FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Health discussed an updated mitigation plan for the wind turbines Monday without releasing details of the plan to the public.
That left the audience of about 50 people in the dark about what health board members were responding to.
Chairman Jeannine Lopes said they wouldn’t release the plan because selectmen would be discussing that same evening in executive session, which they are allowed to do under the open meeting law if it is part of contract negotiations.
Some details of the plan came to light as board members talked about it, however.
The mitigation plan is focused on reducing noise levels that have exceeded state limits in some testing. The state sets a limit of increasing noise levels no more than 10 decibels above what was in an area normally.
Because the Fairhaven turbines exceeded those limits in some tests, the developer, Fairhaven Wind LLC, offered to come back with a plan to reduce noise levels.
The updated mitigation plan was submitted on Nov. 11. Ms. Lopes said the developer was offering to calibrate the turbines or shut one or both off during certain wind speeds, wind conditions or weather conditions. It was not clear if both turbines would be shut down under these adverse conditions or if shutdown would be limited to night time hours when the violations have been registered.
Ms. Lopes said she wanted language in the mitigation plan requiring the developer to notify the health board when these wind or weather conditions occur and when it is making adjustments to the turbines in response to them.
She said that way the board can compare the complaints from residents against the other data.
“It’s a start,” she said of the mitigation plan. “If they are willing to shut them down during these wind conditions when they were out of compliance, I’m all for that. It’s a beginning.”
She added, “There has to be some kind of compromise between the town and Fairhaven Wind. Here they’re willing to turn the wind turbines down during certain winds, certain wind conditions.”
Ms. Lopes said she wants the board to be notified when the turbines are shut down so it can compare that information “with complaints to see if they’re under those conditions.”
She said they can always go back and remitigate.
Board of Health member Barbara Acksen said the plan still lacked a provision for an independent expert to verify the developer’s data. She said Fairhaven Wind doesn’t currently “have the ability to calibrate them” and needs to get approval from its parent company in China.
The board voted to have health agent Patricia Fowle write up its requests for changes and give them to member Peter DeTerra within 24-48 hours. Mr. DeTerra, who’s on a subcommittee on the turbines, said he would discuss the board’s concerns with the developer.
Monday’s meeting was moved from a small office at the Board of Health to the Town Hall auditorium because of the large attendance. Most of the people in the audience seemed to be from Friends of Fairhaven Wind, which supports the turbines, but some were from Windwise, which opposes them.
Ms. Lopes gave warning at the beginning that no public comment would be allowed. She said if anyone was disruptive or made noises like “cat calls,” they would be asked to leave.
Although the board tried to clamp down public comment, a few people spoke out anyway. Dawn Devlin of Windwise said the board should at least let audience members ask for “clarification” of the points it was discussing.
“It’s only common courtesy,” she said, “To be able to ask a question about what you’re saying.”
Carolyn Young spoke heatedly about being disturbed by the turbines 24 hours a day. She said the turbines were making so much noise “at 10 p.m. last night, I couldn’t sleep.”
There was a brief comment by a board member earlier about the turbines being shut down from 12 to 4 a.m., but it wasn’t clear if this was from an earlier agreement or involved just one turbine.
Ms. Young said that didn’t make any sense because the turbines were loud earlier in the day.
Ms. Lopes also rejected calls for a joint hearing with the Board of Selectmen. She said the health board had already held a public hearing and didn’t need to hold another one at this juncture in the negotiations.
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