KINGSTON – In May, the wind turbine Independence started turning on the town’s capped landfill, three months after developer Mary O’Donnell’s three turbines started turning on her Marion Drive property.
The literal and figurative headaches began then for residents who have come forward since the turbines started turning to ask that all four be shut down, at least temporarily.
According to Kially Ruiz, co-owner and manager of Kingston Wind Independence, the owner of the turbine, the Independence has generated more than $75,000 in income for the town, at no cost to the town, but many of these residents say there has been a cost.
Multiple residents have come forward with stories of sleep deprivation and other physical ailments due to sound generated by the turbine and shadow flicker effect, not to mention the economic hardship from not being able to sell their homes.
O’Donnell and the town have been sued by a group of residents challenging the site plan review process and notice requirements for her turbines. Their lawsuit does not cover the Independence. Originally, this group of residents and some others had requested a cease and desist order for the four turbines. This was before they started spinning.
When Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer Paul Armstrong denied their request at the end of April, they appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. In August, the ZBA found no fault with the permit process for the Independence and O’Donnell turbines.
While several residents have taken legal action against O’Donnell, some of those residents and others have taken their concerns about the Independence to the Board of Health. A meeting with the Board of Selectmen gave them no relief due to concerns over potential litigation from breach of contract.
The Board of Health will next meet Jan. 14 to potentially vote on a proposal to shut down all four wind turbines until a sound study requested by Ruiz and commissioned and paid for by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has been completed.
The Board of Health can statutorily rule the turbines to be a nuisance, resulting in possible enforcement action, including seeking removal of the nuisance or abatement of the nuisance. Town counsel has urged the board to wait for the results of the sound study.
The same residents are questioning how a sound study of the Independence only, not O’Donnell’s turbines, too, undertaken at Ruiz’s request, will really address their concerns, and what action the state Department of Environmental Protection will take.
Ruiz maintains that the sleep deprivation and other physical effects are not the result of wind turbine noise. He said scientists are finding that actual wind turbine noise levels do not correlate with such complaints and that there are many other potential sources of the sound.
The Independence may be joined on the town’s capped landfill by a solar array in the next year with the town’s Green Energy Committee in the process of reviewing two bids for the project. The original company given the contract pulled out, starting the bidding process over again.
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