The latest confrontation between town officials and neighbors of Falmouth’s controversial wind turbines came at a Board of Health meeting Monday night, when residents packed the room to air their frustration with the machines, and with a report recently issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Released by a panel of experts—including doctors, engineers, and scientists specializing in noise and other related areas—the MassDEP report admits the possibility of a link between turbine noise and sleep disturbance, but stops short of linking the machines to other health issues such as cardiovascular disease, headaches, and hearing impairment.
Opponents argue that the panel was overly dismissive of what little scientific evidence exists on the subject. In a letter to the board, Todd Drummey, an outspoken critic of Falmouth’s turbines and neighbor of Wind 1, criticized the panel’s approach.
“The DEP report spent a great deal of time critiquing the merits of the relatively few epidemiological studies which have been performed,” Drummey wrote. “Of the studies directly related to wind turbine effects, all of the studies conclude that there are problems when turbines are placed too close to residences.”
Some in attendance urged the board to initiate its own rigorous epidemiological study. Falmouth is unlikely to take the lead on such a study, however, for several reasons. The cost would be prohibitive, with board member Jared Goldstone estimating the price tag for a truly exhaustive study at $1 million or more.
Also, as board member Stephen Rafferty pointed out, the ideal study would begin before turbines were installed, allowing the potentially affected subjects to act as their own control group, establishing a baseline against which to measure the turbines’ health effects. Any comprehensive epidemiological study would therefore likely come from the state level.
Residents called on the board to act on the limited findings of the report, arguing that sleep disruption and annoyance should be concerning enough for a town body charged with protecting the health of residents.
Turbine neighbor Kathryn Elder said, “Some common sense and a moral compass are all we need from you.”
Lin Whitehead, who does not live near a turbine, but who has followed the issue closely, echoed the opinion that an epidemiological study was unnecessary in the face of the avalanche of complaints from residents.
“If one person calls you a horse, that’s their opinion,” Whitehead said. “Two people, it’s a conspiracy. If three people call you a horse, you better buy a saddle. There’s more than three people here. There’s a huge community of people whose lives have been changed because of these turbines. It’s time to buy the saddle.”
The state will be accepting feedback on wind energy until March 19, including via email, at WindTurbineDocket.MassDEP@MassMail.State.MA.US. Three public meetings will also be held in the coming weeks: in Boston, Feb. 14; in Bourne, Feb. 16; and in Lee, Feb. 28. Full schedules are available on the DEP’s website.