FAIRHAVEN – Opponents of the town’s wind turbines are cautiously optimistic about the Board of Health’s decision Monday night asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a noise study.
The study has been widely regarded by turbine opponents as the first step in shutting down the machines since a similar study conducted in Falmouth last month found those turbines to be in violation of state noise laws. “I’m definitely encouraged and happy about the news,” said wind opponent Karen Isherwood, who lives within 1,500 feet of the turbines. “I thought it would take them longer to listen to us, so it’s quicker than I expected.”
Though she is happy the DEP was called in, Isherwood, a member of the turbine opposition group Windwise, said she wishes the town would have listened to concerns about the turbines’ health effects before construction began.
“I can’t say I’m completely happy with them because they ignored us when we told them this was going to happen,” Isherwood said. “I’m glad they’re calling the DEP, but it shouldn’t have gone this far to begin with.”
Other members of Windwise are concerned that the DEP’s study would be biased by Gov. Deval Patrick’s strong support of clean energy.
“We welcome the state coming in but we don’t trust them to be honest because clean energy is the governor’s top priority,” Windwise member Kenneth Pottel said. “This agency is part of his government.”
Pottel said Windwise wants to hire an acoustician to conduct a separate study.
“We don’t want to completely rely on the state,” he said.
DEP spokesman Edmund Coletta said the department’s purpose was to “protect the environment and public health.” As of Tuesday afternoon, the DEP had not received an official request for a sound study, but Coletta said the town had been in contact with the department.
“We have asked that they supply us with detailed information on the nature of the health complaints, their location and the weather conditions at the time they were made,” he said. “We expect that information would be passed along shortly.”
Sumul Shah, the turbines’ developer, did not respond to requests for comment.
Windwise member John Methia said he was also concerned that a DEP study would not include the effects of shadow flicker or infrasound, sound that is lower in frequency than a human can hear.
“We want them to address the problems people are having with pressure headaches from infrasound and nausea from the shadow flicker,” Methia said, adding, “an audible sound study is also great and we’ll take what we can get from the state.”
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