We represent a group of Brewster residents who have been educating ourselves about the many facets of wind turbines: public welfare, property values, safety and maintenance. We have also been learning about how the town has been shepherding the plan, while marginalizing the people who raise concerns, and ignoring credible evidence of problems with wind power.
It is critical for the voices of the people to be heard at the Jan. 12 planning board meeting.
There are fundamental values involved. Cape Cod is a unique environment; people come here to live and visit to enjoy its unique environment and natural beauty. This is the part of enjoyment of life that the Brewster Planning Board was charged with protecting.
Our specific concerns are the following:
Sound: The larger the turbine blade (diameter of 290 feet, with a sweep of 1.5 acres), the louder the low-frequency sound as the aerodynamic pressure changes. Pulsations are not something you get used to. Although the reported increase in turbine sound over ambient sound seems small (3-5decibels), it is a distinct sound and stands out. Medical and peer-reviewed studies demonstrate health problems such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression and other symptoms can arise from noise intrusion.
Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, a specialist in diagnostic imaging and the effect of sound on human tissue, has evidence that people as far away as 3,500 feet can be affected, depending on conditions. Other physicians have noted effects up to 7,000 feet away. The people most affected by noise are young children, people over the age of 55, and those with chronic health conditions (hence the concern about the Woodlands Assisted Living Center).
Safety: There are business and municipal workers very near the fall zone, the setback equal to the height of the tower. (Brewster’s recommended setback is less than commonly accepted.) Accidents happen; fires can be generated, and lightning can strike turbines.
The distracting shadow flicker/strobe effects can affect drivers on Route 6. To date, no emergency response plan has been produced; alarmingly, none has been asked for by the water quality review committee, the conservation commission, the planning board or the Cape Cod Commission.
* Risk to watershed: See above. Commerce Park is on a Zone II recharge area, and is part of the Pleasant Bay Watershed, which includes Harwich and Orleans. There is a good reason the Brewster Water Department does not allow its trucks to be serviced on site, fearing oil or gas spillage. The 75-plus gallons of petrochemicals within each industrial turbine seem potentially a lot more damaging, given the required quarterly maintenance.
* Property values: Would you want to purchase a house within a mile of two 41-story turbines, in a neighborhood where residents are complaining about noise and flicker? Part of property’s value is the enjoyment of outside leisure activities. How many golfers will continue to use the Captain’s Golf Course, a big contributor to town funds?
* Financial: There has recently been a change in the party responsible for mitigating any problems. The town of Brewster now appears to have that responsibility, rather than the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, the proposed developer. Does the town have the ability to evaluate and cover the costs?
The vision of harnessing the wind for clean and sustainable power is a seductive one, seen almost as a panacea. We seem to be in a race to get as many turbines up in as short a time as possible, to get subsidies as well as meeting state goals. A person’s quality of life comes first. We can move forward only after determining with clear and consistent evidence that there would be no significant risks.
Mitch Relin is president and Kathy Sherman and Joyce McConnell are members of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy.