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Select Board chairman will move to shut turbines down at night

FAIRHAVEN – Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy Sr. said last week he will move to shut the turbines down at night at a meeting Monday, June 10, with the Board of Health.

“The goal of that meeting is to do what my goal was previously,” he said of the intentions he announced soon after taking over as chairman in April: To shut the turbines down at night.

Mr. Murphy said now that the turbines have been found to exceed the noise limit set by state law, “I now have legal concerns about not being in compliance.”

He said, “People wanted me to wait for the testing and now we have it.” But he added, “I think I could have done it before (shut them down) anyway,” under the terms of the contract with the developer.

In a hearing held with the Board of Health May 21, Martin Suuberg, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the turbines exceeded the 10-decibel threshold for adding to background noise in five tests conducted in Fairhaven. Mr. Suuberg said the tests weren’t finished but that they were holding a meeting to announce what they’d found so far since the testing was taking so long. The tests started about a year ago.

Mr. Suuberg said test results exceeded the limit under state law in three tests on Little Bay Road, one on Teal Circle and one on Peirce’s Point Road. The tests ranged from last November to more recent ones in March and April of this year.

Mr. Suuberg said he would “prefer” to work with developer Fairhaven Wind LLC to get the turbines in compliance rather than shut them down.

Also at that meeting, Gordon Deane of Palmer Management Corp., the parent company of Fairhaven Wind LLC, questioned the DEP’s testing methods. Mr. Deane cautioned that there would be financial and legal consequences of shutting the turbines down.

Following that hearing, the Board of Selectmen arranged to meet with the Board of Health at noon on Monday, June 10. It is at that meeting that Mr. Murphy said he will move to close the turbines down at night “so people can sleep.”

Unlike in Falmouth, Fairhaven does not own the turbines and receives lease income of $100,000 a year from Fairhaven Wind LLC.

But Mr. Murphy said there is language in the contract that would allow the town to shut the turbines down if they have an adverse impact on town residents.

Selectman Robert Espindola said Tuesday, “I really don’t want to make a statement until we have that meeting.”

He said most people realize he was opposed to the turbines being placed in that location from the very beginning, dating back to before he ran for office.

“I think there’s an issue with their being that close to the residences,” he said.

But as for voting to shut them down at night, he said of the June 10 meeting, “This is the first time we will have met since receiving the data. Obviously, there’s a big decision to be made here.”

As for signaling his decision in advance, he said, “I think we need to go through the process first. Obviously, if they’re out of compliance, it a pretty serious thing to consider.”

He added, “I will say I was really surprised the DEP didn’t take any action that night at the Board of Health meeting.”

Mr. Espindola said he didn’t understand why the DEP acted when a wind turbine in Falmouth failed the sound tests, but didn’t in Fairhaven despite earlier statements indicating that they would.

“I’m not sure why things have changed,” he said, “and they are leaving it to the town.”

Asked if there is language in the contract that would let the town close them down at night, Mr. Murphy said, “I believe there is. I have (town counsel) Thomas Crotty looking into it.”

Mr. Murphy said the town would not be “negating” the contract to shut the turbines down at night. But he said the Board of Health has a responsibility, too.

“The Board of Health has to declare it a noise nuisance,” he said. “I’m looking to them to work this out too and get this done.”

Asked before the Board of Health meeting last week about the wind turbine sound study results, Board of Health Chairman Peter DeTerra said he was surprised the DEP did not take any action.

Information in this story was corrected on May 30