KINGSTON – The Board of Health approved a modified abatement order Monday night that changes the requirements for shutting down the Independence wind turbine when it is in excess of state noise regulations, standards and policies.
Wind direction will no longer be a determining factor dictating when the turbine will be shut down, and the turbine would need to be shut down for an additional hour each day under certain conditions.
The order approved unanimously by the Board of Health requires that the turbine be shut down year-round between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. when wind speeds reach at least 7 meters per second at the turbine hub, regardless of wind direction, and between 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. when wind speeds exceed 9 meters per second at the hub, also regardless of wind direction.
Board of Health Chairman Bill Watson supported using the wording “regardless of wind direction” to strengthen the previous order. Several residents who spoke out against the turbine asked that the board not specify a particularly wind direction as a condition for shutting down the turbine.
One was Board of Health member David Kennedy, who could not vote due to a potential conflict. Kennedy advocated for shutting it down between 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. under specified conditions based on what he said is black and white study data.
“I don’t know how a turbine developer can turn it off and then turn it back on when the wind changes,” he said.
Town attorney Jay Talerman presented the board with the draft order, in consultation with the state Department of Environmental Protection, and then the board tweaked it.
The release of a final acoustical monitoring study report triggered the scheduling of Monday night’s public hearing.
Local wind turbine developer Mary O’Donnell of Kingston, while not the owner of the Independence, took issue with the study itself. She said the results were rigged and warned of a lawsuit – even though the owner, Kingston Wind Independence, didn’t appeal the first one.
“We wait until 3 o’clock in the morning, in the middle of the winter, when there’s no leaves, and we catch them. C’mon,” she said
The first abatement order approved by the Board of Health in August 2014 required, in part, that the turbine be shutdown from midnight to 4 a.m. whenever the wind was blowing from a south or southwest direction in excess of 8 meters per second.
KWI representative Benjamin Cleaves disputed Leland Road resident Sean Reilly’s suggestion, based on his family’s experience with turbine noise over the summer, that KWI kept the turbine going even on days when it should have been shut down.
“We were in compliance the entire time,” Cleaves said, as part of a brief tense exchange of words with Reilly.
Reilly said it was his expectation after the previous public hearing in June, following the release of an interim study report, that the board was to consider expanding the abatement order to require the turbine be shut down between 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. when the turbine exceeds the 10 decibel limit whatever the direction of the wind.
His wife, Doreen Reilly, advocated for stricter hours, suggesting that the turbine be shut down from 10 p.m. to 6:30 or 7 a.m., when they have to get up for work and school anyway, noting the noise disrupts their sleep when it comes back on at the earlier hour.
“There are a lot of days we can’t be out in our yard because it’s too loud,” she said.
KWI is also being ordered to conduct additional sound sampling to refute or confirm predicted levels in excess of state noise regulations at locations east of Route 3 and in the Copper Beech Drive neighborhood west of Route 3. Additional study would be conducted in accordance with DEP protocol.
“Instead of doing a lesser order now, and coming back in six months, we can do a stronger order now and have them either disprove it or prove it,” Watson said.
Sean Reilly said it sounds like another stall tactic to have to wait another six months for KWI’s own study results. He said he’s also disturbed there’s been no action by the board concerning the impact of flicker on his home.
“The evidence is here,” Sean Reilly said. “It’s a problem. We have to do something about it. It’s frustrating.”
The order additionally opens the door to KWI employing a low-noise mode rather than shutting down the turbine, but KWI must first prove that the turbine would be in compliance with the state’s noise regulation, again by conducting further studies.
Wind conditions are calculated based in part on the daily forecast from the National Weather Service’s Taunton office for Kingston.
Green Energy Committee Chairman Mark Beaton said only factual data should dictate what action the board takes because the turbine, located on the town’s capped landfill, is not just a source of revenue for the town but also helps reduce its carbon footprint.
“I just hope you have a reasonable mitigation tonight and not go to extremes,” he said.
DEP Assistant Commissioner Douglas Fine said the agency continues to be available to offer technical assistance to the town and called the order “solid,” but said the decision to modify the previous order rests solely with the Board of Health.
“We definitely encourage the town to do what you think is right,” he said.
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