Witnesses testified Thursday night that proposed turbines could affect people and wildlife in Penn Forest Township.
The township zoning hearing board met for the fifth night of hearings on the special exception application of Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Iberdrola. This was the fifth night of hearings into the application to put 37 wind turbines on the ridges of the Bethlehem Water Authority property.
Bruce Anders, attorney for the opposition, called Dr. Wayne Spiggel, a retired internist who has studied published information on the health impacts of living near a wind turbine.
Spiggel said in the past two years he has interviewed 30 people who have experienced health impacts as a result of where they live.
“I believe it is more than just a probability, it is an inevitability, that some of your constituents will have their health impacted by these wind turbines,” Spiggel told zoning board members.
Spiggel said not every person living near a turbine is affected, but that those who are, suffer effects to their mood, judgment, and ability to learn and reason. They are also more prone to injury or accidents.
Sleeplessness and irritability were the most common complaints.
Spiggel said he was not against alternative energy sources, but he strongly recommended placing the turbines at least one and a half miles away from the nearest home.
Spiggel called for a “precautionary principle.”
“It is a common-sense approach to making public decisions,” Spiggel said. “If something appears that it is going to hurt people, it’s just not worth it.”
Pamela Kim Van Fleet, an instructor/visiting professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, teaches a variety of courses in the field of biology. Her specialty is ornithology, specifically raptors.
Van Fleet addressed ecological issues related to bird migration and habitat and the effect that the wind turbine construction would have on the area surrounding the project.
Van Fleet referred to the Bethlehem Watershed property as unique in terms of its high level of biodiversity.
“The geography and habitat diversity may make the area more resilient to climate change,” Van Fleet said. “Currently there are enough resources for the organisms that live there.”
Van Fleet spent an entire day hiking through the area to prepare for her testimony. Additionally she spent time reviewing the various sources which include information regarding the natural resources inventory of the area.
“There are two migration corridors, one directly within the proposed area of impact and one very close,” said Van Fleet. “These are birds of prey and they use these routes mainly in the fall.”
Van Fleet said blade strikes are dangerous to birds. She said domestic cats, skyscrapers and windows also account for large numbers of bird collisions.
Van Fleet also testified to the “edge effect.
“When you cut a swath through the forest you create an edge effect,” Van Fleet said. “When you create a new edge you increase the number of edge predators, like our friends the raccoons and skunks and snakes. And you also increase parasitism like the brown-headed cowbird. All of these will prey on bird nests.”
Avangrid said the project will only disturb 292 acres. Van Fleet said when one considers the edge disturbance and that the edge effect will impact one quarter mile in each direction, the 292 acres become 3,300 acres affected by the project.
Van Fleet said the area needs to remain as it is to protect the diverse ecosystem that currently thrives on the site.
On cross-examination Van Fleet said her testimony did not just apply to a wind turbine project, but any industrial or residential project built on the Bethlehem Watershed.
“I recommend against any type of development that has the potential to impact the integrity and the quality of the current watershed.”
The final witness of the evening was A. Christopher Mangold. Mangold is a 20-year resident of Lipo Way in Albrightsville. The plan provided with the application calls for seven wind turbines behind Mangold’s home.
Mangold said he is concerned and frightened by the impact that the project will have on his life.
“I work from home. If I can’t sleep, how can I work and support my family,” Mangold said. “I am concerned about noise, ice throws and shadows. I have young grandchildren living in my home. Of course this concerns me.”
The hearings will continue at 6 p.m.Sept. 20.
Check the Times News Facebook page for video from the hearing Thursday.
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