BAD AXE — Exelon Generation is handling a complaint from an Ubly resident who describes wind turbines in one of the first wind parks built in the county as making “boom” or “bomb” noises.
Mary Nowak, in a letter dated June 26 to Exelon, says since the turbines went online (in 2008), she’s had trouble sleeping. Even with earplugs in, when wind is blowing from the northwest, the turbines make a “boom/bomb in my ears,” the letter states.
Exelon said it received the letter July 17 and deemed the complaint valid. It was added as an agenda item to the monthly county planning commission Wednesday night, when county officials said the Chicago-based power generator is working on the complaint.
In her letter, Nowak writes of four turbines behind her home, north of Ubly on M-19 near East McTaggart Road.
She says a turbine that had been bothering her during sleep had been “turned down” and sleep came easier than when the turbines first started turning.
But, she says she follows a routine in order to adapt and “get some sleep.”
“Close windows (even in summer, turn on the air conditioner in the window). Then I turn on the TV (usually to CNN) and put earplugs in my ears (helps drown out the turbine sound). It has enabled (me) to get to sleep and have a fairly good sleep pattern,” the letter states.
“This has been my life for over six years, always the same routine, which seems to work better than any other, but I can attest that when they were putting the turbines up they didn’t tell anyone that they might be bothered.”
Before ending her complaint, Nowak asks Exelon, “Please don’t throw me in jail for telling the truth as I know it.” The letter is signed “Mary Nowak/Wind Turbine Sufferer.”
Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director, said the county rarely fields such complaints. There were three formal complaints filed with the county as of the end of March, he said.
Yet residents have been more apt to voice informal complaints during local government meetings.
Nowak brought up the issue when county officials were mulling a moratorium on wind energy, earlier this year. She told county planners, in March, she “can hardly sleep because of the turbine noise in my bedroom.”
In April, before county commissioners voted 4-3 to impose the moratorium, Nowak elaborated. She said she puts earplugs in and turns the TV on but still hears noise from nearby turbines. She asked if turbines behind her house could be turned down so she could sleep.
The complaint comes at a time when officials work to overhaul the county’s 2010 wind energy ordinance. Reworking the current way the county handles formal turbine complaints is part of the changes.
Under the current ordinance, developers set the process, following guidelines set by the board of commissioners and planning commission.
A subcommittee working on ordinance changes has proposed an addition for the new ordinance to impose a fine of up to $500 for anyone who intentionally makes a false complaint or causes a false report of violations.
Bernie Creguer, planning commission vice chair, said that could be unenforceable.
“Because people can say, ‘that’s what I was told.’ They don’t have to prove that it’s true, really, do they?” Creguer said Wednesday. “They have to believe that it’s true. … I think it needs to be stricter.”
Chair Clark Brock said he wasn’t sure how to go about that.
“From a standpoint of what’s fair to residents of the county, if someone has a concern or a complaint, we have to understand the fact that we can’t expect that person to spend thousands of dollars to justify their complaint … so, there has to be a medium there that would allow for a realistic complaint, a knowledgeable complaint that’s not a nuisance complaint,” Brock said.
It’s still only fair, Brock said, that if a resident has a legitimate complaint — “I don’t care whether we’re talking about wind or we’re talking about whatever else” — and the resident feels someone is violating county zoning ordinances, “they’re going to have a complaint.”