The most haunting question that I have been asked since I began to research health and wind turbines, is “how many people will get sick? One, three, five?” That question always disturbs me. What if the one person who became ill was my mother? Or my husband? Or my child?
I always answer I don’t know, because that is the truth – I don’t. But physicians in Maine, Australia, the UK and Canada have seen their patients present an array of symptoms that began when turbines were erected near their homes. How big the turbines are, how many of them there are and how close they are to homes – that’s what seems to matter.
There is another factor that comes into play here in Fairhaven – population density. A lot of people live very close to the turbines. I know because I used Free Map Tools and Google Earth to draw exact circles around the turbines at 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Then, I confirmed which house numbers were within the circles. The 2011 Fairhaven Streets List told me how many people lived within these distances to the turbines.
Within 2,000 feet of the turbines, I counted 160 homes containing 354 adults. The senior center and the recreation center are also within 2,000 feet of the turbines, as is the Lifestyles Plaza, Pierce’s Point Road, Wayne Street, Day Street, Teal Circle and several other streets close to the Woods School.
Within 3,000 feet the number is truly astonishing – 701 homes containing 1,392 adults. The new (and old) Woods School, the Adult Medical Day Care Center, two Little People College’s, the Stop & Shop, Sconticut Square, the Arsene Business Bays and the Narragansett Cafe are just a few of the public day-use facilities and businesses that fall within the 3,000-foot radius.
So why didn’t the developers or the town take the time to count the number of homes and people who will be living so close to these two turbines? Why won’t the developers post a bond insuring the health, safety and property values of these neighborhoods? Why didn’t our town officials demand such a bond before signing the contract to let the turbines be built in such a densely populated area?
A whole section of town has been placed at risk for $100,000 a year and the promise of cheap electricity. In Vinalhaven, electric rates have doubled in the two years for the customers for whom Industrial Wind Turbines have been part of the equation.
Fairhaven Wind LLC and the current Board of Selectmen claim that there is no health risk. But Rick James, a well regarded acoustician who works with clients who have suffered a severe response to wind turbine sounds, reluctantly concludes that “a setback of at least 2 km (1.24 miles) is appropriate to protect the majority of people.”
Who develops a response to turbine sound? Exposure over time and personal sensitivity matter. Older and younger people are repeatedly described as more susceptible in reports and studies. Sleep disruption affects all ages. Some Fairhaven children will study, play and sleep all within 3,000 feet of the turbines. The list of adverse responses to turbine sound as described by our neighbors in Falmouth (as well as others in the U.S. and other countries) includes sleep disruption, headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, migraines, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and certain cardiac symptoms.
If 1,392 adults live in 701 homes within 3,000 feet of these two turbines, how many live within 1.24 miles? This question should have been asked before the contract was signed by our town officials, who arranged this deal behind closed doors without the consent of those who will be the most affected. They placed a significant number of their constituents at considerable risk with no protections in place. There is no money set aside to help with health costs or to offset the expected decrease in property taxes across a significant section of town. Because although not everyone will become ill, everyone’s property values will be affected.
At a recent Planning Board meeting, the chairman was concerned about interest to site turbines at West Island, Atlas Tack, Fort Phoenix and Sconticut Neck. His attempts to hold a public hearing to address the wind energy bylaws is meeting with serious opposition from the Board of Selectmen.
How many people and homes will be affected by these new proposals? Has anyone counted? Because if the Board of Selectmen and Fairhaven Wind LLC had cared enough to count the number of homes that will be affected by the Little Bay turbines, they would have drawn the same conclusion that I did. Fairhaven is just too densely populated to site large Industrial wind turbines. The Little Bay turbines should never have been built.
Louise Barteau lives in Fairhaven.