OLEAN – A Farmersville resident in the proposed footprint of the Alle-Catt Wind Farm expressed her concerns Monday to members of the Cattaraugus County Board of Health and asked them to support additional health studies.
Jeanie McCarthy of Farmersville United, a group of residents opposed to the setbacks and proposed noise levels of the 120-turbine wind farm, urged the Board of Health to look into the issue of infrasound from industrial turbines – sound below 20 Hz and low-frequency noise inside homes.
This low frequency “sound” of the blade passing the tower may be felt or sensed rather than heard, McCarthy said, adding it can affect the body even though the sounds can’t be heard.
These sensations are felt by many people living close to industrial turbines, she said. They can cause chronic sleep disturbance, dizziness, headaches and memory loss.
“This stress can affect your life,” McCarthy said. “Why has all this information been ignored?”
People who receive payment for wind turbine leases are often subject to nondisclosure agreements. It can be harmful to livestock and animals, disrupt wells and release radon into basements, McCarthy maintained.
She pointed out that a group of residents north of Utica has sued a wind-power developer for $200 million in damages. Meanwhile, Invenergy, developer of the 380-megawatt Alle-Catt Wind Farm, faces a $40 million lawsuit from 60 families, who claim they are affected by the Orangeville Wind Farm in Wyoming County.
The Board of Health president, Dr. Joseph Bohan, said he thought local towns should be the ones to vote on wind projects, but that additional studies may need to be done “to make sure they are safe to people.”
The board, Bohan said, is not equipped to discuss this project.
But Cattaraugus County Legislature Majority Leader Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville, said, “The average citizen has no idea” about what the effects of wind farms to nearby residents could be. “Not enough information gets out.”
Vickman was a sponsor of a County Legislature resolution calling on the county’s Industrial Development Agency not to participate in a payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) agreement with a large wind farm. The resolution passed with only two no votes.
Deputy County Attorney Thomas Brady said the county nominated four people for the siting board under Article 10 that governs wind projects in New York. Two of the four will be selected to participate on the siting board, he said.
The proposed wind farm includes the towns of Farmersville and Freedom in Cattaraugus County, Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County and Arcade in Wyoming County.
Dr. Kevin Watkins, the county’s public health director, noted the eight-county Western New York Public Health Alliance issued a letter to the Public Service Commission three years ago stating under Article 10 “our local boards of health’s home rule ability to take steps to safeguard the health and wellness of our residents and protect the environment within our communities has been put at risk.”
The project involving wind turbines almost 600 feet tall should be subject to a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) study before it is approved, Watkins said.
“We are still looking for more detailed studies on adverse effects” on people, Watkins said. “We’ll reach out to the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control for more information.”
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