SHELBURNE FALLS – “For two years, we haven’t enjoyed our beautiful backyard, or even been able to clean it up, because of my husband’s severe pressure headaches.”
Annie Hart Cool of Falmouth blames three 492-foot wind turbines, the closest a quarter-mile from her house, for health problems she, her husband and several neighbors have experienced since the first of the turbines went up in 2010. She said her husband moved out of the master bedroom (the closest to the turbines), and “into the basement with the kitty litter” because of its effects.
Saturday night, Hart Cool, her neighbor Neil Anderson, and Dr. Nina Pierpont, who studied the effects of “wind turbine syndrome” on Hart Cool, Anderson, and several other Falmouth residents living near the turbines, shared their experiences at Memorial Hall. Neighbors of the proposed (and withdrawn) eight-turbine Mount Massaemet wind farm and others from all over the state came to hear their story.
“I’m not against wind power,” said Pierpont,a New York pediatrician who advocates that turbines be set back at least 1.25 miles from places where people live, work, or go to school. Pierpont addressed through Skype, an Internet-based video chat.
For her book, “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” which came out in 2009, Pierpont studied 38 people in 10 families living within 1.25 miles of the turbines near Malone, N.Y. In each household, at least one person, she says was affected by the syndrome. Since then, she has continued her research, including interviewing a number of the Falmouth residents whose health has suffered.
Though Pierpont sticks by her findings, and similar studies done by others, the medical community is divided over the validity of wind turbine syndrome. Pierpont says these studies were dismissed by a Wind Turbine Health Impact Study performed by an independent panel for the state’s Department of Public Health and presented earlier this month.
Pierpont says the effects – and cause – of wind turbine syndrome are clear. Participants in her study (not all were affected) reported symptoms of vertigo, nausea, severe headaches, disrupted sleep, tinnitus, blurred vision, heightened pulse, irritability, problems thinking and concentrating, and panic episodes. She said these symptoms were present when the turbines spun, but went away when the wind died down or the affected person left the area.
Pierpont said these effects are caused by pressure waves and sub-audible vibrations, both affecting the inner ear. The organs of the inner ear relay information about balance and movement to the brain.
“My doctor told me I would have to take Valium during the day and Ambien at night just to live in my own house,” Hart Cool said. She said her symptoms included “tremendous headaches” from grinding her teeth due to stress from the turbines.
Another effect of wind turbines occurs when the sun lines up with a spinning turbine, causing “sun flicker.” Hart Cool said a woman who lives across the street from her has had to tint the windows on one side of her house after experiencing epileptic seizures caused by sun flicker, which strikes the woman’s house for about 30 minutes each day.
Falmouth residents were able to get the closest turbine shut off from November 2011 until a decision is made at their annual town meeting in April.
The turbines that were proposed for Mount Massaemet measured 420 feet from base to blade tip – 72 feet shorter than the Falmouth turbines. Pierpont asserted that the negative effects of wind turbines are more prevalent the larger the turbine. About 200 dwellings are located within 1mile of the proposed Mount Massaemet wind farm.
The application for a special permit for the wind farm was withdrawn “without prejudice, ” meaning it could be resubmitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals at any time.
More on Pierpont’s findings, as well as interviews with other affected Falmouth residents can be found on her website, www.windturbinesyndrome.com.
An upcoming presentation, “The Science of Industrial Wind and the Fate of Mt. Massaemet,” will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 in Memorial Hall. Dr. Len Bruce, professor of physics and chair of the Sustainable Studies Program at Lyndon State College, will speak on the environmental impact of ridgeline wind projects and other wind-power issues.