PLYMOUTH – Alternative energy is a big idea with national support. But for Larry McGrath and his neighbors on both sides of the town line with Bourne it’s a local problem.
For McGrath and the neighbors it’s about wind turbines: four two-megawatt wind turbines located on cranberry bogs off Head of the Bay Road in Plymouth.
In recent weeks though, at least in Plymouth, it’s been solar arrays.
In both cases neighbors felt that the state’s incentives and regulations (or their lack) were the problem, that the town’s regulations (or their lack) were no protection at all and that the boards and committees that should be fighting on their behalf have done little.
“We have been aggrieved by the actions of the Zoning Board,” Lake Drive resident McGrath told the Board of Health members present that evening, referring to the Plymouth board.
Echoing complaints of many abutters of the dozen or more solar arrays that were begun before the town had specific solar regulations, McGrath argued that permitting of wind turbines in Plymouth had resulted in a variety of negative effects.
It has diminished property values, McGrath said. “No one wants a home with turbine views,” he said.
They are a hazard to health, McGrath added, offering up a study by MIT professor Raymond Hartmann that picks apart the state’s “purported” scientific findings to the contrary.
McGrath referenced what is called “infrasound,” or low frequency sound that is produced by the turbines and which studies have associated with nausea, feelings of dread and general anxiety.
McGrath also asserted that wind turbines have an insidious effect on the development of young brains and, he noted, his Plymouth neighborhood has more young children than he ever remembers.
Many of those residents purchased their homes during the long drawn-out fight over the permitting of these particular turbines and didn’t realize that one day – late this last June in fact – they’d be face to face with a massive wind turbine that, including the blades, reach over 400 feet into the sky.
That was Karen Gibides situation.
Gibides moved into a home on 10 Morning Mist in Bourne after Plymouth had given the South Plymouth turbine project the green light but before the courts had ruled against an appeal by Bourne residents.
Gibides lives with her son, an autistic adult. She originally had a wait-and-see attitude about the turbines.
Then they went up; she saw and she felt the effects, she says.
Gibides begged the Plymouth health board to give them a little comfort, a little hope, a little direction. But that didn’t happen.
Board of Health Chairman Dick Manfredi suggested they speak with the Zoning Board of Appeals or to the building inspector. But Gibides and others were insistent that this was a health situation.
“Because we lived in Bourne we thought our town boards would intervene for us, but I guess that’s not it works,” Gibides said. “Now we find ourselves struggling with all these stressful situations.”
Besides the Bourne/Plymouth problem, Gibides says there’s the problem that the problem is not always there.
“One of the dilemmas, as far as observation, is that on days when we are struggling at our house, someone across the street will not be, and another 500 feet away they are devastated. It depends on cloud cover, the direction of the wind, the weather.
“What would you like us to do to help you help us?” Gibides asked/
Alberto Fernandes, who lives across the street from Gibides, put it simply.
“We have a right to a peaceful life, a right to sleep,” Fernandes said.
Plymouth resident McGrath says he is continuing to pursue different approaches and is not encouraged by what he heard from the health board.
McGrath and the others arrived for their 8:15 p.m. discussion early, and had to sit through several hours of other business, including a hearing on new poultry regulation, before, after 10 that night, they got their turn.
“My takeaway,” McGrath said, “is amazement. I was amazed that there was far more passion about chickens and horses than about human beings. The turbine industry just dismisses everyone who tries to say that there are health issues associated with these turbines, calling it all ‘junk science.’”
McGrath points to Hartmann’s research. Hartmann says the arguments of the wind turbine industry are similar to those used by the tobacco and asbestos industries when they faced law suits about their negative health effects.
“The commonwealth should keep in mind that current and continuing research into the negative health effects and lost property values caused by improper siting of industrial wind turbines,” Hartmann wrote, critiquing the state’s own wind turbine impact study, “will demonstrate that the commonwealth and Big Wind are liable for ruining the health and lives of many of its citizens and destroying the value of the single most important asset of many commonwealth families – their homes.”
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