LOWELL – An attorney for the towns of Albany and Craftsbury say that violations in noise limitations from Lowell wind turbines are endangering neighbors’ health and creating a public nuisance.
And the towns are asking for more indoor testing to make sure that noise levels inside homes are not higher than allowed.
The noise testing was done in December and January at the Lowell wind project called Kingdom Community Wind. Almost all the tests showed that the noise produced by the turbines were within levels allowed by state utility regulators.
But several tests showed, based on one method of analysis, that noise recorded over a two-hour period at the home of Don and Shirley Nelson in Lowell exceeded allowable limits. The rest of the 703 hours of testing did not show higher than allowed noise levels.
The towns reacted to the report filed in February by Green Mountain Power with the Vermont Public Service Board. GMP officials said they were pleased that except for the one short period when it was too noisy near the Nelson home, the noise levels matched the modeling done before the project was constructed.
Jared Margolis, attorney for Albany and Craftsbury, said in a letter to the PSB that the towns are “extremely concerned regarding the violations of the noise limitations established by the board that were noted in GMP’s fall and winter compliance testing reports.
“These endanger the public health and cause a nuisance that the board must not allow,” he wrote.
The violations were recorded with 10 to 14 out of 21 turbines operating not long after the project was first commissioned.
While there were only two hours of violations, or .3 percent of the test period, Margolis said that translates into several hours of sleep disturbance and annoyance that impacts neighbors’ health.
Margolis said that when all turbines are operating, there will be even more violations, citing a noise report from a consultant.
“The board’s mandate is to ensure that this project is in the public good,” he said, saying that GMP cannot operate in compliance to the standards. “Something must be done,” he wrote.
What concerns the towns most, Margolis wrote, is that he said GMP “fails to provide any indication of how they will resolve these high noise levels.”
The towns are asking for fines against GMP for the high noise levels already recorded in December and January, Margolis wrote.
Any other noise levels that exceed the limits should prompt the PSB to shut down all the turbines or at least take enough turbines off line to stop the noise until GMP can assure PSB that no further violations will occur.
The towns provided new testimony showing that the limit of 45 decibels, which is considered the highest noise level allowed, is insufficient to protect human health, Margolis wrote.
The towns ask that the PSB take testimony from the neighbors to understand how the noise is affecting them, he said. The PSB should understand the ramifications of allowing a wind projects using faulty noise modeling and insufficient protections for neighbors, he said.
In a letter to the PSB, Robert Rand of Rand Acoustics said that he looked at the raw data on behalf of the towns and concluded that there would be more frequent higher noise incidents when all the turbines are operating.
He said that the standards relied on by the PSB are misleading and not suited for the New England region and do not account for how humans hear some noises.
Margolis has been hired to represent the towns and funded through donations.
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