The issue with Falmouth’s turbines has put the town in the national spotlight in the last few months.
On September 15, New York Magazine published a 4,000-word story titled “Never Stops, Never Stops. Head Ache. Stop.” The article investigates the affects of turbines on abutters. At the core of the article were Falmouth residents, including an opening paragraph about Mark J. Cool of Fire Tower Road, Falmouth, and the health effects he has experienced since the turbines have been in operation.
A little over a month later, in October, ABC’s “Good Morning America” broke with a four-page article, featuring an attached video, called “‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ Blamed for Mysterious Symptoms in Cape Cod Town.” The author, Susan Donaldson James, began her article with the story of Suzanne C. Hobart, who had moved from her Blacksmith Shop Road because of the Notus turbine in the Technology Park.
And, within the past week, news has been circulating that ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer,” a daily show with an average reach of nearly 8 million viewers per week, will air a segment on the town’s turbines. Word was that the segment was to air on Monday, December 9, but although some watched the program that day, it never came.
J. Malcolm Donald, Ambleside Drive, West Falmouth, had distributed an e-mail announcing the show on the day ABC reporter Linzie Janis told him that it would air.
Mary Godfrey, producer of the show, said in a phone interview recently that the turbine story was halted after Nelson Mandela died, dominating national headlines for special programming.
Ms. Godfrey added that she was not free to comment on when the turbine story might run and could not say that it would ever do so. She did, however, confirm that “World News” had footage for a segment on the turbines and that local Falmouth residents had been the subject of it.
Also interested in the story is The New York Times. Katharine Q. Seelye, the New England bureau chief for the Times, said she has researched the topic and worked on an article but has not yet been able to publish anything.
She attended public hearings in Falmouth and interviewed a number of residents who were voting during the May town election in which voters opted to keep the turbines erected.
“What has happened in Falmouth, the sharp divide in the community over possible health implications, the locating of the turbines, the financial burdens and gains, is a cautionary tale for the rest of the country,” Ms. Seelye said. “With the national push for more alternative energy, other towns could be confronting these same issues.”
Mixed Reaction to National Attention
The reactions from Falmouth residents to the recent attention have been mixed.
Mr. Cool is both glad that national news has taken to the story, but remains committed to the cause here in Falmouth.
“I did it more to heighten the sense of urgency felt by the neighborhood to the selectmen,” he said. “If it is going to take national media coverage to make selectmen come to a decision, than so be it. That was my point in standing in front of ‘ABC News’,” he said.
“I’ve gone so far as to support other communities in their interest of gathering information, before or after a wind energy project has been put in, but my focus at this point in time has been purely Falmouth.”
“It’s a shame that it takes attention from national media but if that is what it takes to move on to some sort of acceptable way to get through this wind problem, I’m all for it,” he said.
In the ABC interview, Mr. Cool said that he only spoke of the health effects he has experienced in Falmouth. “I’m not going to talk about the town, I’m not going to talk about the lawsuit or the recent verdicts in court. I will talk strictly about my health and how it affected me,” he had said to Ms. Godfrey before the interview.
Neil P. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, another abutter and outspoken critic of the turbines, was mentioned in e-mails about the possible ABC segment, although he said Ms. Janis did not interview him for “World News.”
For Mr. Andersen this recent national news coverage has been uncomfortable. “I hate the publicity,” he said. “I’m a private person.”
There is a silver lining to the recent news however, he said, in that it could bring hope to others affected, he said.
He added that Falmouth could be attracting national attention because of the recent success some of the residents have had. “We’ve had some success here,” he said. “This is a big problem worldwide and I hope I can help out.”
“It exposes the problem,” said Mr. Donald. “Some reporter is going to get a Pulitzer for this story. They’ll uncover this whole thing, all the health concerns and the health issues that are associated with wind turbines and the money involved with all the government and all these private companies.”
Kristen French, author of the article that appeared in New York Magazine in September, said what first struck her interest in the subject was a documentary called “Windfall,” produced in 2012. The film discussed the experiences of some abutters but did not delve into the science behind it with any depth. “I was curious about this one element of this documentary that seemed very odd. It seemed strange and mysterious,” she said.
She began by getting in touch with as many people involved with turbine complaints as she could, which led her to Fairhaven and then eventually to Falmouth.
Mr. Cool became the lead to her story, she said, because he seemed like a member of the community who was well liked. “There was a real life that was impacted, that could be measured. Something clearly went wrong and he was obviously losing sleep whether it was the turbines or not. Something dramatic did happen,” she said.
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