Scituate – Residents filled the selectmen hearing room on Monday (Oct. 15) for a presentation before the Scituate Board of Health by Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC.
Deane spoke before the board about the wind turbine, and addressed complaints from neighbors who have said they feel the turbine is responsible for various health issues, including headaches, dizziness and loss of sleep.
The wind 400-ft turbine, located along the Driftway, went online this past spring.
Deane said it was not until August that neighbors began to complain about its effects.
“Up until that time we had support from the town,” he said.
However, many residents said they have been experiencing health-related problems since almost immediately after the turbine went up.
“I have been bothered by the sound since Day 1,” said resident Seana Cahoon.
Prior to the installation of the turbine, Deane said Scituate Wind had noise measurement studies done using a model, and different wind speeds.
A noise study has not been done since the turbine was constructed, and while follow-up studies could be completed there is currently no plan to do so, Deane said.
He suggested that the health issues being raised by neighbors of the turbine could be the result of the ‘nocebo effect’, where someone could be negatively influenced simply by believing in a set outcome.
Residents remained adamant that they are not suffering from the ‘nocebo effect’ when it comes to health problems being experienced by themselves and members of their families.
“I don’t need studies to tell me I’m having problems sleeping,” said Paul Ohrenberger.
Cahoon said she was offended by Deane’s implication that residents with health issues “are manufacturing our symptoms based on others’ complaints.”
“I, for one, never experienced the pronounced dizziness I have felt on more than one occasion since the turbine went up in March,” she said.
Deane referenced a study done earlier this year by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) that states there is “limited evidence suggesting an association between noise from wind turbines and sleep deprivation.”
“In other words,” as is continued in the heath impact study, “it is possible that noise from some wind turbines can cause sleep disruption.”
Deane said per the study there is no evidence for what is being labeled ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome.’
“The study said there is no evidence such a thing exists,” he said.
Additionally, he said the study also states there is no association between noise from wind turbines and psychological or mental health problems.
“We never said when we built the project that it couldn’t be heard,” Deane said, adding that the turbine is operating per town bylaws and state regulations.
As for flicker, Deane said the flicker was looked at during the permitting process, but that there is no regulation in the Scituate bylaws, or at the federal or state level, for flicker.
“We know when the sun is going to come up. We know when the sun is going to go down. We know where flicker of the turbine will be,” he said. “Flicker is fairly predictable.”
When asked why the location of the turbine, which is so close to residential areas, was chosen, Deane said the Town of Scituate, not Scituate Wind, decided upon the location.
Deane said he wants to work with the town and that his company is “sensitive” to the issues being brought forward.
“If people are annoyed, they’re annoyed,” he said. “We don’t want people to be annoyed. We want to understand the neighbors concerns.”
He explained the turbine collects data and suggested to the board that if they receive complaints about something happening at a certain time, information as to what was happening with the turbine at that time could be reviewed.
One resident asked Deane if he would live in close proximity to a wind turbine similar to the one in Scituate.
His answer was “yes.”
Several residents expressed concern about the time it would take for the board of health to have an independent study done on the effects of the turbine, if that was the route the board was going to take.
Resident Tom Thompson said he was disappointed that the health concerns of his neighbors seemed to have been trivialized.
“I would expect the board to render a decision within 30 days,” he said, adding he felt there had been enough proof and evidence of the detrimental effects of the turbine.
Board of Health Chairman Russell Clark said the turbine issue “is the top priority for the board of health.”
“I’m hoping both sides can work together,” he said. “This board is right in the middle.”
Jerry Kelly, who lives near the turbine and said he has experienced sleep deprivation at various times, said after the meeting that he felt significant progress was made at the meeting with the board agreeing to discuss hiring an independent consultant to conduct an acoustical study to determine if Scituate Wind is in compliance with bylaws and regulations.
He did, however, disagree with Deane’s suggestion about the ‘nocebo effect.’
“Sleep deprivation is beyond just an annoyance,” he said. “Sleep deprivation can be the root for a lot of other diseases.”
Cahoon said she felt the group, as a whole, including the board of health, asked good questions “and received essentially incomplete and unsatisfactory answers.”
“At the time, I felt our group was more knowledgeable than Mr. Deane was, having immersed ourselves in learning about these turbines and their effects on people.”
When asked if the board could authorize the turbine to be shut down at night, Clark said he wasn’t sure if the board was ready to take such a step at this time.
“We want to do it the right way,” said board member Frank Lynch of handling the turbine situation. “It’s not an easy issue.”
The board of health voted to continue the wind turbine discussion at their next meeting later this month.
To view the entire Wind Turbine Health Impact Study prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health visit http://www.mass.gov/dep/energy/wind/turbine_impact_study.pdf
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