Two Heads Are Better Than One
This old adage, applied to the growing wind turbine controversy spreading across the Commonwealth, has some merit. The idea is largely the result of an under-reported potential solution suggested by Falmouth’s Board of Health member Stephan Rafferty. During the board’s January 7 meeting Mr. Rafferty recommended initiating a collaborative effort with other boards of health dealing with similar wind turbine health impact. This ‘Health Coalition’ would access shared community experience, and better prepare their own community’s address of health solutions.
State’s Indignant Apathy
Falmouth Board of Health has been well aware of State’s procrastination concerning resident’s health issues raised as a result of the operation of three industrial wind turbines so near neighborhoods. Now, other boards of health in the region are experiencing a similar lack of timely state response.
The Boston Globe’s recent January 20 article “Residents criticize inaction on turbines” sums up the collective resentment held by many health board members across area. “The state has agreed to study noise levels at properties around the Independence turbine, but is months away from having results.” “Meanwhile, the noise study around the Independence is still in the planning stages.” “Plans will then be finalized and the testing done, but no timeframe for final results has been set at this point, …”
Boards of health in Bourne, Falmouth, Scituate, Fairhaven and Kingston are being pressed for relief from residents. The January 19 South Coast Today article “Fairhaven health board member hopes for stricter turbine regulations” addressed the need, by southeastern Massachusetts towns, of enacting noise ordinances that specifically target industrial wind turbines. The impetus for the escalation of health concern is born from inadequacies of zoning regulations recommended by wind energy promoters. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a quasi-state agency focused on renewable energy development, has authored a state supported Wind Turbine Model Bylaw for municipalities considering wind energy projects. This is heralded as the state standard, yet more and more local boards of health are in a quandary.
In 2008 in Scituate, MassCEC employees, then working as consultants for a private consulting firm, recommended that the town change its strict noise bylaw to the less stringent state regulation in order for the town to successfully site a wind turbine. Scituate voted for this change in their bylaw based largely on the projected positive fiscal benefit, while being assured by “experts” of no expected community negative impact.
The shear frequency of complaints and similarity of symptomatic health issues shared in these communities speak directly to current local zoning, as well as to Mass DEP noise guidance and sampling protocol being suspect. The issue is noise pollution. Zoning regulation, in the context of noise pollution, is enacted to prevent or minimize conflict between abutting land uses.
‘HOW’ to prevent or minimize conflict (harm) is effective only when the definition of “WHAT” is causing negative health effects (i.e. noise pollution emitted from industrial wind turbines) is accurate. Area health concerns illustrate the “WHAT”, causing adverse human health effect, requires immediate re-examination. August 28, 2012 Falmouth’s Board of Health, after initiating an urgent formal request for assistance to aid in a health assessment of impact of wind turbines and to help insure the health of residents was protected, received a response from Suzanne Condon, Associate Commissioner – Director, Bureau of Environmental Health.
“Since you hope to address resident concerns in a timely manner, conducting such an epidemiological study does not seem realistic”
“With respect to interim mitigation measures for turbines, we understand from MassDEP that they have worked with the Town of Falmouth to address noise issues specific to these turbines. I believe you are also aware that mitigation strategies were included in the MassDEP expert panel report on wind turbines and health impacts. It’s my understanding that MassDEP is currently deliberating on both these and the public’s comments on the panel’s report to determine the measures and standards that should be considered in the siting and operation of wind turbines in Massachusetts.”
Could this coalition of local health boards prove more effective than the Department of Public Health’s refusal to provide aid, or the Department of Environmental Projection’s perpetual excuse – continuing to deliberate over measures and standards?
Local boards of health are responsible for the physical health and well being of their communities. Health concerns of residents fall squarely under the jurisdiction of the a board of health. The resident’s level of acceptable health, in these communities, are not measured by, nor should be subject to, municipal budget or climate action impacts. Such a ‘Health Coalition’ forum would provide opportunity to local health boards to center upon their prime objective. The collaborative effort, toward the mission of maintaining a healthy community, is certain to be more effective than the boondoggled assistance rendered by the state and it’s experts.