The crane is assembled and the wind turbines are going up. Last Tuesday, when I saw the NStar rig pulling up low wires at the wastewater treatment facility, I asked the crew what was up. They said the big crane parts were on on the way. And sure enough, moments after our conversation, two flatbeds roared up Arsene Street. One held a giant tread, the other some staging. It takes about 70 truckloads to move the crane used to assemble the turbines.
The NStar crew leader said he was from Fairhaven. He told me he lives on Sconticut Neck and he was in favor of the turbines. He asked me whether I was for them or against them. I answered that I was in favor of much more conservation, and that I was worried about the health of the community. Another, younger crew member joined the conversation and stated right up front that he also was for the turbines. But when the crew leader and I remembered growing up with one TV and one car in our households, even the younger worker agreed, “Now houses have a TV in every room – five or six, sometimes.”
Soon after that I met a Timothy Street resident who had lived there almost her whole life. Timothy Street lies behind the Stop & Shop where exhaust fans run day and night; next to the bike path; close to Route 6 traffic exhaust; next to the often odiferous sewage treatment plant; and under the high tension wires that hum in the rain. “The only time it is truly quiet here is when there is a power outage,” she said. “Then, it is sweet relief.”
The Little Bay Woods have long been a respite from all of the noise on Timothy Street. Kids play there. It’s been a peaceful place where you could hear owls hoot at night and birds sing in the day. Now the Little Bay Woods will be host to a very different set of sounds when the two turbines go up in the next two weeks. Even if the birds stick around, which is unlikely, I can’t imagine that you will be able to hear their songs.
I’ve been thinking all week about that question the NStar crew leader asked me. I realized later that my answer has more to do with who I am for, rather than what I am against.
I am for the people who live on Timothy Street who seem to have every project for the public good dumped in their neighborhood. I am for everyone who lives in the Little Bay neighborhood whose opinions about the project deserved to be heard. I am for the people of Peirce’s Point whose homes are too close to both turbines. I am for the children who will live and go to school under the shadow of the turbines. I am for the parents who deserved to be told about the turbines when voting for the new school. I am for the people in Falmouth who have had the courage to stand up and challenge the developers, their town government, the DEP and the DPH, in order to prevent other towns from making the same mistakes that they made.
And I most certainly am for the owls, the bats, the terns, the trees, the plants, the frogs, the wetlands, the marsh and the bay. It turns out that whatever isn’t good for them; it most likely isn’t good for us either. No matter how hard we try to forget it, we belong to the animal kingdom, too. If turbines drive away wildlife, there’s a good chance that they will drive us away as well. Sue Hobart in Falmouth has finally decided to abandon her home, because the privately owned and operated Notus-Webb turbine has made her ill.
Last week I spoke to Carmen Krogh. She is a social scientist who has been collecting adverse health reports for years from people in rural Ontario who have lived near and under turbines. I called to ask her how we can best support and help the folks here in Fairhaven as they begin life under the wind turbines. I learned that in Canada, she and others now consider it unethical to collect more data on symptoms, since they consider the symptoms well established by existing medical data. Now she and others are working through the legal system to create distance setbacks. She was genuinely shocked when I told her how close these turbines will be to peoples’ homes and workplaces.
Her concern for the people in Fairhaven contrasts dramatically with the extreme lack of concern displayed by our town government. At the last meeting of the Fairhaven Board of Health, the discussion centered around the noise that might be made by the generators needed for the carts of two food vendors. Meanwhile, the room was full of Fairhaven residents, whose very legitimate questions and concerns about the noise that will be made by two 400-foot Industrial Wind Turbines went unacknowledged and unanswered once again.
We are being told that everything will be fine and there is no need to worry. That’s certainly the attitude expressed by the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen and the town manager. When I went to the Selectmen’s Office a week ago, I asked to see how the turbines are being integrated into the town’s emergency planning. The answer was simple. There is no mention or consideration of the turbines in Fairhaven’s Emergency Response Plan.
Even if you think everything will be fine, isn’t it always a good idea to at least try to have a plan in case something does go wrong? You know, a Plan B?
Louise Barteau lives in Fairhaven.