BOURNE – One after another, residents from towns across the southeastern part of the state stood up in Bourne High School Thursday night and said they didn’t buy a state-sponsored report that found no direct health effects from the operation of wind turbines.
“Please do not tell us that turbines do not make us sick,” said Neil Anderson, one of several Falmouth residents who spoke at the public hearing on the state report released in January.
Others in the crowd of more than 50 people came from Nantucket, Fairhaven and Duxbury. The majority voiced their disbelief that the report’s authors found that wind turbines did not affect the health of people who live near them.
“I can’t find where you’ve interviewed a single victim of ill health effects or where you’ve interviewed a doctor who treated them,” said Bruce Mandel of Nantucket. “The victims shouldn’t have to prove that they’re sick.”
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell told the audience that state officials have not made up their mind on the question of whether there are health effects from the operation of turbines, such as the two at the Falmouth wastewater treatment facility and a third private turbine built nearby.
The DEP and the state Department of Public Health commissioned a group of experts last year to study existing scientific literature about the effect of wind turbines on health after dozens of residents living around the Falmouth turbines complained the spinning blades disrupted their sleep, and caused ailments that include high blood pressure, migraine headaches and nausea.
Town officials have restricted the operation of the first turbine installed at the town wastewater treatment facility for the time being. The second turbine there is undergoing a test run to gauge its effect on neighbors.
The seven-member panel commissioned to look at health issues associated with the technology included health professionals and academics from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Thursday’s meeting was the second of three being held across the state to accept comments on the report and what should be done with it. The state will accept written comments until March 19.
The report found that noise from turbines could disrupt sleep and cause annoyance. The report’s authors found that there is evidence “that sleep disruption can adversely affect mood, cognitive functioning, and overall sense of health and well being.”
Despite this, they concluded that there is no evidence that turbines were directly causing health problems.
Several speakers took issue with the authors’ seemingly contradictory line of reasoning.
“How can you have it both ways?” said Todd Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road in Falmouth. “That’s like saying cigarettes don’t cause health impacts if you don’t smoke them.”
Others in the audience questioned the independence of panel members who co-authored the report, pointing to previous work done by panelists on the subject, including one member who consulted on wind energy projects.
Colin Murphy of Falmouth said that he has to deal with “pounding” in his yard from the turbines near his home.
“There’s definitely annoyance and what does annoyance lead to?” he said. “I would say stress and anxiety.”
He didn’t understand why the authors of the report didn’t come to Falmouth to talk to people who lived near the turbines, Murphy said.
“I don’t understand why there wasn’t a lab section to that study,” he said.
After he puts his kids to bed and closes his eyes at night, he thinks about what the turbines could do to the value of his property, Murphy said.
“When you close your eyes and say your prayers, I hope you really believe that you’re doing the best for the people of Massachusetts,” Murphy told Kimmell and the other state officials at the meeting.
While most of the speakers blasted the report, a small minority praised the state for its work.
Thousands of people die each year from asthma and other diseases caused by the burning of fossil fuels, said Richard Elrick, vice president of Cape and Islands Self Reliance and energy coordinator for the towns of Barnstable and Bourne.
Elrick, who said he was speaking only for himself, said there were thousands of turbines around the world where there were no problems such as those reported in Falmouth.
Everyone has an obligation to do something to try and address the problems associated with climate change, Elrick said.
“Every energy source requires sacrifices of one kind or another,” he said.
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