FALMOUTH – Wind turbines loomed heavily in town Monday night as selectmen and board of health members at separate meetings voted on measures meant to address residents’ health concerns.
Selectmen voted in favor of shutting down Wind 1, one of the town’s two 1.65-megawatt turbines off Blacksmith Shop Road, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day.
Stopping Wind 1’s operation for 12 hours each day represents a compromise between the town and some people who live near the turbines and for more than a year have complained of nausea, vertigo and other health problems, said Mary Pat Flynn, chairman of the board of selectmen.
Mitigation efforts began last month when the Cambridge-based Consensus Building Institute, the firm hired by selectmen, began working with stakeholders – abutters, anti- and pro-turbine people and town officials – to gauge opinions of possible solutions. Residents opposed to the turbines wanted them turned off completely, Flynn said.
Next week, the firm will start the process of nominating people to serve on a committee responsible for making recommendations to selectmen. Shutting off Wind 1 for half of each day could begin as early as two weeks from now, Flynn said.
However, this action will further affect the turbines’ revenue stream, which already dropped when selectmen ordered they shut off when they reach 23 mph or more, said Falmouth Wastewater Superintendent Gerald Potamis, who oversees the turbines.
“If they run half the time, they only produce … half the power and only produce half the revenue,” Potamis said.
The action does not go far enough, said Falmouth resident Malcolm Donald, a Wind 2 abutter.
“It escapes me why they’re not shutting down Wind 2 from 7 (p.m.) to 7 (a.m.)” too, Donald said on Tuesday. “It’s a start for entering into the consensus building, (but) the consensus building can drag on for months if not years.”
Rather than attend Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, Donald went to the board of health’s meeting, where members scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. May 24 to hear comments about the turbines’ alleged health effects.
Some people who attended the board of health meeting asserted that an abutter to the turbines recently attempted suicide because of ailments caused by the turbines, but board members cut off that discussion when those making the claim could not authenticate it, Rafferty said.
Board of health members will use testimony submitted to them as guidelines in deciding whether they should order an emergency shutdown of the turbines, said board member Jared Goldstone..
“I think it’s something that’s been building for a while,” said Goldstone, who added that state officials at the Department of Environmental Protection have been largely mute in responding to town requests for guidance. “We have written letters to the state that haven’t received direct replies.”
Residents who submit written testimony before the hearing – specifically about negative health effects resulting from exposure to turbines – may summarize their points in front of the board, Goldstone said.
The board of health will accept written testimony until May 31.