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A compromising controversy

Falmouth’s Wind Turbine Options Group UPDATE (since the local media reported was absent):

Wednesday (Sept 19) night’s Wind Turbine Option Analysis Process (WTOP) confirmed my worst fear. Instead of a focus toward resolving the central problem(s), the tenor of the WTOP group seems resigned to just “compromise.”

Too many question remain unanswered. Too little information has been uncovered. The group’s frustration is palpable after 12 meetings. The lack of essential resource information obstructs the group’s ability to make well informed decisions. And it seems the unnecessary compromise of principles will be the unfortunate result presented to Selectmen.

The option getting the most “play” is a plan allowing curtailed Wind Turbine operations with dwelling mediation (i.e. home/window/door insulation, white noise machines, central a/c etc.). In worse case situations, through an independent arbitrator, the most costly scenario, would have some residents have their property purchased by the Town.

The big contention (question) in Wednesday’s discussion was “what kind of, and how much, sound reducing curtailment would be considered acceptable?” In other words, “what level of Wind Turbine sound impact would be tolerable?”

No one seems to know that answer. Is there an answer?

To give perspective to this dilemma, MassDEP sent a June 30, 2011 letter to the Board of Selectmen and the Town’s Health Agent. The letter reads (in part): – “MassDEP is in the process of updating its guidance for conducting sound surveys to specifically address sound emissions from wind turbines. – Evaluation of sound impacts from Wind Turbines is a complicated issue that was not considered by MassDEP when it developed its sound evaluation/noise compliance guidance in the early 1970s and as revised in 1990. – The current MassDEP Noise Sampling Guidance was developed to be generally applicable to industrial noise sources that typically exhibit fairly steady emission signatures with relatively little frequency and octave variation.”

Even the Board of Health, in a March 12, 2012 letter to the MassDEP, questioned the protection ability of existing noise guideline standards to address all the adverse sound components of Wind Turbines. The board’s letter reads (in part): – “Mass DEP should give spectral quality sound guidance specific to amplitude modulated and low-frequency sound. We agree with the State Panel’s suggestion that a difference between A-weighted and C-weighted sound should be part of the noise specifications. Current noise pollution measurement guidelines do not address this. Additional consideration needs to be applied to amplitude modulated noise that may be discounted by current measurement guidelines.”

I’m left wondering, if existing noise level standards are so compromised in assessing Wind Turbine noise, how effective could the WTOP curtailment noise levels hope to be? It seems that until new and protective noise guidelines are determined, it’s not right to expect residents to compromise their health and well being for these new 400 foot neighbors?

It’s time the Falmouth Board of Health, the town regulatory and enforcement body responsible for Falmouth’s health today, allows action to speak louder than words of compromise and political controversy. It’s time the board addresses the existing wind turbine-health problem for what it is first and foremost, and draft, adopt and enforce a Wind Turbine Health Regulation.

Mark Cool
Falmouth, MA