SCITUATE – The state Department of Environmental Protection has formed an advisory group to evaluate its noise policies as they pertain to wind turbines, but it will not consider the sound waves that neighbors of the Scituate turbine say cause headaches and nausea.
The Wind Turbine Noise Technical Advisory Group last week held its first meeting to begin looking at wind turbine noise and how it is regulated.
Albert Bangert, Scituate’s department of public works director, will serve on the panel, along with 15 other stakeholders, including acousticians, wind industry representatives, public health officials, and someone who lives near a Falmouth turbine.
The group will meet once a month before recommending later this year changes to the noise policies.
But Tom Thompson, a Gilson Street resident and advocate for the responsible siting of turbines, said it’s the protocol for how noise is recorded and tested, not just the regulations, that need an overhaul.
“We continue to push for an in-depth analysis of the manner of which noise is tested and recorded,” said Thompson, who thinks low-frequency sound known as infrasound and aerodynamic amplitude modulation should be tested.
Current regulations state that noise sources must not be more than 10 decibels louder than ambient noise. There are no guidelines for infrasound, an inaudible sound wave thought to cause headaches and nausea, or the whooshing sound of turbines, known as amplitude modulation.
The group will consider revisions to address some unique characteristics of wind turbine sounds, but Edmund Coletta, spokesman for MassDEP, said it will not look at infrasound or the testing protocol for it.
“(Infrasound) is not in our purview at this time, and there’s no way to quantify that at this time,” he said.
Stephen Ambrose, an acoustician chosen for the group, is often cited for his study of the infrasound caused by the Falmouth turbine, which he found to cause headaches and nausea for him and his he research partner.
Thompson said any study that omits the source of the health problems experienced by neighbors only does residents an injustice.
“For some reason they want to avoid certain components, and until all of that is embraced, it’s not an all accompanying study,” he said. “Excluding those three key aspects of sound and the health impacts, that’s what it’s all about.”
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