Scituate – Members of the wind turbine steering committee continue to discuss and debate the primary focus of a study to determine if the turbine is responsible for adverse health effects being experienced by residents living nearby.
Formed by the Scituate Board of Health to address issues relating to the wind turbine, the steering committee is 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 residents Tom Thompson and Gerard Kelly who, along with neighbors, have established the Community Group.
The steering committee last met on Jan. 4, and spoke before the Jan. 7 board of health meeting.
The main divide among members of the steering committee continues to center on the Community Group’s feeling that in addition to an acoustical study, a study on shadow flicker and a health impact survey should also be done.
“The Community Group has made it clear to the board of health that although the steering committee may be focused on attempting to advance the discussion around an acoustical study scope of work first, the inclusion of both a shadow flicker and health impacts analysis represents material inclusions and that we will continue to insist on as reflected in the three pronged approach that we have consistently espoused,” Thompson said.
However, Deane said he believes that the community members of the steering committee agreed that the immediate focus should be an acoustic study since there were neither agreement on, nor a budget to fund the flicker or health study that they were requesting.
With respect to the acoustic study, Deane said Scituate Wind was concerned that the community members wanted to do a research study that was unrelated to whether the turbine was operating in compliance with its permit.
“As a contractor to the town, Scituate Wind’s obligation is to operate in accordance with its permit conditions and to sell power to the town,” he said. “Scituate Wind was not engaged by the town to conduct research on acoustics, health, flicker or other issues that may be brought up.”
During the Jan. 7 board of health meeting director of public health Jennifer Sullivan stated that the steering committee had decided to focus on the acoustical study.
“We are all learning about this new industry,” she said. “There’s a lot of debate, variables and a general lack of standards.”
Sullivan said some funding options for the flicker and health studies – which Scituate Wind has stated it would not pay for – might include town funding, private funding, and possible grants if available.
There also is some disagreement among steering committee members about the acoustical study.
Deane said some “tweaks” made by Scituate Wind to the Community Group’s proposed study were to make the study to be more in accord with the guidance provided to the town by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regarding how the MassDEP would determine compliance.
“One such tweak was to have sound measured over one second, as opposed to a tenth of a second as proposed by the Community Group,” he said. “Given that the study is an ‘attended’ study whereby human intervention is supposed to screen out extraneous noises, one-tenth of a second is not practical.”
Further, he said that MassDEP guidance specifically states “one second recording interval (log period).”
An additional tweak was to take three 10-minute readings at each location, as recommended by the MassDEP, rather than just one.
“We think it’s important to follow DEP guidelines,” Deane said, adding that MassDEP has offered to review the study approach.
Thompson reiterated the Community Group continues to insist on an acoustical study that addresses noise, infrasound and Aerodynamic Amplitude Modulation (“AAM”), as well as shadow flicker and the resulting health related impacts being experienced by members of the community.
Regarding the acoustical study component, there are really three key issues that are points of contention; octave band ranges, measurement levels and averaging, he said.
“On the topic of octave band ranges the Community Group continues to insist on utilizing the expanded octave band ranges laid out in its original scope of work,” Thompson said. “In the absence of this, the ability of this study to accurately measure noise, infrasound and AAM is compromised.”
By way of example, Thompson said that Scituate Wind’s preferred approach is one used in traditional noise measurement, which, like the human ear, effectively cuts off the lower and higher frequencies emanating from the industrial wind turbine.
“This standard, coupled with an average weighting strategy, is attractive to the wind developer because it will inaccurately record the actual acoustical performance of the wind turbine and miss both infrasound and AAM,” he said. “By comparison, our approach is to record both the lower and higher frequencies emanating from the industrial wind turbine and, which is more likely to record the actual acoustical performance of the wind turbine, including both infrasound and AAM.”
The Community Group also continues to push for measurement intervals as fast as 0.100 to 0.125 seconds, which will ensure the greatest likelihood that the acoustical study will accurately record the actual acoustical performance of the wind turbine, including both infrasound and AAM.
Deane said the Community Group had yet to present information regarding why infrasound or AAM had any relevance to health effects.
Sullivan said the steering committee is close to getting a scope of work for the acoustical study done and that the committee hoped to have a more formal recommendation to the board of health by the time of its next meeting, currently scheduled for January 28.
“Further work is needed on some details,” she said.
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