Although they provide cleaner energy, wind turbines may be damaging to the health of Bay State residents, according to recent testimonies.
Members of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health received mixed reviews at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday from residents living near wind turbines.
The discussion was the first of the three public hearings about a recent report on the potential health effects associated with proximity to wind turbines.
“Over the last year and a half, we have heard some reports that people were experiencing health or other types of problems they believe are associated with living near wind turbines,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell to the audience in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House.
He said the reports prompted MassDEP commissioners to start a “fact-finding mission.”
They compiled an independent, scientific panel of bachelors from various disciplines to perform a scientific review using protocols of the National Academy of Sciences, Kimmell said.
This, he said, was intended to help give MassDEP a sense of what the literature tells them about wind turbines’ potential health effects.
Opponents of the report’s findings said the noise, vibrations and shadow flickers from the wind turbines do indeed have health impacts on residents.
This contradicts the findings that said there was “insufficient epidemiologic evidence” to determine “an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems,” according to the report.
Neil Andersen, of Falmouth, was the first to speak on behalf of those affected by the turbines.
“By ignoring those of us in Falmouth and excluding most of our supporting literature and testimonials,” Andersen said, “this so-called health study has done a great injustice to the citizens of this Commonwealth.”
Andersen said he lives a quarter mile from the 500-foot tall structures with eight-ton rotating blades and that there have been thousands of complaints since their installation.
“It is certainly obvious that there are quite a few people who aren’t doing their jobs,” Andersen said.
Professor Wendy Heiger-Bernays, of Boston University’s School of Public Health, said this is a complex issue the panel has spent many months studying, according to a State House press release.
“By reviewing the available data and information, we believe that we have significantly added to the understanding of the potential for health effects from wind turbines,” she said.
The panel included three BU professors.
Andersen said the wind turbines “do not belong anywhere near neighborhoods” because they make people sick.
He gave examples of his own headaches, heart palpitations, vertigo and more health complications that have disappeared since the turbines were turned off in November.
“We cannot get used to it,” Andersen said. “There is no compromise. There is no mitigation.”
But members of Northeastern University’s Wind Action Committee said MassDEP should adopt the conclusions of the study.
WAC Founder Emily Rochon, of Dorchester, said to the panel that the wind turbines are far safer and cleaner than other sources of power.
Other supporters of the independent report, including members from New England’s Environmental Business Council, said it was well conceived and has attainable goals.
Still, residents said anecdotal evidence must be taken into consideration.
Former environmental science student Kathryn Elder, of Falmouth, said she lives 1,700 feet from a wind turbine and that her life has been turned upside-down by the turbine because it has been built too close to her house.
“It is not my perception, it is not my opinion and it is certainly not annoyance that wakes me up repeatedly at night,” Elder said to the panel. “Members of my family . . . have extreme anxiety and other physical issues in response to being close to the turbine.”
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