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Concerned citizens fueled creation of wind turbine health and safety report

Forty pages of health and safety information surrounding the proposed wind turbine project in town may never have been created had it not been for some anxious residents. Ron Pitt, chairman for the health and safety subcommittee that researched and wrote the report, said interested and concerned residents, including members of the group Citizens Wind Watch, should be credited for pushing forward the process of learning more about wind turbines and the issues that surround them. ...Mr. Russo said the recent health and safety report spelled a certain end to the likelihood the turbine would be constructed at the high school.

Subcommittee member says much is still not known about potential impact on wildlife

Forty pages of health and safety information surrounding the proposed wind turbine project in town may never have been created had it not been for some anxious residents.

Ron Pitt, chairman for the health and safety subcommittee that researched and wrote the report, said interested and concerned residents, including members of the group Citizens Wind Watch, should be credited for pushing forward the process of learning more about wind turbines and the issues that surround them.

"I think this report is in response to the concerns expressed by some residents," Mr. Pitt said. "What this report does is give us good information for the health and safety issues for those two sites. The committee [for renewable energy in Barrington] will digest this and come up with recommendations."

Ron Russo, a member of Citizens Wind Watch, said he was asked to conduct a peer review of a draft of the health and safety report and was impressed by the work the subcommittee had completed. He also said the report validated the concerns his group had aired.

In a June 11 letter to the editor, Mr. Russo listed some concerns he had about the project... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Subcommittee member says much is still not known about potential impact on wildlife 

Forty pages of health and safety information surrounding the proposed wind turbine project in town may never have been created had it not been for some anxious residents.

Ron Pitt, chairman for the health and safety subcommittee that researched and wrote the report, said interested and concerned residents, including members of the group Citizens Wind Watch, should be credited for pushing forward the process of learning more about wind turbines and the issues that surround them.

"I think this report is in response to the concerns expressed by some residents," Mr. Pitt said. "What this report does is give us good information for the health and safety issues for those two sites. The committee [for renewable energy in Barrington] will digest this and come up with recommendations."

Ron Russo, a member of Citizens Wind Watch, said he was asked to conduct a peer review of a draft of the health and safety report and was impressed by the work the subcommittee had completed. He also said the report validated the concerns his group had aired.

In a June 11 letter to the editor, Mr. Russo listed some concerns he had about the project that he said had not been addressed by town officials. He pointed to setbacks suggested by manufacturers and asked why officials were siting the turbine within 200 feet of the school - much closer than the recommended setback. He also cited blade throw and shadow flicker.

Other residents followed suit.

Jill Cuzzone wrote about health concerns and noise issues. Stephen Lombardi wrote in a letter that he was "shocked that the high school would be the target for the installation." Newell Thomas, the manager of the renewable energy division for an electric contractor out of Rockland, Mass., wrote in a letter that the town had taken the first steps towards installation of the wind turbine, but that it was just the beginning of the effort required to make this project a reality.

In response, two town council members wrote a June 25 letter stating that claims the process was "incomplete" were unfounded.

Around two weeks later, the Committee for Renewable Energy for Barrington formed a health and safety subcommittee and commissioned them with the task of preparing the report.

"We are very proud of what we accomplished," subcommittee chairman Ron Pitt said. "In terms of the report we didn't cut any corners. Even if we had another month I don't think it would have made any difference."

Still some concerns

Cynthia Fuller, a member of the town's conservation commission, was asked to research the potential impact a wind turbine could have on wildlife in the area.

She said her work was extensive, but fell short of becoming a comprehensive resource. She said surveys, long-term observations and more study would benefit the decision-making process. She referenced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the lead governmental agency for developing guidelines and recommendations addressing potential wildlife impacts from the siting of wind turbines.

The service recommends avoiding placing turbines in documented locations of any species of wildlife, fish or plant protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act; in bird migration pathways or in areas where birds are highly concentrated, such as wetlands and refuges; in areas with high incidences of fog, mist, low cloud ceiling or low visibility; and known bat hibernation or breeding locations, migration corridors or feeding areas.

Ms. Fuller said a major problem is that studies about wildlife living near local potential turbine sites have not been conducted. She added that wind turbine impact on wildlife in the northeast is for the most part unknown.

"One of the things I came away with was that we really don't know. There is no good data for New England," she said.

"I'm really kind of struggling with the whole thing because it could be bad for the birds, but on the other hand this is a good form of energy. Personally, I have not fallen on one side or the other. I don't know. I really don't know. I've been going back and forth with this throughout the process.

"If we had a better sense of what was going to happen that would be different, but there isn't a lot of information on these [wind turbines] on the east coast. The bat mortality information was found almost by accident."

Ms. Fuller said the deadline associated with the project - Dec. 2008 - has also become a factor, in her opinion.

"Yes, I am bothered by the deadline," she said. "You would really have liked to understand it a little more. I don't think there's been enough time to look at all the different ways to investigate this ... I think everybody wishes they could think about it and spend a little more time on it."

Mr. Pitt differed on that point.

"A task like this will take as long as you give it," he said. "There is a certain balance between moving deliberately and carefully and getting the job done."

School site alive, for now

On two separate occasions, Ron Russo has requested the Barrington School Committee officially vote to exclude the high school campus as a potential site for the wind turbine. Both times the school committee denied his request.

Patrick Guida, the school committee chairman, said recently that the board did not want to take that step yet. Instead he said the school committee has a "strong preference for siting the wind turbine at Legion Way."

"By putting more energy into exploring the Legion Way site, it is beginning to look less feasible or less likely that the high school site will be able to withstand the necessary scrutiny associated with this project," he said.

Mr. Russo said the recent health and safety report spelled a certain end to the likelihood the turbine would be constructed at the high school.

"I don't think there's any doubt that this report is devastating to the high school location," he said. "Now that Mr. Guida has the report the school committee should take a vote to say that the wind turbine will not be allowed at the high school. It's just too dangerous."


Source: http://www.eastbayri.com/de...

AUG 26 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/16779-concerned-citizens-fueled-creation-of-wind-turbine-health-and-safety-report
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