November 15, 2012

Neighbors blame windmill on Driftway for headaches, dizziness

By Patrick Ronan | The Patriot Ledger | Nov 15, 2012 |

The Scituate residents who say they’re being tormented by the town’s new wind turbine have prompted health officials to take a second look at the turbine’s health impact.

The board of health said at its meeting Wednesday it will order a study that will measure the wind turbine’s noise and shadow flicker in local neighborhoods, primarily in the Third Cliff section of town, where dozens of residents have complained of sleep deprivation, headaches and dizziness.

But most of the affected residents, including the McKeevers, who live about 600 feet from the turbine, wanted the turbine to be shut down indefinitely, or at least at night, until a study is completed.

The board of health said the turbine, which is off the Driftway and became operational in March, won’t be shut off unless a study proves it’s not in compliance with local or state laws.

Throughout most of Wednesday’s meeting, a video was played on a loop showing a substantial shadow flicker inside the McKeever home on a recent sunny afternoon.

“Everything about it is wrong,” said Mark McKeever, who lives with his wife, Lauren, and their two children, ages 11 and 7. “And I don’t know what’s going to come out of this, but I am a prisoner, and I’m tied to this house. I can’t go anywhere.”

Board of health member Francis Lynch proposed shutting the wind turbine down only when the wind blew toward the Third Cliff neighborhood, but neither of his colleagues, Russell Clark and Michael Vazza, seconded his motion.

Instead, the board voted to form a new committee that will define the scope of a new study of the turbine. The committee will include representatives from the board of health, Palmer Capital, which is the company that owns the turbine, and the affected neighbors.

The board said Palmer Capital is required to pay for a study that reviews the turbine’s compliance with permitting and laws. A study on shadow flicker may have to be funded by the town, Lynch said.

Although Lynch proposed a conditional shutdown of the turbine, he was wary of blaming the turbine for the neighbors’ health problems.

“The board of health has an obligation to make decisions based on evidence and facts,” said Lynch, a lawyer. “I don’t want to go through this whole process, and then have some judge in a year tell us there was insufficient evidence to support the board’s decision.”

Gordon L. Deane, president of Palmer Capital, gave a presentation Wednesday. He said the turbine generates about one-third of its electricity at night.

“The town would no longer be realizing any savings from this project (if the turbine was off at night). In fact, it would be incurring excess costs for the power,” Deane said.

Deane estimated that an acoustical study would cost $10,000 to $16,000.

Alex Alvarez of Collier Road said he was troubled to hear Deane bring finances into a discussion about public health. Nonetheless, he offered his own fiscal prediction.

“There would also be the financial impact to the town of the property values of that whole (Third Cliff) neighborhood dropping,” Alvarez said.

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