FAIRHAVEN – Residents expressed dismay and outrage Tuesday after learning the two industrial wind turbines on town land exceeded the allowable sound levels in some tests. They expressed even further outrage when Martin Suuberg, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he would work with the developer to bring the turbines into compliance instead of shutting them down.
The turbines exceeded the 10 decibel limit on adding noise to background sound in five locations under four weather conditions, Mr.
Suuberg said. He described the report as “preliminary” and said the DEP was releasing the results because it had taken so long.
Mr. Suuberg said the turbines went over the limit under state law in three sound tests on Little Bay Road, one on Teal Circle and one on Peirce’s Point Road. A resident of Teal Circle has appeared at many town board meetings to complain about adverse health effects from the wind turbines.
Mr. Suuberg came under intense criticism for saying it was “preferable” to work with the developer, Fairhaven Wind LLC.
He also came under criticism for letting developer Gordon Dean of parent company Palmer Management Corp. respond and for giving Fairhaven Wind LLC results before they were released to Fairhaven residents. The residents have been waiting for the results of the sound study since it began about a year ago.
Mr. Dean questioned the methods the DEP used, saying the state agency was comparing “apples to oranges.” He said wind turbines were at a “disadvantage to fossil fuel plants” because of the way DEP took measurements.
Mr. Dean said the DEP tests “are unable to distinguish peaks” and that its testing “ignores that background noise can change.” He said the wind can change during a test and that DEP’s testing was “too reliant on human judgment.” The developer stressed the financial consequences of shutting the turbines down even part time.
Board of Health member Barbara Acksen made a motion, at the meeting, to shut them down from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but her motion wasn’t seconded.
Board of Health Chairman Peter DeTerra said the Board of Health should meet with the Board of Selectmen, DEP and town counsel. The Select Board has asked to meet with the health board.
“This is quite stunning news,” said resident Louise Barteau, who has actively opposed the wind turbines.
“There are people in this audience that you haven’t seen before,” adding that they were there “because they cannot sleep at night.”
Later, she reminded Mr. Suuberg the DEP said before the tests began if they were not in compliance they would shut them down.
Some of the tests the turbines failed took place in March and April of this year. One occurred in November 2012. The tests were conducted by Laurel Carlson of the DEP. Mr. Suuberg said there were no incidences of noncompliance in tests conducted on Mill Road and Shawmut.
Local residents, including several new faces, recounted a litany of woes they’ve experienced since the turbines were built near their homes.
Grant Menard was among those who said he had sleepless nights. “When the backs of them are thumping, they wake up my 5-year-old child,” he said. Like others, he criticized the developer for placing monetary and contractual issues over people’s suffering.
Christian Powers of Little Bay Road said he lives in the second closest house. He said he gets headaches every day and that “half of my house is unlivable.” Mr. Powers told the developer, “You make money off of me while I suffer.”
A woman recalled a promise by Sumul Shah of Fairhaven Wind LLC before the turbines went up that the sound would be like “leaves rustling in the wind.” She called that “a lie.”
John Methia said his 17-year-old son can’t sleep at night and that his grades are down. “This town has never been this divided,” Mr. Methia said. He said the town should shut them down from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and that the developer should “write off the loss.”
Justin Downey of 12 Timothy St. said he drives a truck for a living and can’t sleep. He said he inherited his house from his great grandparents.
“I’m trying to sell my house and I can’t give it away,” Mr. Downey said.
In response, Mr. Suuberg said, “What I hope for ahead is a serious effort to minimize those sounds.”
Two selectmen attended, Robert Espindola and Geoffrey Haworth, along with Executive Secretary Jeffrey Osuch. Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy, who did not attend, has called for shutting the turbines down at night so people can sleep.
Mr. Dean said it will take time to make the technical changes to bring the turbines into compliance. He said they “can’t just flip a switch to lower noise.” He also stressed that his company had responded to a request for proposals issued by the town.
The developer called it “just a few instances” where the turbines had exceeded state limits.
Mr. DeTerra was often pressured to speak but wouldn’t, but at one point, he said to Mr. Dean that the turbines were “not in compliance right now. What are you going to do for these people?”
In response, Mr. Dean said he would sit down with the Board of Health, DEP and selectmen. But he added, “There is a financial impact on the town.” Referring to votes at Town Meeting, he said, “The town voted to put up turbines.”
Earlier this year, then Select Board Chairman Brian K. Bowcock tried to insert language in the town’s annual report saying the turbines were in compliance in testing conducted at that point. But in one test, in November, the turbines were not in compliance on Little Bay Road.
Mr. Espindola and Mr. Murphy voted against allowing the wording prepared by Mr. Bowcock, who lost his bid for reelection by more than 200 votes on April 1.
The Board of Health arranged after the meeting to meet with selectmen at noon on Monday, June 10.
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