FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Health agreed to create a town-run turbine complaint process after more than two dozen wind opponents filled a Town Hall hearing room Tuesday night.
No method or form was agreed upon during the meeting but board members said they hope to come up with one before the turbines turn on sometime next week.
Prior to the meeting, members of WindWise had expressed fears that complaints would be lodged directly with the turbines’ developer, leaving residents in the dark about the scope and extent of health complaints once the turbines are activated.
Those fears were exacerbated when the spokesman for the turbines’ developer, Fairhaven Wind LLC, was seated at the table with the Health Board.
WindWise members, who sat in the audience, said they attended thinking they would have a say in creating the complaint process.
Instead, the meeting opened with Health Board Chairman Peter DeTerra asking Fairhaven Wind’s Sumul Shah to explain his company’s complaint process. Shah said Fairhaven Wind already has a website and phone number in place for residents to lodge complaints.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every type of comment but we will explore what’s appropriate,” Shah said. Shah also said he envisioned submitting quarterly reports to the Board of Health to let it know the number of and nature of complaints but not the names or locations of complaining residents. He called that “proprietary information.”
Health Board member Dr. Barbara Acksen took exception. “The complaints should go through us and then maybe we can include the developer in them,” Acksen said. “To protect our citizens, we need it to go to us first.”
Acksen further countered that “quarterly reports (are) way too few and far between.”
“We need to know simultaneously what you know,” DeTerra said. “If not before.”
Shah said noise complaints can often be a sign that something is not working correctly within the turbines but that his company would not routinely monitor the turbines for noise unless there was an excess of noise complaints. Any information gained from noise monitoring he again called “proprietary information” that would not be shared with town officials.
WindWise member Ken Pottel said many of WindWise’s health concerns about the turbines stem from issues relating to noise, such as sleep deprivation and migraine headaches.
Shah “might be looking to change something if the turbines aren’t working, but when they are working properly we think there will be serious health concerns,” Pottel said. “You are the Board of Health; you represent us. We need you to know what’s going on.”
Karen Isherwood, who lives near the turbines, said she had already experienced adverse health effects from the few hours of testing that took place over the weekend and was concerned that a complaint process wasn’t in place before testing began.
“It’s the constant woosh, woosh, woosh,” she said. “I couldn’t sit in my house for four hours Saturday and they are not even turned on permanently.”
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