November 13, 2012

Residents angered by early activation of turbines

By BRENT RUNYON | Falmouth Enterprise | 11/13/12

The wind turbines at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment turned on before scheduled this weekend, prompting furious e-mails from residents in the area and leading to tension between neighbors and town officials.

Earlier this year Falmouth Board of Selectmen voted to turn the turbines on from 7 AM every morning to 7 PM every night. But at 6:55 AM on Friday, Day Mount of Blacksmith Shop Road sent an e-mail to town officials and neighbors that the turbines turned on that morning at 6 AM. “Where is the Town’s integrity? First they are run after 7 PM and now turned on early. Are we to trust our own town?” Mr. Mount wrote.

It was the first in a flurry of e-mails from neighbors over the weekend, expressing distrust, anger and resentment toward town officials for turning on the turbines earlier than scheduled. J. Malcolm Donald of Amble- side Drive, West Falmouth, said yesterday that the turbines came on earlier than 7 AM all weekend, disturbing his sleep.

The turbines are a hot button issue, and neighbors do not understand why they turned on earlier than scheduled, he said. “How can we trust anything that the selectmen are going to say,” Mr. Donald asked. The turbines are operating at a loss, and selectmen or other town officials could be turning them on early to make additional revenue, he said.

“I don’t know the motivation,” Mr. Donald said. “I don’t know whether it’s malicious.”

Falmouth Wastewater Superintendent Gerald C. Potamis said the notion that he or another town official would wake up at 5 AM to turn on the turbines is false and disingenuous. “Oh come on, I think that’s complete malarkey,” he said. Mr. Potamis said he is investigating why the turbines turned on early. There appears to be a problem with one of the timing mechanisms, he said. “There might be something electronically misaligned,” he said. “It appears they are still operating on a 12-hour clock,” he said.

The turbines may be turning on at 6 AM and turning off at 6 PM, instead of 7 AM to 7 PM, he said. “It’s not the end of the world.” The turbines are run by computers and there is not a lever somewhere that can be turned on or off, he said. There could have been a problem related to power outages, he said.

Mr. Potamis said he thinks that some neighbors are making a bigger deal out of this incident, in hopes of swaying Falmouth Town Meeting members to vote to shut down the turbines. “I think that the people that are looking to make this bigger than it is are doing just that,” he said. “When emotions run into things people can become completely irrational, and I think some people have become irrational,” Mr. Potamis said. Most of the neighbors call Mr. Potamis on his cellphone when there is a problem, and he said, he tries to answer and respond to any complaints.

It remains to be seen if the incident this weekend will affect how Falmouth Town Meeting votes on a series of articles related to wind turbines. Jeffrey W. Oppenheim, a member of the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Process and a Town Meeting member said he hopes this situation does not have any long term impact. “It could be a short term distraction,” he said. “I’m hoping that there’s no adverse impact on our process. Obviously it’s hurtful for those that are adversely affected by it, but I don’t think there’s anything malicious.

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