BUZZARDS BAY – Residents of Bourne find themselves in limbo over what to do about the ongoing effects of living near wind turbines located across the town line in Plymouth.
Although many residents of Bourne, particularly in the village of Buzzards Bay, live closer to the wind turbines than most Plymouth residents, they have not received any mitigation funds or guidance as to what to do from either of the towns.
Since the Future Generation Wind turbines owned by ConEdison began spinning in 2016, neighbors have reported a number of health issues, including sleep deprivation, anxiety, nausea and headaches.
In a plea for help, a small group of residents came in front of the Bourne Board of Health on Aug. 8 after a Superior Court judge ruled that Bourne officials didn’t have the authority to regulate the construction of the turbines because they were outside of the town’s jurisdiction.
In that finding, however, the judge had written that a “Board of Health has broad powers to regulate and prevent nuisances that affect the public health,” adding that it remained to be seen whether the operation of the turbines would be a nuisance affecting the health of Bourne residents, opening the door for the town’s Board of Health to take legal action.
“We feel like we’ve done everything legally possible,” said Karen Gibides, who lives on Morning Mist Lane, located within 2,000 feet of the nearest turbine.
Residents have also sought help from the Bourne Police Department, Bourne Board of Selectmen and Bourne Town Administrator, as well as the Plymouth Health Department and Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals, to no avail, Gibides said.
“They all said there’s nothing we can do for you,” she said. “That’s a little scary.”
Kathleen Peterson, chair of the Bourne Board of Health, said at the hearing that she put in a request on July 23 to get advice from town counsel, but as of the hearing had not heard back. Therefore, she said she had no legal advice to offer residents.
The Board of Health can request to speak with members of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for technical assistance and to learn more about their findings, Peterson said.
Until the board seeks legal advice, Peterson suggested residents continue to go to the doctor to get their health issues documented.
“But, back to the beginning of time, I remember saying to you, we can’t do this for you,” Peterson said.
A report titled Future Generation Wind Turbines Compliance Monitoring Study, prepared by Tech Environmental on behalf of ConEdison, was submitted to MassDEP in May. The report stated that Future Generation Wind turbines were in compliance.
In early August, MassDEP handed it back to Future Generation Wind, saying it raised several questions and requires additional information before it can be determined that it is in compliance with the MassDEP noise policy and the Plymouth Zoning bylaws, according to a MassDEP report that was submitted to the town of Plymouth Building Department.
One of the concerns was that two wind turbines were not in operation during the compliance monitoring. The other was that there was no monitoring data from 2 to 3:30 a.m., which MassDEP in previous wind turbine studies had determined to be the best time to ascertain the ‘worst case’ scenario with the lowest ambient sound, the state’s technical review said.
Future Generation Wind has until Sept. 15 to respond to the concerns MassDEP had with the initial report.
The only mitigation funds that were set aside for the effects of the wind turbines was established by the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals, said Dr. Nate Horwitz-Willis, public health director for Plymouth.
The Zoning Board of Appeals set aside over $20,000 for residents of Plymouth to soundproof their houses, he said, and it has since been depleted. Bourne residents were not entitled to those funds, he added.
“What they did, the town of Plymouth allowed to happen, is a tragedy,” Ian Davies, an abutter to the wind turbines, said after the hearing. “We are dealing with people’s houses and lives. We are not against wind energy, it’s just that wind turbines shouldn’t be in a residential area. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who are being impacted.”
Many people in the neighborhood have either sold their homes or are stuck because the property values of their homes dropped since the turbines were installed, and they can no longer afford to leave, Davies said at the hearing.
Gibides said she and her husband tried to sell their home last year, but after seeing the property valued diminished, they determined they couldn’t afford to leave.
There is not yet a way to prove that the turbines lowered the market value of the homes because the Bourne Town Assessment Department needs two years to figure out if a trend in property values can be attributed to something, such as the turbines, Gibides said.
Although the noise from the turbines isn’t an everyday occurrence, Gibides said when she gets home from work and gets out the car, and the first thing she hears is the turbines, “There’s nothing relaxing about that.”
Editor’s note: The original version of this story included incorrect information about the jurisdiction of the Board of Health over public health nuisances. The story has been corrected.
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