Massachusetts Health Board to analyze turbine complaints

By BRENT RUNYON, Falmouth Enterprise, 2 September 2011

Falmouth Board of Health has received more than 90 complaints about the wind turbines in town since June 7. That total was filed by 11 residents reporting headaches, nausea, concentration problems, anxiety, anger and the inability to sleep.

Two-thirds of the complaints concern the Notus Clean Energy Wind Turbine in Falmouth Technology Park, while the remainder focused on Wind 1, the town-owned turbine at the Wastewater Treatment Facility. There were no complaints logged about any other turbines in town.

Suzanne C. Hobart of 476 Blacksmith Shop Road submitted nearly a third of the complaints, 27 in all, the most of any resident. Ms. Hobart lives about 1,900 feet from the Notus Clean Energy Turbine, and reported feeling pressure waves from the turbine, causing dizziness and migraine headaches. “My head pounded all day, can’t sleep, think, use my yard. I fell over twice, threw up three times. Happening more frequently. Doctor finds nothing in body to cause,” she wrote about the turbine’s effects on June 17.

The disturbance from the turbine that day even knocked a picture off her mantle, she wrote. A few nights later, she wrote, “Even on a perfect breezeless day the wind up there pounds the thing into the brain,” she wrote. “Seems louder on a day like this.” Ms. Hobart reported that her symptoms continued to get worse.

On July 12, she wrote, “Dear God what do I have to do? Kill myself? I passed out the other day..I am spinning when I try to do anything here…. I hate everything now Weeping!”

But when the turbine was turned off on July 19, Ms. Hobart said her symptoms were immediately relieved. “It’s off.. and life is totally different and just fine tonight..I get to sleep in my hard earned bedroom… with the windows open and fresh air. Much better!” she wrote. Ms. Hobart later wrote that her doctor told her a spinal fusion operation makes the resonance of the wind turbine worse. Her husband, Edward, also submitted two complaints.

Another resident, John J. Ford of 372 Blacksmith Shop Road, submitted 19 complaints reporting sleep disturbances, anxiety and headaches as a result of the Notus turbine.

Lawrence V. Worthington of 337 Blacksmith Shop Road submitted eight complaints. He wrote that Wind 1 and Notus Clean Energy turbines disturbed his sleep.

Almost all the complaints detail problems with noise and pressure changes from the turbines with the exception of one. Sheldon Lowenthal of 99 Ambleside Drive wrote that light flicker from Wind 1 hit his home for 30 minutes a day for a few weeks during the winter.

Apart from Mr. Lowenthal, J. Malcolm Donald of Ambleside Drive, and Mark J. Cool of Fire Tower Road, all the complaints came from residents on Blacksmith Shop Road.

Now, the Falmouth Board of Health is beginning to compare those responses with volumes of data recorded at the turbines.

The first order of business at the Falmouth Board of Health meeting last week was to determine what data board members wanted to review. Health Agent David W. Carignan said he was working with Falmouth Energy Coordinator Paul Gentile to compile the information for the board, but there is a tremendous amount of data available. Board members have access to more data than is relevant, Mr. Carignan said, including power generation, wind speeds, wind directions, angle of the nacelle, tilt of turbine blades, and heat of the oil running through the machine. “All we need is date, time, wind direction and wind speed,” said board member John B. Waterbury, to compare to the complaints. Board member Stephen R. Rafferty said the data could be collected at 10-minute intervals, and each day would have 144 points.

Over a year, that would be more than 50,000 entries. “That’s nothing,” said Dr. Waterbury, who is also a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Board member Jared V. Goldstone is researching the health effects of turbines and forwarded some recent articles to other board members via e-mail, but was not impressed with the quality of the scientific analysis he has found. He said most of the data was compiled from the reports of individuals. The only significant health effect reported in the study was moderate tiredness, he said.