FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Health will meet Tuesday night with Windwise and Fairhaven Wind LLC to create a process for lodging health complaints that result from the wind turbines.
Windwise has been fighting the construction of the two wind turbines off Arsene Street for the past six months, raising concerns that the rapidly turning blades could put neighbors at risk for migraines, sleep deprivation, dizziness and nausea, among other health problems.
Windwise members say they have been advocating for a transparent complaint process since it became evident that construction of the turbines was unstoppable. News this week that the turbines will be activated by Tuesday makes the cause even more urgent.
“We really need an open and transparent process for people to register their complaints and their concerns,” Windwise member Louise Barteau said. “If you don’t have that process in place, where does the information go? We don’t want the complaints and the issues to just disappear.”
In an informal census conducted at the beginning of the month, Windwise estimated that 701 homes containing 1,392 adults are within a 3,000 foot radius of the turbines. Windwise members are concerned that the population density of the area surrounding the turbines will cause a significant number of Fairhaven residents to suffer health problems once the turbines are turned on, making it crucial to have a clear-cut complaint process in place.
For Barteau and Windwise, it is not enough to simply have a process – it also must be transparent.
According to Barteau, many other towns with turbines direct complaints to the turbine’s developers, and not to the town or the Board of Health. This concerns Barteau who worries that if complaints are only made to the developer, the number of complaints lodged will not be disclosed to the public.
“Of course the process should include the developer, they own the turbines and they are responsible for them,” she said. “But we are worried that if you leave it up to the developer the complaints never see the light of day.”
Instead, Windwise will advocate for a process that allows residents to lodge complaints with both the Board of Health and Fairhaven Wind LLC. Additionally, the group hopes after lodging complaints, residents will tell Windwise so they can keep a running count.
“What we have been wrestling with mentally is the need for a process that is reasonably transparent so that people know there are two complaints or eight complaints without infringing on privacy,” she said, adding that Windwise will not ask residents what their health problems are.
The Fairhaven Board of Health would not comment on any potential complaint process prior to Tuesday’s meeting, saying “it will be discussed at that time.”
Windwise member Ken Pottel who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the town said the complaint process shouldn’t effect the current suit, which is based on which lots were approved by Town Meeting to contain the turbines.
Still, Barteau is hopeful that a transparent complaint process could help Windwise be taken more seriously, and eventually lead to reduced hours of operation, if not dismantling the turbines altogether.
“The people who promote the turbines only seem to say information that is positive about them,” she said. “Wind turbines are a pretty new technology and I don’t think anyone has a good public health response to them yet.”
The Board of Health will meet Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Banquet Room of the Town Hall.
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