FALMOUTH – Opponents of the siting of the Wind 2 turbine at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility are expressing their concern that the turbine manufacturer is changing safety guidelines to suit the project.
Malcolm Donald, whose home sits approximately 1,250 feet from Wind 2, claims that Vestas, the manufacturer of the turbine, is removing its “stay clear” distance from its safety manual after residents discovered that both Route 28 and a number of residences are in the “do not stay” area of Falmouth’s Wind 2.
“That was kind of a surprise,” said Donald, who said he and more than a dozen affected residents attended the May 9 meeting of the Falmouth Board of Health where the issue was discussed.
According to Donald, the safety manual of the manufacturer stipulates a “stay clear” perimeter of 1,300 feet around its turbines. That puts a number of homes within that perimeter as well as Route 28.
“They [the homes and roadway] will be subject to ‘ice throw’ and ‘blade throw’,” said Donald, referring to conditions which could occur if the turbines fail to work properly.
Wind 2 is built but is not yet operational. Wind 1 is operational but is shut down at high wind speeds because of neighbors’ concerns regarding noise and other issues. Wind 1 is also the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by six Falmouth residents.
Colin Murphy, a resident of Blacksmith Shop Road, also attended the meeting. He said word of a possible rewrite struck him as curious and he wants more information.
“I’m not saying they’re doing the wrong thing but I am saying it sounds fishy,” said Murphy. “Wouldn’t you set the parameters before you built something? It seems like they’re doing it backwards.”
Falmouth Board of Health Chairwoman Gail Harkness said new board member Stephen Rafferty brought the matter to the board’s attention during a general discussion about the turbines. Each board member, she said, has been tasked with finding out information about turbines as the board studies their possible health effects on residents.
“We’re trying to gather information at this point and take some proactive steps to help these people,” Harkness said.
Rafferty, an engineer, said the issue was first raised when abutters provided him with two documents regarding the Vestas safety guidelines. One of those documents did not mention Falmouth but the other had the town’s name in the heading. Rafferty said he does not know how residents got those documents.
Rafferty told the abutters he would look into the matter and forwarded the documents to Falmouth Wastewater Superintendent Gerald Potamis, who heads the project. According to Rafferty, Potamis responded that he was aware of the documents and that what residents had was a generic operations and safety manual, one which Vestas needed to update.
“I don’t know where Vestas is in that process,” added Rafferty.
Rafferty emphasized that he is still researching the issue but did say it is not uncommon for engineers to receive generic safety manuals and then receive more specific manuals targeted to a specific situation. He also said the documents provided are not the full manual.
“I don’t have the context of the entire manual,” he said.
Rafferty echoed Harkness’ comment that the board’s role is specifically the health effects, if any, of wind turbines. “We’re just trying to evaluate, under the board of health’s authority, whether or not there is a violation or a public health concern,” Rafferty said. “We’re just trying to gather some information and get our hands around it.”
Called at his office Tuesday morning as the Falmouth Bulletin went to press, Potamis could not be reached for comment.
Aili Jokela, a U.S. spokeswoman for Vestas, said the company routinely updates documents throughout its worldwide operations. It shares that updated documentation with its customers when it becomes available. At this time, Jokela said, there are no new document updates for the company’s Falmouth customers.
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