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Clayton’s new turbine noise limit based on “invalid” sound test, acoustics expert says

CLAYTON – The town board is set to approve a new turbine noise limit next month based on an “invalid” sound demonstration, according to the acoustics expert who performed the noise test.

Charles E. Ebbing, a retired acoustic engineer, said the Town Council had already made up their minds to set the new limit at 45 dBA, in accordance with the World Health Organization’s guidelines, and refused to hear anything else he had prepared for the noise test at the council’s request.

“It was not a valid test,” Mr, Ebbing said Thursday when reached for comment. “They really, as a body, don’t know what they’re doing.”

The town proposed in September what it called a “defendable” noise limit for Clayton after Mr. Ebbing’s demonstration on Grindstone Island.

Mr. Ebbing said Clayton should adopt “rational laws” that would not be dismissed by acoustic engineers on the state’s siting panel once the state-controlled Article X kicks in.

“You’ve got to have rational laws,” Mr. Ebbing said. “You ought to be consistent with what Orleans is going to do and what Hammond adopted into law.”

The town of Hammond limits turbine noise at 45 dBA from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and at 35 dBA from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Kenneth J. Knapp, who lives near the wind overlay district, said he is generally happy with the proposed amendments but agreed that there should be a separate nighttime noise limit.

At night, 45 decibels could mean a 20-decibel jump from ambient sound levels from his house, Mr. Knapp said.

Cindy L. Grant, a Clayton resident, said although the new noise limit would force commercial wind turbines to be five decibels quieter than allowed under its existing wind law, turbine noise should be limited to five decibels above ambient level as the town’s wind committee had originally recommended.

Enforcement also could be an issue, she said, and argued that wind turbines should be shut down at night if there are noise complaints.

Mr. Taylor said the town, which held a public hearing on the issue Wednesday night, is likely to adopt the wind zoning amendments in December once the Jefferson County Planning Board reviews the document and sends back its recommendations.