FAIRHAVEN – The Department of Environmental Protection could begin testing for its study of sound from Fairhaven’s two wind turbines as soon as wind conditions are favorable.
At the Board of Health’s Monday night meeting, DEP Deputy Regional Director Laurel Carlson said she would use the same methodology she did when testing Falmouth’s wind turbines. She also said she has already identified four homes from which to test, with the possibility of adding a fifth.
Carlson said she had reviewed the turbine complaint forms filed with the health board since the turbines became operational in May and identified the addresses with the most complaints. They are on Teal Circle, Shawmut Street, Mill Road and Little Bay Road. Carlson said she would also consider adding an address on Pierce’s Point Road.
Noise at the homes will be measured between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m. during low and medium wind speeds from different directions. The wind speeds will have to be constant through the night in order for testing to occur.
Carlson, who will personally conduct the testing, said the DEP is working with turbine developer Sumul Shah to coordinate turning the turbines on and off during testing so she can measure each neighborhood’s ambient noise. In Massachusetts, something is in violation of noise regulations if it is 10 decibels louder than the ambient noise level.
“We want the conditions where the loudest (turbine) sound can be recorded,” Carlson explained to the 30 residents attending the meeting. “If you don’t find a violation on the quietest night at the places where it’s loudest, you won’t find it during the day.”
Lisa Flynn, one of those present, said “We are relying on the DEP to help us and prove that we are not crazy.”
Kathy Starr, a resident of John Street which is within 1,000 feet of the turbines, asked if there were any plans to do infrasound testing “because that’s what I’m feeling at my house is the pressure.” Infrasound is sound that is inaudible but turbine opponents claim it causes adverse health effects such as migraines and elevated blood pressure.
However, it is not regulated so the DEP does not test for it.
If the turbines are found to be in violation, Carlson said the DEP would give the Board of Selectmen the option of ordering the turbines shut down. If the selectmen refuse, the DEP itself would order the turbines shut down, and would also conduct testing during the daytime, when ambient sound is louder.
Carlson did say summer was not the optimal season for testing turbines because of wind patterns and there being leaves on the trees, which could absorb turbine sound. If the turbines are found not in violation by fewer than 1.5 decibels, Carlson said she would consider measuring the sound again once leaves have fallen.
Many members in attendance asked questions comparing Fairhaven to Falmouth, where Carlson’s measurements found turbines in violation of state noise standards.
Carlson refuted that point, saying “These turbines are not Falmouth.”
“They are not nearly as loud; they are just not,” she said. “But the truth will come out in the meter readings. My opinion means nothing. It’s the meter that tells the truth.”
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