PLYMOUTH – Plymouth officials have signed off on sound testing protocols for four turbines that sit along the border with Bourne.
The sound testing is ongoing and is one of the conditions of the special permit granted by the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals to Future Generation Wind, said Paul McAuliffe, the director of inspectional services for the town.
“We see it as our responsibility that the turbines operate legally,” McAuliffe said.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection says the testing protocols are consistent with the agency’s current policies and guidance but stopped short of saying it approved of the plan.
“We continue to comply with all obligations,” Christine Nevin, spokeswoman for the owner of the turbines, ConEdison Solutions, wrote in an emailed statement.
Several neighbors of ConEdison turbines have voiced concerns to the state over the winter and spring about the sound monitoring protocol, as well as other aspects of the project. The Department of Environmental Protection took comments from the public and provided input to Tech Environmental Inc, the firm establishing the protocol for ConEdison.
But even before the turbines started spinning last year, they racked up complaints from neighbors on either side of the town line.
Larry McGrath, a Plymouth resident who lives nearby, said he has little belief Tech Environmental will report anything negative about the operation of the turbines.
“My skepticism level is very high,” McGrath said. “I really just don’t have any faith in the process.”
McGrath has also asked the Department of Environmental Protection if it would conduct its own sound testing of the turbines but that request was rejected, he said.
According to Tech Environmental’s plan, the company will monitor sound level for “at least three nights to capture the necessary downwind directions” at five locations. The testing is done with the turbines both on and off to determine how much noise the turbines add over ambient levels.
Neighbors have said that, when the wind is right, the noise from the turbines sounds like a jet plane that is constantly flying over. They say they’ve experienced a lack of sleep, nausea, and headaches since the turbines started spinning. The cranberry farmer who leases the land to ConEdison has said they are no louder than a passing car or crickets in the summer.
“The sound monitoring commenced during the week of April 17, 2017; we are aware of testing being conducted during three nights so far, but the testing is not yet completed at all of the six sample locations,” Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Edward Coletta wrote in an email.
A sixth, non-required location was added after the agency submitted comments on the proposal in March. The site at 720 Head of the Bay Road, “was added to address the neighbors’ complaints in the nearby condominium complex,” ConEdison asset manager Aude Schwarzkopf wrote in an email to a department official.
The department cited several overarching issues with the original plan that was submitted in March, input that was incorporated in an updated plan, according to Coletta.
Although department officials have said the protocol is in line with their policies, in comments on the first draft of the sound testing, the state agency requested that Tech Environmental “strike the reference of MassDEP approving the monitoring protocol.”
“MassDEP is providing comments on the protocol,” they wrote. “The town of Plymouth is the permitting authority.”
The department has noise pollution guidelines, which the neighbors claim the turbines violate, and got involved in the sound monitoring process “at the request of the Town of Plymouth and other concerned parties,” Coletta wrote.
Plymouth “ultimately approved the sound monitoring protocol required as part of their permitting process,” he wrote.
The testing process takes time and the turbines must be running for it to work, McAuliffe said.
“You’ve got to let them operate to see if there are problems,” he said.
In addition to using several locations, the testing will be done in several different situations.
“They’re trying to hit all conditions,” he said.
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