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Health board investigating ‘nuisance’ wind turbines on Plymouth border

PLYMOUTH – Residents in Plymouth and Bourne who are upset with wind turbines they say are a health hazard will have to wait a little longer to see if their complaints will be acted upon.

After labeling the project a “public nuisance” two weeks ago, the Board of Health said Wednesday it will continue to review the situation and consult with town counsel and the Select Board about what next steps to take in this ongoing scenario.

“We will pursue this matter and address concerns to the extent we can,” said Birgitta Kuehn, chair of the Board of Health. “We will continue to accumulate information on the rules, regulations, bylaws and health effects of wind turbines while we review this with other boards and officials in town.”

Of concern is a recent letter from Future Generation Wind, which operates the wind turbines located on the town line with Bourne. Owned by Con Edison, the company wrote that it was concerned that it had not been contacted regarding an investigation into complaints about sound, lights and other issues.

In the letter, Future Generation stated it had not been given the “opportunity to present information or otherwise respond to allegations” and it would “seek legal redress for the violation of its right to operate” should the town take action.

Several people from the Buzzards Bay Citizens Action Committee spoke against the project, citing noise and flickering lights as disrupting their health and peace of mind. Many residents, who live in Bourne within 2,000 feet of the wind turbines, said they have been dealing with this problem since the project became operational four years ago.

“We’ve complained constantly,” said Valerie Lane of Hideaway Village in Bourne. “The noise is bad and I believe it exceeds the limits of the town’s bylaws.”

Joanne Levesque, who is also a member of the action committee, said she has witnessed similar situations with wind turbines in Kingston, Scituate and Fairhaven. She stated those projects were stopped or shut down because of problems related to being sited too close to residential areas. Levesque said she has tried to get the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection involved but to no avail.

“The DEP has a dual mission: promote renewable energy and protect the public health,” she said. “They are reluctant to step in when an issue crosses between the two.”

Homeowners also complained about a lack of response from Plymouth’s Building Department. They claim to have contacted Paul McAuliffe, director of Inspectional Services, several times but have had little or no response from him. In addition, some said the utility that owns the wind turbines never acted on greivances by residents, even after repeated calls and emails.

“Complaints were not addressed, but were acknowledged as being received, although no action was ever taken,” Lane said. “Con Edison had many opportunities to respond to complaints, but they chose not to.”

The residents said they believe the wind turbines are too loud and in violation of the bylaw. All complaints go through Future Generation Wind, which hires its own inspectors to test for sound levels. The Board of Health said it would see if independent testing can be conducted so residents can be assured of impartiality.

The board voted to request records of complaints and responses from Future Generation Wind and Bourne officials, as well as from the Department of Environmental Protection.

“We will continue to learn more about what we can do about this situation,” Kuehn said. “This is an issue of concern for people in both Plymouth and Bourne.”