Lauren and Mark McKeever saved for 12 years to build their dream house. The family, which includes two young children, moved into the home, located along the Driftway, four years ago.
But since the wind turbine was raised earlier this year, home life for the McKeevers has been anything but a dream.
“We can’t open our windows because of the constant hum,” Mark said. “We’re being woken up at night. We’re exhausted in the morning.”
“I’m tired of being tired,” Lauren said. “It’s very frustrating.”
The McKeevers are just one of a growing number of families who have come forward with complaints of ailments – everything from insomnia to headaches to nausea – they believe stem from the wind turbine.
“This is an industrial size wind turbine that should never have been placed in a residential area,” said Michelle Banning, a Gilson Street resident.
The 400-foot wind turbine was installed in its spot on the Driftway in early April of this year. A dedication ceremony was held in conjunction with Earth Day later in the month.
The town has been consistently praised for its ‘green’ initiatives, notably the wind turbine and the solar array, which is set to be on line towards the end of the year.
However, residents living near the wind turbine feel that in light of the complaints against the turbine, the town should shut it down.
“I don’t think there is any other approach,” said Tom Thompson of Gilson Road. “The major issue is the negative health impacts, not just here but over at James Landing and even into parts of Marshfield.”
Though Thompson said his home is located 3,000 feet away from the wind turbine, he said there was “noticeable and pronounced flicker” in the dining room the other night just as the family was sitting down to dinner.
He said the noise and flicker could have a detrimental affect on the more vulnerable members of the community, particularly children and seniors.
He also questioned how pets, and wildlife, might be affected.
“Dogs and cats have a more sensitive sense of hearing,” he said. “Who knows what’s happening with them.”
Neighbors of the wind turbine filled the room during a recent board of health meeting to petition the board to take necessary the necessary steps to remedy the situation, including shutting down the wind turbine for public health and safety reasons.
The board was given a two-inch thick file of signed complaint forms and emails in support of shutting down the wind turbine.
Resident David Dardi gave a presentation on behalf of his neighbors.
“Our struggle is not against renewable energy sources, our struggle is to resolve the public health crisis affecting our families that has resulted from the Scituate wind turbine being located so close to residential neighborhoods,” Dardi said. “We are advocating for our homes and properties to be returned to a place that provides a safe living condition for our children, free from the harmful impacts of the Scituate wind turbine emissions.”
Dardi said the noise from the wind turbine travels depending on the wind direction, and that while those traveling along the Driftway may not hear anything, families living in the area are subjected to a constant drone that sounds like a jet airplane that never lands.
“The number one adverse effect so far has been sleep deprivation,” Dardi said. “The sound travels through closed windows. Other people have complained about headaches, ringing in the ears, nausea, anxiety, and the flicker effect.”
Dardi pointed out that other areas of the country, and other countries, are experiencing problems with the adverse affects of wind turbines on residents who live nearby.
“The Canadian government just launched its own research study to investigate the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects,” he said.
He cites a paragraph from the January 2012 Massachusetts DEP/DPH Wind Turbine Health Impact Study which states, “Given the effects of sleep deprivation on health and well-being, including problems with mood and cognition, it is possible that cognitive and mood complaints and other medical or psychological issues associated with sleep loss can stem from living in immediate proximity to wind turbines, if the turbines disrupt sleep.”
Selectman Rick Murray, who lives in the area of the wind turbine, said the town is listening to the residents and is pleased that the board of health held an informational meeting.
Murray visited the home of one of the residents who had complained about the noise from the turbine.
“I could hear the faint whisp-whisp-whisp,” he said. “I also feel it is important to note that the wind was blowing 20 knots, and gusting to 25 at the time, directly from the wind turbine direction.”
He said the resident told him the noise was “sporadic” in general.
“Although I could hear it then, when I came back 15 minutes later, I could not hear it,” he said. “One hour later, I could.”
Murray said the sound was “far less than a car driving by, in terms of volume, and was less than the traffic down on the main street (Kent Street), and it was far less than the trains.”
Because he lives in the neighborhood, Murray said he has been approached by other residents who can faintly hear the wind turbine and who still strongly support it, and who have expressed concerns that nobody overreact to the complaints, particularly pending any further informational gatherings.
“I would also think it is important to reiterate that the turbine project took six years to come to fruition, and was the subject of far and wide town discussion, news stories, public meetings, and so on,” he said.
Some residents, however, said that they were not included in initial discussions about the turbine.
Thompson said there were clearly deficiencies in the due diligence process undertaken by the town leading up to the approval of the wind turbine in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
“In fairness, this is a unique project and issue,” he said. “I am sure that all involved were well intentioned during the due diligence and approval phase of this project. Notwithstanding, the major issue at hand is the serious and detrimental potential health consequences that were overlooked during the due diligence and approval process, and that are now being experienced by numerous members of our community.”
“We’re not here to discuss the politics of this, or the economics of this,” Thompson continued. “That is not why we brought this forward.”
Murray said that after much study the town’s Renewable Energy Committee chose the location for the wind turbine, and that the site was given the OK by relevant state agencies, and all local, state and federal permitting agencies.
“We are taking the residents’ comments seriously, and learning more, and I also think we need to not move hastily as we continue to learn more.”
Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi echoed Murray in saying the town’s responsibility through the board of health is to investigate the concerns raised before making any determinations or drawing any conclusions.
“Anything else relative to this issue at this stage would be premature for the town to comment upon,” she said.
In the meantime, the McKeevers, who are the closest residents to the wind turbine – it is 640 feet from their property line to the base of the turbine – continue their efforts to lessen the impact on their family from the turbine noise.
“My job in life is to protect my children, and I feel that has been taken away from me,” Lauren said.
Dardi recommends any resident who feels the wind turbine is having a negative affect on them keep a log of any related noise or health disturbances.
Any issues should be reported to Scituate Health Agent Jennifer Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or David Dardi at email@example.com
Board of Health Chairman Russell Clark could not be reached for comment by press time.
Health Director Jennifer Sullivan is out on vacation.
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