The first meeting of a steering committee formed by the Scituate Board of Health to address issues relating to the wind turbine was held on Tuesday (Dec. 18), and despite a disagreement on what the committee should be focusing on, went relatively well, according to committee members.
The steering committee – comprised of Michael Vazza of the board of health, Director of Public Health, Jennifer Sullivan, Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, along with Sumul Shah, president of Solaya, one of the owners of Scituate Wind, and two members of the Community group, residents Tom Thompson and Gerard Kelly – 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.
But not all members of this new group were able to actively participate in the discussion on Tuesday. At the start of the meeting Sullivan stated that on the advice of counsel, due to the fact that the board of health is being sued by Mark and Lauren McKeever, the closest residents to the wind turbine, neither she nor Vazza would be able to make any comments during the meeting.
“We were disappointed to hear that the McKeevers were suing the Town of Scituate and its board of health,” Deane said. “We do not know the basis for such a suit, but it makes continuing dialogue much more difficult.”
Thompson, however, said that Sullivan and Vazza’s instruction not to engage in committee discussion, “although an interesting nuance, didn’t seem to impede this afternoon’s steering committee meeting.”
The primary topic of the meeting was the scope of work proposed by the Community Group.
“Scituate Wind made the conscious decision to start from their (the Community Group’s) proposed scope of work rather than having dueling proposals in the interest of meeting them more than halfway and expediting the discussions,” Deane said.
According to Thompson, the Community Group believes it is the responsibility of the steering committee to “recommend a scope of work that would be circulated to qualified, non-biased, arms-length industry experts; i.e., engineering firms that understand the accurate nuances of sound and light, and health care practitioners experienced in the area of sleep and stress related disorders.”
The scope of work proposed by the Community Group focused on three key components. Component one being a noise test procedure for the Scituate wind turbine; component two being a shadow flicker test procedure for the Scituate wind turbine; and component three a confidential health survey.
Thompson said three components are imperative because the impacts to the community are not one-dimensional.
“A number of families have experienced negative, and in some cases, significant, health issues related to noise,” he said. “Others are seriously compromised by shadow flicker. This study needs to address the noise and shadow flicker generated by this industrial wind turbine, and its resulting impacts on the health and safety of the folks living in close proximity to this industrial wind turbine.”
Deane said he felt the acoustic study proposed by the Community Group “was a good start.”
“Our comments were primarily wordsmithing to get the nuances correct and to avoid repetition and internal conflicts,” he said. “On the technical side, we felt the scope of work should adhere more to the guidance provided to the town by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), as well as to industry standards for doing such measurements.”
Deane did state that Scituate Wind had no intention of participating or funding a study on shadow flicker or a health survey.
Thompson said the Community Group was not surprised by Scituate Wind’s decision.
“From my perspective, Scituate Wind has chosen to recuse itself from further input regarding the shadow flicker and health impact analysis,” Thompson said. “The Community Group will then develop the scope of work for these components of the study with the board of health, and look to the board of health to fund these two components.”
As to why Scituate Wind would not participate in the flicker or health studies, Deane said that with respect to the video recording of flicker, “we have been clear that simply recording flicker for no longer than 60 days, as proposed by the Community Group, makes no sense to us.”
“The town looked at flicker when they chose the site; we modeled flicker for the specific turbine designated in our contract,” he said. “Those models project flicker for an entire year. The rising and setting of the sun is predictable, hence, subject to the sun’s intensity on any particular day, so is the shadow. We suggested a much simpler and cost-effective way to determine if those projections were reasonably accurate.
With respect to the health study, Deane said this was a new proposal by the Community Group and is not consistent with what the committee was asked to do by the board of health.
“Furthermore, no one on the committee, with the possible exception of Ms. Sullivan, has the expertise to design such a study,” he said. “It is beyond the scope and beyond all of our abilities. To the extent the town has concerns about flicker or health effects, it should have evaluated this before it chose the site and the turbine.”
He reiterated that Scituate Wind is just a contractor to the town, installing and operating a turbine in accordance with our contract with the town.
Thompson said the next step for the Community Group would be to review Scituate Wind’s comments to the proposed scope of work and hopefully be in a position to respond by week’s end.
“We do note the fact that Mr. Shah acknowledged today that operators have the ability to manually adjust the speed of the wind turbine, and as a result, the level of noise generated,” Thompson said. “The component of the study focused on noise test procedure needs to be fulfilled with the turbine operating at full capacity, and without interference of speed and sound capacity. The integrity of the acoustical component of this initiative will play a significant role in the community’s acceptance of the study scope of work and its findings.”
Deane said his group would deal with the Community Group’s response once it is received.
“The goal set for us by the board of health was to present the board with a proposal by the time of their next meeting in January,” he said.
Thompson said he would like to thank the community for its continued engagement and tremendous support throughout this process.
“It is unfortunate that the board of health has so far ignored its responsibility to protect its residents, and utilizing the powers available to the board of health, to order the operational discontinuation of this industrial wind turbine.”
Deane said he feels the parties commenced the dialogue on the scope of work, “which is the task with which we were charged by the board of health.”
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