graphs showing how sound levels from turbines could affect people living at various distances from a turbine. He also played a recording of two turbines he said was made one mile from the turbines. He was eventually asked to turn off the sound when Rumford wind ordinance committee member Len Greaney asked whether people in the Mountain Valley High School auditorium would have a problem with such noise.
Rand said he has conducted studies or found studies that show how people can become highly annoyed when sounds reach 45 decibels, which is the level sanctioned by the state for nighttime sounds. During the day, the permitted level rises to 55 decibels.
Rumford resident Dan Richard asked whether it was safe to say that the panel is against wind power in general.
“This panel is not in favor of wind,” Dwight said.
Richard said about 600,000 gallons of fuel oil are used each day at the Cousins Island electrical plant.
“And look how many trucks roll in there each day,” he said.
Another man asked whether Rand had measured the level of noise coming from the NewPage mill in Rumford.
Rand said that although he has not measured it, any noise coming from mills tends to be steady, and not variable as he said wind turbines produce.
Karen Pease, a Realtor from Highland Plantation, where another wind farm is proposed, also spoke as part of the panel.
She said turbine construction would decrease the value of homes sited within two miles.
She said a study conducted in Illinois suggested that wind farm developers should guarantee property values, and turbines should be shut down if the noise level goes beyond 10 decibels above ambient sound.
Both Dixfield and Rumford residents will vote on their respective proposed wind turbine ordinances on Nov. 2.
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