Scituate – Plans for an acoustical study to determine if the wind turbine is operating within state requirements will move forward after the Scituate Board of Health voted unanimously on Monday (Jan. 28) to follow the recommendations of members of the wind turbine steering committee.
However, not all members of the steering committee were pleased with the board’s decision.
“Not surprisingly, the Scituate Board of Health ignored its responsibilities to the residents impacted by the Scituate industrial wind turbine and voted last evening, in lock step, to embrace a scope of work, focused only on the limited acoustical study espoused by the wind developer and its financial partner,” said Tom Thompson, a member of the committee representing the Community Group, on Tuesday. “The only thing that was surprising about last evening’s events is that I thought that the board of health would be a bit more subtle. It was not.”
The steering committee was formed in the fall of 2012 by the board of health to address a method to be used to determine if the turbine is responsible for adverse health effects being experienced by residents living nearby.
Thompson, along with fellow steering committee member Gerard Kelly, helped to organize the Community Group, which is comprised of neighbors who feel the turbine has had a negative impact on their health and daily routines.
Many of these neighbors have filed formal complaints about the turbine with the board of health, and have spoken out about the issues during meetings of the board.
In addition to Thompson and Kelly, the steering committee includes 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, and Sumul Shah, president of Solaya, one of the owners of Scituate Wind.
From the outset, Thompson and members of the Community Group had stressed the need that, in addition to the acoustical study, a study on shadow flicker and a health impact survey should also be done.
This is something Deane and Shah have disputed.
“Scituate Wind is only obligated to demonstrate compliance with MassDEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) noise requirements, hence two scopes of work were submitted – one by each group,” Deane said of the split in the steering committee, and its recommendation to the board of health.
“Scituate Wind concurs (with the board of health) that this is the correct study that needs to be done and is reasonably required in accordance with the permit conditions,” Deane said, adding that Scituate Wind also agrees with comments made by Vazza that the study being proposed by the Community Group did not relate to any standards or any determination of what type or level of sound would be an issue.
“As Mr. (board of health member, Frank) Lynch said, no studies had been presented to the board which said a certain type of sound at a certain level would cause a certain health effect,” Deane said. “Hence the board felt it best to stick with known methodologies and standards.”
The steering committee was also tasked with recommending to the board of health an engineering firm that would perform the study. However, no engineering firm has been recommended.
Deane said the Community Group rejected all seven potential recommendations by Scituate Wind, and Scituate Wind rejected three of the four consultants recommended by the community group because, Deane said, they are not local, and they are known anti-wind activists, one of which is on the Board of The Society for Wind Vigilance and has stated he hopes the wind industry dies.
“Scituate Wind did not feel that such firms represent unbiased, professional opinion on the matter,” Deane said. “The firms from each side were presented to the board (of health) for the board’s consideration.”
He said the board did not take any action with respect to consultants. Board of Health members Russell Clark and Michael Vazza could not be reached by press time. Health Director Jennifer Sullivan declined to comment citing pending litigation on the matter.
Scituate Wind has agreed to cover the cost of the acoustical study.
Thompson said he, and members of the Community Group, feel the board of health is not focusing on issues of health and safety, “but on allowing the operator of the wind turbine to draft and design the RFP (Request for Proposal) for the study to attempt to prove compliance with MassDEP noise guidelines.”
“This is astonishing,” Thompson said, adding that MassDEP Deputy Regional Director for the Bureau of Resource Protection, David Johnston, has stated that evaluation of sound impacts from wind turbines is a complicated issue that was not considered by MassDEP when it developed its sound evaluation/noise compliance guidance in the early 1970s and as revised in 1990.
“We have seen no evidence that MassDEP has updated its sound evaluation / noise compliance guidance to specifically address wind turbines,” Thompson said.
Though he said instructions were somewhat unclear, Deane said he assumes Scituate Wind will present the RFP to the board for its review at its next meeting.
The process for going forward with the RFP was not discussed, he said.
According to Thompson, the Community Group is considering whether it wants to continue to participate in the steering committee process, “particularly given the clarity of the board of health’s allegiances. They are clearly not on the side of the residents and taxpayers of this town.”
“In lieu of protecting the health and safety of the residents that it is mandated to protect, the Scituate Board of Health has chosen to protect the town, the wind developer and their financial partners,” Thompson said. “This outcome is not unlike other situations playing out in Massachusetts, and for that matter, throughout the United States and Canada. And as residents and taxpayers, we are also reviewing all of our available options. At this point, everything is on the table.”
Deane said Scituate Wind is “disappointed that the community members refused to provide any input for where and under what climatological conditions the acoustic measurements would be made.”
“We had hoped that, to the extent there are potentially valid noise complaints, the Community Group would have been able to canvass the residents to find the areas of concern,” Deane said. “We were also disappointed that the community members rejected the study that MassCEC (Massachusetts Clean Energy Center) has proposed to undertake which measures in a much broader, more statistically significant basis, much of what the community group wants to know.”
Thompson refers to the mandate of the MassCEC that states it is “dedicated to accelerating the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects in Massachusetts.”
“Such a public pronouncement is in no way consistent with the Community Group’s insistence that such a study be awarded to qualified, non-biased, arms-length industry experts,” he said. “Add to that the fact that the MassCEC is a party in interest to the Scituate wind turbine in recognition of its $400,000 grant in support of the project.”
He said it is important to note that the MassCEC’s proposed study is not focused on compliance, but simply to better understand what is actually emanating from this industrial wind turbine and others in Massachusetts, with this data then to be used by the MassDEP to lower the compliance bar for this industry.
Deane said Scituate Wind is still amenable to working with the town and MassCEC to help gather that data.
“We also said we welcome input from the Community Group regarding the sampling program voted on by the board. Unfortunately, Mr. Thompson has stated that the community group wants to “pull back” from its participation and consider other options.”
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