A steering committee formed by the Scituate Board of Health to address issues relating to the wind turbine should be holding its first meeting before the end of the year.
The steering committee – comprised of Michael Vazza of the board of health, Director of Public Health, Jennifer Sullivan, two representatives from Palmer Management Corporation, which manages Scituate Wind, LLC, and two to four members of the community – will be overseeing the scope (job description) for an engineering firm that will be hired to evaluate noise and shadow flicker from the turbine that residents have said are to blame for sleep deprivation, headaches, and dizziness, among other negative health affects experienced since the turbine went online earlier this year.
“We’re hoping to have a list of people to consider for hire for the acoustic study by the beginning of January,” said board of health chairman Russell Clark. “That is something the steering committee will be working on.”
At its Nov. 14 meeting, the board of health decided to form the steering committee after residents voiced concerns about the hiring of a qualified, non-biased engineering firm to perform the acoustical and shadow flicker analysis that accurately reflects the noise and shadow intensity experienced by members of the community.
“My idea was to get these people together and be transparent and work together,” Clark said. “As long as everyone knows we’re moving forward.”
Gilson Street resident Tom Thompson said the scopes of work are being identified and will be considered at the next open meeting of the steering committee, which will be the first meeting of the steering committee.
“It will be up to the steering committee to review the scope of work and make its recommendations to the board of health,” he said.
Thompson added it is very important that the residents have a voice in the process, and that their concerns not be discounted.
While no date has been set for the steering committee meeting, Clark and Thompson both said it is very likely the meeting will take place within the next couple of weeks, and prior to the next board of health meeting scheduled for early January.
The board of health will have to vote on the steering committee’s recommendations on the scope of work and vote to move forward with the studies.
Residents, as well as representatives of Palmer Management Corporation, attended a board of health meeting on Dec. 3 at the Scituate Community Center (the former Pier 44 building) where the steering committee was addressed. Sullivan was not present at the meeting.
Another concern, Thompson said, stemming from the Dec. 3 board of health meeting, was Clark and Vazza’s desire to direct a letter to the town building inspector arguing that based on evidence provided by the community there was reason to believe there might be noise and shadow flicker violations to the building permit.
Thompson said he felt by issuing the letter to the building inspector, these two members of the board of health were attempting to transfer responsibility of the turbine issue to the building inspector.
“The board of health would have broken the spirit and intent of the creation of the steering committee,” he said.
However, in an interview earlier this week, Clark said the building inspector has “some jurisdiction” over the wind turbine, and that by drafting a letter to the building inspector the board was only following procedure.
“If you read the planning board’s special permit policy, if there is a problem the building inspector can take a look at it and order a study done,” he said, adding that drafting the letter to the building inspector was “just a paper trail following procedure.”
“The board of health is not trying to get out of any work or responsibility,” he said.
The whole issue of going to the building inspector was moot anyhow, Clark continued, because Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, has already offered to pay for a “fair study.”
“He said he wouldn’t pay for a witch hunt, but he would pay for a study,” Clark said.
In agreeing with Clark, Deane pointed to paragraph 10 of the special permit, which states the town building inspector could require a noise analysis to insure the noise levels meet the requirements of the Scituate Zoning Bylaw.
“Hence, if there is a reasonable basis to assume violations, and if done property – i.e., required by the Town of Scituate building inspector – then a noise analysis must be performed,” Deane said. “We have assumed that Scituate Wind, LLC will pay for the study.”
There are limits, though, to the type of study, Deane said.
“The study is only required to determine if the project is in compliance with the town’s zoning bylaw, which effectively states that the project needs to be in compliance with the state noise policy.”
Thompson said that during the Dec. 3 meeting, board of health member Francis Lynch, along with residents in attendance, said a letter to the building inspector was, at the very least, premature.
“The good news is, that by attempting to get approval to have this letter directed to the building inspector, both Mr. Clark and Mr. Vazza acknowledged on the record that, based on evidence provided by the community to date, there was a reasonable basis to believe that there may be noise and shadow flicker violations,” Thompson said.
What is disappointing, Thompson continued, “is that the board of health still refuses to do anything material about it, other than creating a steering committee.”
During previous board of health meetings, residents had requested the turbine be turned off during the steering committee’s investigative phase, or at least during the night.
“The board of health’s only concern should be to exercise its authority and responsibility to protect the health and safety of its residents,” Thompson said. “In my view, an impartial and independent board of health would have already shut the industrial wind turbine down.”
Clark was optimistic about the outcome of the study.
“It will all work out in the end, I know it will,” Clark said. “We’re all residents of Scituate.”
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