FAIRHAVEN – Laurel Carlson of the state Department of Environmental Protection explained the steps she will take to measure sound coming from the wind turbines at a Board of Health meeting Monday attended by about 35 concerned residents.
Ms. Carlson, who tested the wind turbines in Falmouth, said she will focus on four to five residences.
The homes are all owned by people who have submitted complaints about the turbines to the town’s Board of Health. They are located on Teal Circle, Mill Road, Little Bay Road and Shawmut Street.
Another location, Peirce Point, is also likely to be tested, Ms. Carlson said.
Ms. Carlson said her focus will be on sound and whether the turbines are increasing noise levels by more than the 10 decibel limit allowed by the state.
Ms. Carlson said it’s not in her purview to test for infrasound or the so-called flicker effect, or for any ill health effects caused by the turbines.
Asked if she would be willing to shut the turbines down if the turbines are shown to increase noise levels beyond those allowed by state law, Ms. Carlson said she would.
She said the DEP shut down one turbine in Falmouth at night. The other Falmouth turbine has been shut down at least temporarily while the state conducts more testing.
But Ms. Carlson told residents the turbines in Falmouth are noticeably noisier than the ones installed in Fairhaven.
“These turbines are not nearly as loud as the ones in Falmouth,” she said. “Falmouth is a different type of turbine, but this is just my ear. The truth will come out in the meter readings.”
Ms. Carlson said she will start early in the morning “before the birds start singing.” She said the developer, Fairhaven Wind LLC, will shut the turbines off when requested so the DEP can measure background noise when they’re not spinning.
The two industrial wind turbines are on town-owned land off the bike path extension near the Department of Public Works on Arsene Street.
Ms. Carlson said she “won’t issue results after every night,” because, “The data has to be downloaded and analyzed.”
She said she’s been to the neighborhoods where the complaints are concentrated and also to Peirce’s Point.
“I’ve been down there twice on nights listening to it,” she said.
Ms. Carlson said summer is not the ideal time for wind turbine tests because, “The wind dies down,” at night, so she may continue her testing in September. Another factor is that there are leaves on trees in the summer, which can block sound, but she said there aren’t as many trees in the areas affected in Fairhaven as in Falmouth.
“The leaves won’t double it,” she said of the decibel level, “so if it is under by a lot, I won’t come back. If it is close, I will.”
Asked if the DEP would consider other factors like the irritations the turbines may cause some residents, Ms. Carlson said, “The study will not do human annoyance.”
She agreed with residents that the DEP-funded study on health effects of wind turbines, released earlier this year, was a panel study of available literature, not an onsite field study.
In the meantime, she said, “This is just a sound study,” to measure whether the increased noise from the turbines goes beyond the 10 decibel standard.
“We don’t have a standard for infrasound,” she said, adding that when the state develops one, they “can do a study of that.”
As for infrasound, she said she has “not experienced it personally” while conducting her sound studies, but that the state Department of Public Health is studying it “very carefully.”
She said the DEP “is looking at flicker.” She said, “Some information we’ve received is interesting,” and that they are “looking at future goals and standards.”
Ms. Carlson said her tests will also be restricted to the outdoors, not inside people’s homes.
Among the residents who haven’t been vocal at recent meetings was Maria Garcia of 24 Timothy St. who said, “Some nights I don’t sleep because of” the turbine noise.
Asked about Falmouth residents who complained about vibrations inside their homes, Ms. Carlson said she “never picked up vibrating” on her meter when she was inside the house in question, but added she does not have the right equipment for such testing.
Resident Lisa Plante said it was upsetting to hear that Ms. Carlson used some of her own equipment, including a wind meter. “Why doesn’t Mass DEP have the necessary equipment for infrasound” or wind meters, she asked. “It just doesn’t make any sense because we’re relying on the DEP to protect us.”
After the meeting, John Methia, who’s part of the lawsuit opposing the turbines, said, “I think that’s one of the best exchanges we’ve had. I’m a little concerned that they’re not testing for infrasound, but we feel good about the meeting and will work with the state to make it work.”
Ken Pottel of Windwise, who has been very active in opposing the turbines, said, “I feel it’s a step. It’s a good thing.”
But he also said he wished the state would test for infrasound or “pressure” people are experiencing inside their dwellings, which causes headaches, migraines and other detrimental health effects.