For the 10th hearing before Packer Township’s Zoning Board about Broad Mountain Power LLC’s proposal to build a wind farm on the ridge along the Packer/Nesquehoning border, Broad Mountain Power brought Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dr. Robert McCunney to speak on July 22.
McCunney, a professor of epidemiology, has been an expert witness for wind farm subjects, and he has written academic papers on the health effects.
McCunney was questioned on a variety of health issues thought to be related to the presence of windmills. On the subject of shadow flicker, he says the science supports that it is a nuisance, which he qualified, when under 30 hours total in a year. This project estimates 15 hours.
On the subject of noise, questioning got into detail, including analysis of a Health Canada study in 2016 of a large sample of people who live near wind turbines, looking at sleep issues, chronic illnesses and other self-reported problems.
McCunney reviewed Broad Mountain Power’s Hankard Environmental report about noise projected from the Broad Mountain units, finding that noise at 40 decibels or less that reaches homes in the area is not likely to cause stress, or lower quality of life.
Regarding subaudible sound – “infrasound” – tests indicate that there’s none of it beyond 600 to 1,000 feet of the units.
Attorney Bruce Anders, who represents a group opposing the turbine project, asked about the effect of the turbines on electromagnetic fields, with a reference to resident Bill Knepper’s question about the impact on medical devices. McCunney answered that an insulin pump such as Knepper’s would be affected after an output of 1,000 EMF, and these turbines generate at 0.9 EMF.
Anders asked about aspergillus mold spores released by construction. McCunney answered that he doesn’t think it is a hazard with this project.
Anders remarked to the zoning board that materials from Broad Mountain Power regarding McCunney’s testimony came in only the previous Thursday. He noted there was “too much to go through in the short time between then and this hearing.”
Cross-examination between Anders and McCunney became testy at times, with disagreements over phrasing, reports and more. There were disagreements on the findings of the Health Canada study. An offer by meeting chairman attorney Greg Mousseau, solicitor for the zoning board, to extend the hearing by another day got everyone’s attention, and settled things down a bit.
Anders introduced a study to the discussion with some findings that do not agree with McCunney.
McCunney, who was familiar with the study, pointed out that “it’s over 33 years old,” so there’s newer data.
Next, it was pointed out that the topography of the Broad Mountain site and this area is not similar to any of those studied. Discussion of this brought some grumbling from the audience.
Anders put forth examples of people with symptoms leaving the area of wind turbines, and the symptoms go away. McCunney’s response is that “you evaluate the symptoms.”
Township attorney Robert Yurchak asked several questions, including about how McCunney’s opinions were derived. From thorough searching of literature, was the reply. Yurchak followed up with a question on whether sound and size of turbines are related. He said, yes, bigger could mean more sound.
A question on the health effects of the wind turbines on agricultural animals was asked, with no answer offered.
During redirect, infrasound was again discussed, with McCunney dismissing it as “not a significant issue toward human health” at the distances being discussed.
The next hearing will be held Aug. 7 in the Middle School Cafeteria. Attendance was down again, to about 65. With attendance trending down, the zoning board will consider different meeting sites later in the month.
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