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Kingston Board of Health faces packed house on wind farm noise

Human impacts, Wind turbines Add comments

Kingston, MA, is the fourth town in the area to experience widespread public complaints about noise from small wind farms.  As in Falmouth, Fairhaven, and Scituate, town officials have begun holding hearings to hear from affected residents.  On Monday, the Kingston Board of Health voted to consult with the town’s attorney, to explore what options may be available to them.  There are two privately-owned wind facilities in town; the discussion this week centered on a single turbine owned by Independence Wind, while previous controversy has swirled around three turbines on land owned by Mary O’Donnell.  See the Boston Globe article for full details on the meeting; here are some highlights:

Kially Ruiz, co-owner of the Independence turbine, which began operating in May, said that he would not change the turbine’s operations unless there is proof it’s out of compliance with state noise limits; O’Donnell concurred, saying “Everyone in the room Monday knows all my turbines are well within the limits for noise.”  As a result of previous complaints, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is scheduled to hire a consultant to do sound measurements this winter, with results by spring.  This may well turn out to be another project in which turbines operating within legal sound limits still cause noise problems.  Such experiences have spurred some community groups and acousticians to recommend lower noise limits in areas close to many homes.

Ruiz insisted that his turbine is basically inaudible in surrounding neighborhoods, which have a highway, train station, and wastewater treatment plant in the area. “I think the neighbors are hearing a lot of things.  It’s just not the turbine.”  But Board of Health member Daniel Sapir begged to differ: “I went to the Reillys’ home at midnight, and I heard the whoosh,” he said. “You may say it’s not physically possible, but it’s happening. It’s real.”

Neighbor Doreen Reilly spoke of sleepless nights when that whoosh permeates the house, and said their lives “have been turned upside down. This has caused more anxiety than I have ever experienced. Our peace has been stolen from us. . . . We want our lives back.”

As the sun moves north along the horizon, shadow flicker has become an issue for her and others; they asked the health board to order the turbines to be shut down at night and for the hour or so a day when flicker occurs at nearby homes.  Of the flicker, she said “It causes headaches….It’s in every room of my house, and it makes you want to flee your home.”  

It’s not just sleep and peace that affected. Sapir, the Board member, experienced a dire impact that cannot be so easily brushed aside: late-afternoon flicker ruining a Patriots game: “It was so annoying I couldn’t enjoy the game,” he said. “The poor dog was cowering in the bathroom.”

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