FAIRHAVEN – Not only concerned about the effects of wind turbines on human health, members of the turbine-opposition group Windwise are concerned about dead bats and birds they say have been found near the town’s two turbines.
“I’ve been getting a steady stream of emails from people seeing dead birds and bats around the turbines,” Louise Barteau said.
Photos sent to The Standard-Times by other Windwise members show a dead bird, its wings spread, at the base of the turbine. Other photos show two dead bats without any visible injuries.
“We’ve been mostly concentrating on the bad effects these things have on people but when you see the photographs it makes you kind of sick to your stomach,” Barteau said.
Wind turbines are known to kill birds and bats that fly into their blades. Bat lungs can also explode due to changes in air pressure caused by the turbines, according to a 2008 study conducted at the University of Calgary in Canada.
Among manmade causes of death for birds, turbines have the lowest numbers. Federal studies suggest wind turbines kill 100,000 to 440,000 birds per year in the United States. In comparison, 100,000 to 1 billion birds are killed flying into windows, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Before turbines are built on federal land, proposals undergo an environmental review process that details the machines’ effects on local birds.
Such a process does not exist in Massachusetts. Krista Selmi, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said companies are not required to notify the division of their projects.
“In the past, if projects come to us, we will put recommendations together, but it’s not required,” she said.
Developers are required to report any bird mortalities near the turbines “so we can figure out the circumstances,” Selmi said.
Sumul Shah, the turbine’s developer, said before building the turbines he contacted the state to ensure Fairhaven’s turbines did not interfere with migratory bird patterns.
He said he would “look into” the bird kills but that as of Tuesday “I don’t know anything about it.”
Windwise member Ken Pottel said he has seen turbine workers clearing bird carcasses from below both towers while walking the bike path.
“We’re going to start recording every incident,” Pottel said.
Barteau said she called the Massachusetts Department for Environmental Protection on Monday but officials there seemed skeptical of her reports because “they were coming from Windwise.”
“He thought we were planting evidence or something,” she said. “But we found a decapitated bird the other day; it was the turbine. None of us are out there with cleavers hacking off bird heads to make a point.”
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