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Kingston Board of Health requests state help

KINGSTON – Joe Casna answered to the Board of Health Monday night about why he didn’t do as directed and ask the Board of Selectmen to consider entering negotiations with the owners of the Independence wind turbine on flicker mitigation.

Bill Watson was the first to challenge Casna’s decision to not present this proposal to selectmen Feb. 26 after the Board of Health voted 3-2 Feb. 21 to do so. Casna said he decided against it. Watson said he didn’t have the right to decide that. Casna was told to follow through on the board’s vote.

“I want you to go forward with it,” Watson said.

At Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, Casna announced that there would be a turbine discussion at the next selectmen’s meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26.

Monday night, Board of Health members questioned each other about their action, and residents questioned them about their inaction. Former Selectman Paul Gallagher said a crisis level has been reached because the situation is beyond acceptable.

He said the board should be taking a stronger position and demand that the state Department of Environmental Protection conduct its own compliance study for the turbines because the noise and flicker from the turbines is a town-wide issue, not just unique to residents who have attended board meetings.

“It needs to be addressed as a crisis situation, because these people are in dire straights,” he said.

Leland Road resident Doreen Reilly said she appreciated that Gallagher would come forward on behalf of not just the residents like herself who have been asking that the turbines be shut down since October for compliance testing but for those who do not speak out.

Reilly didn’t get a chance to speak but was at Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, she said, to make selectmen aware that she doesn’t feel the Board of Health is doing it’s job of protecting the health of its residents with the Independence turbine continuing to adversely affect the health of her family.

She said the Board of Health continues to be negligent in protecting her family’s health. As for any of the votes taken Monday night, she said board members only have to go her house and other people’s home to know that flicker is at the very least a nuisance and overall unacceptable.

“What good is a flicker study now,” she said.

One of the votes the Board of Health took Monday was to request that DEP provide the board with a sound-level meter, for the measure of sound pressure levels, and information on how it can be used. The board also voted to ask DEP for access to WindPro turbine monitoring software for data on flicker.

Country Club Way resident Tim Dwyer presented what he described as evidence that these 2-megawatt wind turbines in town exceed state noise policy limits and were out of compliance before they were built.

He based this conclusion on the results of a study of the Mary O’Donnell turbines that shows a predicted net increase of combined sound over ambient caused by 1.5-megawatt turbines. He said this study was based on installation of lower megawatt turbines and it’s proven fact that sound levels increase as wattage increases.

He said the board has every right to order the turbines be shut down until sound studies have been conducted. He said town counsel says that the board can abate a nuisance, and this goes beyond that.

“You have the authority,” he said. “I’ve given you conclusive scientific evidence it’s out of compliance.”

The board took no vote on shutting down all four turbines. It did, however, vote unanimously, to request that the DEP conduct compliance testing for O’Donnell’s three turbines.

The board is awaiting the results of a sound study to be performed on the Independence by consultants through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. O’Donnell, owner of No Fossil Fuel, has declined to participate in the CEC study, so Watson said they should be tested for compliance separately.

Board members are also concerned about the effect continued operation of the O’Donnell turbines would have on the Independence study results when the study work gets underway.

On the agenda Monday night was a discussion on shadow flicker. Board member Dan Sapir questioned what the board was doing talking about flicker when there wasn’t a public hearing posted for Monday night.

“What is this, the pre-hearing for the hearing?” Sapir asked.

This was after Watson and other board members wondered what happened to the vote they took Feb. 21 to hold a March 18 public hearing on shadow flicker, or strobing. The answer was that the hearing was not advertised in time. Two weeks are required for the posting of a public hearing to be legal.

A public hearing for gathering input on flicker has been scheduled for Monday, April 1. Board members plan to continue the hearing to give staff time to develop some kind of regulation for review and then discuss the draft at the continued hearing. Sapir described this process as “ass-backwards” and abstained from voting to set the April 1 hearing date.