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Neighbors plead with Board of Health to order town’s turbines shut down

Falmouth Board of Health announced last night that there has been some minor progress in the attempt to get a state assessment of health effects of wind turbines.

Chairman Gail A. Harkness said she has an appointment to talk to Suzanne Condon, Massachusetts Department of Public Health associate commissioner, on the phone tomorrow about the health effects of wind turbines in Falmouth. Dr. Harkness will try to set up a meeting with Ms. Condon and the entire Falmouth Board of Health, either in Boston or Falmouth, to discuss a future health assessment. Dr. Harkness said she will write up a summary of her discussion and post it on the town website.

But neighbors of the town’s wind turbines pushed the board to take immediate action. Elizabeth L. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, one of the closest abutters to Wind 1, the town-owned wind turbine at the wastewater treatment plant, stood up in the back of the meeting room and made an impassioned plea for the board to shut down the turbines immediately. “If you’re looking for Boston to help us, you’re not going to get any help,” Ms. Andersen said. Her voice filled with emotion as she implored the board members to vote on the wind turbines. “I’m suffering so badly. It’s horrible. I’m at the end of my rope,” she said. Ms. Andersen said she has been suicidal and Falmouth police have come to her house twice. “I can’t take it anymore and it’s this town’s fault,” she said. Her voice raised, she dropped to her knees, clasped her hands together and begged the board members to shut down the turbines immediately. “Please vote on this tonight!” she yelled. After about 30 seconds, she stood up and left the room, shouting from the hallway.

Board members did not respond to Ms. Andersen’s request. Later in the meeting, Neil Andersen, Ms. Andersen’s husband, said ringing in his ears has gotten louder over time. He asked the board to have compassion and to imagine that someone they love was in a position similar to his wife’s. They will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary next month, he said. “I hope we make it,” he said.

Other wind turbine neighbors attempted to persuade the board to take action. Barry A. Funfar of Ridgeview Drive said the sound of the wind turbines is more irritating over time. “After a while you get traumatized by it,” he said. “You just cannot stand it.” Loretta O’Brien of Blacksmith Shop Road said her sister recently came to her house and had an episode of vertigo within 15 minutes of entering the home. “She had never experienced that in her life before,” Ms. O’Brien said.

John J. Ford of Blacksmith Shop Road said, “I urge the board to take a vote and shut these things down. These turbines are making us sick.” Brian W. Elder of Blacksmith Shop Road said if the board shuts down the turbines, it will certainly get the attention of the state and bring Ms. Condon to Falmouth. “Flip the switch on those machines and she’ll be down here tomorrow,” he said. “You’d get results very fast,” added J. Malcolm Donald of Ambleside Drive.

Kathryn L. Elder of Blacksmith Shop Road said the board should also contact the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell may be more receptive than the Department of Public Health, she said. Ms. Elder also recommended that the board bring a representative from the office of Massachusetts Senate President Therese M. Murray (D-Plymouth) to the meeting with the Department of Public Health, but board member Jared V. Goldstone said he did not want to involve politicians unless absolutely necessary.

Other neighbors complained that the town-owned turbines are not being shut down each night as scheduled. The board of selectmen voted last month to shut the turbines off from 7 PM to 7 AM, but sometimes the turbines continue spinning until after 8 PM, the residents said. Board member John B. Waterbury said he will contact Town Manager Julian M. Suso about the problem and ask for the operating log of the wind turbines.

Dr. Waterbury said the problems with wind turbines in Falmouth are also happening elsewhere in the world. Health Canada, the federal health agency in Canada, announced last week it is planning a study of the human health impact of turbine noise. It will be completed in 2014. The survey was prompted by neighbors’ concerns about the health effects of wind turbines in Ontario. Hundreds of turbines are already built and thousands of turbines are planned in Ontario, according to The Toronto Sun. A previous study of wind turbines in Ontario showed no evidence of direct health effects, but the noise from turbines causes annoyance in some people and that annoyance can lead to health effects, according to the Sun.

There are three 1.65-megawatt Vestas turbines in Falmouth. All are 262 feet high at the hub. Residents in Falmouth have complained of negative health effects related to the largest wind turbines in Falmouth over the more than two years since Wind 1 began turning.