KINGSTON – The Kingston Board of Health is considering writing its own shadow flicker policy for wind turbines as part of overall wind turbine regulations.
Board member Bill Watson said he wanted to focus on flicker because it’s not receiving the level of attention as sound. According to testimony from residents, he said, it seems to be excessive in some neighborhoods.
“If it’s exceeding what was promised to the town, then they either should be shut down or it should be mitigated,” he said.
The discussion developed as a question and answer between Watson and board member Dan Sapir. Watson said he’s concerned that the flicker effect is more prevalent than promised. He said he wants to know if the both flicker and sound levels are being exceeded.
The board discussed developing draft regulations by collecting information from the state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, other communities, town counsel, engineering firms and various other sources and then holding a public hearing to get feedback. Included in the draft, Watson said, would be monitoring and enforcement.
Sapir said the board cannot take a cavalier approach to any new regulations and needs to cover all its basis. He said he would be more receptive if the board gets outside guidance with expertise in developing regulations. He has advocated for special counsel.
“We can’t stumble here if we’re to go in that direction, Bill,” Sapir said. “I’m not in any way downgrading what you’re trying to do here, but we really need to have a strong support system in place if that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Watson agreed that the board would need outside guidance and to accept offers of assistance. The board will further discuss potential regulations at its next meeting, 6 p.m. Monday.
“Certainly we can look for outside sources,” he said.
Board member Jack Breen said anyone can submit suggestions, but anything that’s presented would need to be corraborated.
Attorney Christopher Senie represents a group of residents fighting in Land Court against approval of wind developer Mary O’Donnell’s three turbines. At Monday night’s Board of Health meeting, he reviewed a draft noise regulation he had previously submitted to the board.
In many towns, Senie said, the data gets collected but isn’t shared. He suggests requiring that the data quickly become public information.
“We need to facilitate peer review, and we need for members of the community to feel that they can look at the data that’s being captured and reported and understand what went into a finished report,” he said.
The DEP only has a policy on sound pressures, Senie said, not regulations. He agreed with Leland Road resident Sean Reilly that there was no real flicker study done for the Independence turbine. He said there was one for the O’Donnell turbines, but the study was based on smaller turbines.
The Board of Health agreed to reach out to the Green Energy Committee and Town Planner Tom Bott to collect any information on flicker the town collected during the approval process for the two turbine projects.
Senie said the standard written into the town’s zoning by laws is that the applicant must ensure that flicker does not cause an undue disturbance to neighborhoods. He said he doesn’t believe there is a state standard.
The flicker that plagued Reilly’s family last year has returned. The day of the meeting, Senie said, he counted the number of what he described as blinks during a 55-minute time period.
You can view video of flicker taken by Doreen Reilly last October and posted to YouTube: http://youtu.be/MN0AOSteARk
Senie said the problem is immediate, proposing that KWI mitigate the flicker by shutting the turbine off for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon.
Kingston Wind Independence owners were recently asked by the Board of Health to consider taking action to mitigate the noise and flicker concerns of residents. Their response was they prefered to wait for the results of a sound study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
Board of Health member Bill Kavol said he visited a neighborhood close to the Independence turbine at 11:30 one night and heard “quite a bit of noise” from the Independence, describing this experience as “ammunition.”
Board member Dan Sapir questioned his use of the word ammunition. Kavol said he wanted his visit to be part of the record.
The board received an e-mail from project manager Peter McPhee Monday that offered to include O’Donnell’s wind turbines in the study. It was previously going to focus on the Independence only, much to neighbors’ dismay.
Board members voted 4-0-1, with Sapir abstaining, to send a letter to O’Donnell with that invitation and request she respond within a week. O’Donnell said Wednesday her attorney would submit a written response to the board.
She said she would love to be part of the study but would want assurance from the board that once her turbines are deemed to be in compliance with state standards, that will be it.
“I’m very confident we are in conformance,” she said. “When we pass, I want it over.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding