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State agrees to study Falmouth turbine noise

FALMOUTH – State officials have agreed to pay for a noise study on the Wind 1 turbine at the town’s wastewater treatment facility on Blacksmith Shop Road.

In a letter dated Sept. 8, Alicia McDevitt, state Department of Environmental Protection deputy commissioner, wrote to selectmen that DEP staff would collect data on noise created by the turbine.

“We’re hoping to begin shortly,” McDevitt said in a phone interview with the Times on Thursday.

“It’s our hope that we’d certainly be under way by the end of the month.”

At the end of July, Weston & Sampson, one of Falmouth’s consultants on the Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbine projects at the wastewater treatment facility, gave selectmen price estimates for studies on mitigating environmental effects from the windmills, including noise.

Low-frequency sound waves and other effects from the Wind 1 turbine have caused headaches, dizziness, vertigo and other health problems, nearby residents have said.

Weston & Sampson estimated a noise study would cost about $17,000. The town already faced bills for studies on decommissioning the turbines, sound-proofing neighboring houses, and other environmental mitigation options, which could cost up to $44,000, according to Weston & Sampson’s estimates.

“We were looking for the state to assist us in mitigations,” said Selectman Mary Pat Flynn, chairwoman of the board. “They came back and said, ‘We’ll do the study.'”

Selectmen voted to move forward with several other studies of mitigation options earlier this month after learning that the financial burden of the noise study had been lifted, Selectman Kevin Murphy said.

“We spent virtually the entire sum of money we had (dedicated to wind studies),” Murphy said in a phone interview with the Times on Thursday.

Todd Drummey, who lives near the Wind 1 turbine, expressed relief that the DEP, not a town consultant, was charged with conducting the noise research.

“I have more faith in the DEP than I do in the consultant that the town (hired),” Drummey said.

DEP officials hope to complete the noise study about six weeks after they begin, McDevitt said, adding the state agency must conduct tests during several different weather conditions, so the timing of the research is unpredictable.