SHEFFIELD – A family with two young children who live within a mile of some of the 16 industrial-scale wind turbines operated by First Wind here have succeeded this week in having the state agree to install a noise monitor at their home.
Luann and Steve Therrien, who live at 2924 New Duck Pond Road, have been complaining since the spring about how noise from the turbines is impacting their family’s sleep and more.
A noise expert for the Vermont Department of Public Service on Wednesday came to the Therrien home to discuss installing a noise monitoring device. The device will be put in place, said Luann on Thursday, after the meeting with the noise expert, a DPS attorney and a First Wind manager – for three days in November.
She said, “We can count the full blades of 12 turbines from our front door. The terrain is such that the turbines are across the ridge behind our home…we basically sit in the bottom of a bowl. The noise of the turbines is funneled right to our home.”
Luann was not happy after Thursday’s meeting at her home. She noted, “Found the whole thing to be a waste of time…They plan to put the monitor up in November for three days…told them three days [was] a waste of time.”
“At Baily’s [Luann’s daughter] last doctor’s visit, I voiced my concerns and she advised me move,” she said. “The concerns are we are all being woken at night; Baily at 9 months is getting up up to four times a night. And Seager’s [their toddler son] behavior is not good when the towers are loud.”
The couple are within Â¾ of a mile of a few of the turbines, visible from their wooded lot, which has been in Steve’s family for years. When the wind project first came to Sheffield, the couple were not opposed to it, they said earlier.
Luann Therrien recently emailed Gov. Peter Shumlin a photo of her two children with a note that states, “You believe that all energy has sacrifice and problems. Would you like to take a look at two of the sacrifices – our children. And this is NOT OK!!! Steve & Luann Therrien, Sheffield.”
On Monday, Carolyn Wesley, from the governor’s office, sent to the Therriens this response via e-mail, “Steve and Luann, Thank you for contacting Governor Shumlin, and for sharing the photo of your children. I understand that you take the well-being of your family very seriously. I was hoping you might share your more specific concerns related to energy so that our office can address them directly and/or make sure the nature of your concerns reaches the Governor.”
Geoff Commons, the director of public advocacy for the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS), on Thursday said, “First Wind’s noise experts were up there [the Therrien home] to install noise monitors as part of the planned round of testing that’s been required by the Public Service Board (PSB). We, the department, also sent an attorney as well as our sound expert for two reasons. One was to have our expert monitor the installation of First Wind’s measuring equipment, to see how they were doing and to monitor their setup and ensure that it was following the appropriate protocols.”
“The other purpose was to meet with the Therriens, to talk to them about the testing that our sound guy is going to do, and to answer their questions and basically talk to them about what he would be doing,” said Commons. “Now, the independent testing that the department is doing is not required by the Board order or the Certificate of Public Good (CPG); we are trying to independently assess the situation on the ground, and understand what the Therriens are experiencing so that we can react appropriately.”
Commons continued, “One of the complaints that we’ve heard is that these noise monitoring machines don’t really take into account the annoyance and the human element of what they are experiencing. Our sound expert will have people on site at different hours of the day and night. First Wind has agreed to share both their operational schedule and their wind forecast with him so that we can be sure that the conditions under which he is testing are appropriate and those human beings will be listening, and they will also report on their subjective human assessment of the noise,” he said.
John Lamontagne, spokesman for the Boston-based First Wind said, “Not much we can say about it, other than the testing that has been done to date has shown that the project is well within compliance with the standards established by the PSB. We’ll await the results of the other testing.”
Helping the family the past six months to try to get something done has been Annette Smith, the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE). She first came into contact with the family, she said this week, when they filled out a form on the VCE’s windreporting.org website to document their concerns.
“The wind turbines don’t operate as much in summer, so they had some relief during the summer,” Smith said of the Therriens. “The Department of Public Service agreed to hire their own noise monitor rather than rely on First Wind, but decided to wait until the wind and noise got bad again, which it now has.”
Smith said after the Therriens filed their complaint with the state, two First Wind employees came to the house and refused to install a monitor at their home.
“So it was after that that DPS said they would hire their own noise monitor,” said Smith. “We only found out recently who they chose, and it is not someone who is looking at low frequency or infrasound so we still don’t have any confidence in the work DPS is doing.”
According to Smith, the Therriens are not alone in expressing concern over noise. She said there are complaints from others, “especially people on Underpass Road in Sutton. We have one complaint from someone 2 1/2 miles south,” she said.
Of this week’s independent monitoring starting at the Therrien’s home, Smith said, “I view this as a step forward. DPS Commissioner Liz Miller has said to us that if people are complaining, and First Wind is supposedly in compliance with the PSB CPG conditions, that still isn’t okay.”
“We would be interested if Governor Shumlin would pay us a visit to our home,” said Luann Therrien.
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