The recent release by the DEP of the results of the noise study conducted between Nov. 9, 2012, and April 2013 raise serious questions about the integrity of this state agency and the misinformation that was given to the town.
The Department of Environmental Protection has told the town that they should consider mitigation in order to avoid a costly lawsuit by the developer. The DEP fails to mention that if the town does not shut the turbines down at night, this has the potential to lead to a costly law suit by victims seeking damages. It is the citizens of Fairhaven who are the victims and the DEP has failed in its responsibilities to protect them. Our citizens should not become guinea pigs for the developer to experiment in different ways to achieve compliance. Thus the threat of lawsuits goes both ways.
Furthermore, why should residents be worried about a lawsuit from the developer when it is the developer who is not in compliance with the law? It is true, as stated in The Standard-Times, that Falmouth shut the turbines down immediately; but the case in Fairhaven is different. One key difference is that Falmouth owns the turbines and incurred a much greater financial loss because of this. Fairhaven would not incur this loss because it does not own the turbines.
The DEP is taking sides in this and that is wrong. They should remain neutral instead of pressuring the town to mitigate. Last year, the DEP sponsored a forum in January at the Hastings Middle School. With what they called a panel of experts, the DEP tried to reassure the town that there would be no problems because the noise levels would be way under the limits set by the state. Keep in mind that the use of the phrase “panel of experts” and the sponsorship by the DEP is all done to convey a message of authority and expertise. However, what took place was that the DEP-sponsored presentation reassured the community that there would be no problems. The results have now marginalized victims in our community.
In November, the DEP found that the industrial wind turbines were not in compliance, but chose to wait for seven months. Finally, in May, they informed the town. I guess they just couldn’t believe, or just couldn’t admit that they had been wrong.
In the last testing that the DEP did in April, they found that noise levels at two locations were way over the 10-decibel level. Testing at Little Bay Road was 12.9 and on April 12 testing at Little Bay Road was at 11.0 and at Teal Circle it came in at 11.5. So three times in April, testing showed they were not in compliance. They knew they couldn’t wait any longer; but now they want the town to mitigate and not shut the turbines down at night, with their main argument being for the town to avoid a costly lawsuit by the developer. The law is on the side of the town and the victims and if anyone has a strong case for a lawsuit it is the victims, but that is never mentioned.
On May 21, the DEP finally made its findings known. However, before they informed the town, they informed the developer, so he had time to prepare a slide presentation to show why the testing is flawed. I guess if you know the results beforehand, you need to be ready to respond by discrediting the methodology used.
Remember the panel of experts? The developer was also at Hastings Middle School. The developer and the DEP had no issue with the noise given off by the turbines. When the testing began in November, the developer had no problem with the methodology being used to conduct the testing. Now because the developer does not like the results, they want to change the methodology to get the results they need.
The DEP needs to do the right thing and shut these turbines down from 7p.m. to 7 a.m. Fairhaven officials need to take action as soon as possible, so that those who have been victimized can get a good night’s sleep.
Kenneth Pottel lives in Fairhaven.
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