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Scituate turbine to remain turned on as Board of Health discusses next steps

Scituate’s industrial wind turbine will keep on spinning for the time being, despite residents’ protests to Board of Health officials.

A motion to turn off the turbine temporarily – from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. when the wind is blowing towards Third Cliff residents – did not receive a second at the board’s meeting on Wednesday, and no vote was not taken.

Although the turbine will remain on for now, health officials did vote to form a committee comprised of turbine managers, town officials, and Scituate residents. The committee will determine the scope of a study to be taken on the turbine noise and flicker, and choose a contractor to conduct the study.

Because Health Director Jennifer Sullivan is on vacation until late this month, the committee will not begin meeting until December.

While Scituate Wind LLC manager Gordon Dean agreed to fund a study to look at the turbine’s noise, at an estimated cost of $10,000-$16,000, he did not comment on whether the company would fund an analysis of shadow flicker.

“If we’re asked to conduct a study to determine we’re in compliance, we will do so. We appreciate that anything we were to do on our own would be considered suspect,” Dean said during the meeting. “[But] we’re not looking to fund a witch hunt.”

During his own presentation, Dean detailed the financial ramifications of turning the turbine off, suggesting it may cause the company to be in default of its contract and could lead to lawsuits with the town.

Town officials said they were not focused on the financial ramifications, but were looking solely at the health effects and whether the turbine was operating within its prescribed regulations.

Although the formation of a committee is progress for Scituate residents who have complained about the turbine, they expressed dismay that they would not receive any relief from turbine noise and shadow flicker in the meantime.

According to Driftway residents Mike and Lauren McKeever, the shadow flicker they experience three hours a day in their home, which is less than 1,000 feet from the turbine, is unbearable.

“You have no idea how difficult it is. We can’t go in any one of our rooms, we have to go in the basement or get out of the house. I’m so furious and so irritated by this. What am I supposed to do? What do you do? I have to leave my house from 1:30-3:30 every day it’s sunny out. That’s wrong… I’m a prisoner,” Mark McKeever said.

The pair even showed a video of shadow flicker on a loop for two hours during the meeting, the shadow from the blades making a strobe-like effect in almost every room in their home.

After the board declined to vote on the motion, Lauren McKeever pleaded with Dean to turn off the turbine on his own accord, a request that went unanswered.

Though the residential opponents said they are willing to work with the town to conduct studies of the turbine, the group may take further action in the meantime.

“It was pretty clear that the Board of Health, in not even providing a second to Mr. Lynch’s motion to at least shut it down in the evening, that there will not be any action in terms of a shutdown permanently or temporarily,” Tom Thompson, a Scituate resident and spokesman for the turbine opposition, said after the meeting. “As a community we will be considering how we want to respond to that.”

The board plans to meet in early December to establish a timeline for the committee’s meetings and discuss next steps.