Light winds have not silenced the residents of Carson Road, who have come to blows in the last year over several wind turbines.
Noise complaints under investigation by the Columbia County Board of Health could reach the state’s Attorney General’s Office if it keeps up, Millerton resident Joe Amato said.
“When these people applied for their permits, they lied on their applications,” he said. “They said these things were no noisier than a refrigerator.”
Last month, Amato reached out to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, then the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. State officials, Amato said, instructed him to contact the county’s Board of Health.
On July 15, the Ancram Zoning Board of Appeals suspended a public hearing into farmer Joe Crocco’s wind turbine, in response to the county’s three-month investigation. Board members rescheduled Crocco’s public hearing for late September, after the county had made its “final determination,” Chairwoman Leah Wilcox said. Neighbor Michael Gershon’s turbines are the subject of a second, mid-September public hearing.
Last February, the Ancram Town Board voted to strip Crocco and Gershon of the special use permits they received in 2010 from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Town Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Ferratto handed Crocco a notice of violation, two months later, for his alleged dishonesty about the turbine’s noise level.
But last month, New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets designated Crocco’s wind turbine a “farm structure” – powering Copper Star Alpaca Farms. Town officials, emboldened by the county’s investigation, filed for a 30-day extension in order to appeal the state agency’s decision.
Environmental considerations are outside the state Department of Agriculture and Market’s jurisdiction, though, Amato said. Comparing the “deafening sound” to manure, he said the health risks were still as real.
“There’s a human limit of 60 decibels of sound – no matter who you are,” Amato said.
Irreversible hearing damage sets in at 70 decibels, he added.
High winds, from the remnants of Superstorm Sandy, brought the sound to Amato’s attention last year. He at first mistakened it for a thunderclap. His windows were rattled by the extreme force, he said.
One neighbor recorded a reading of 77 decibels, Amato added, at the height of the storm.
“The two sound waves can either be amplified or collide,” Amato said. “If you have two bullhorns, with one pointing at you and one pointing away, the one pointing to you would be louder.”
However, at low wind speeds, the turbines are practically noiseless – if they are properly-maintained, Amato said. The Environmental Protection Agency, he added, has a set a rural standard of 45 decibels.
“Where there’s a health problem, there’s an issue,” Amato said. “If it becomes that kind of problem, me and my neighbors will file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.”
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