PLYMOUTH – Lake Road resident Larry McGrath wants out from under the 500-foot wind turbines that began spinning last summer in South Plymouth and he believes the Board of Health is the key.
McGrath and residents of Plymouth and Bourne (the turbines are in Plymouth on the Bourne town line), organized through the Buzzards Bay Citizens Action Coalition, have visited municipal boards over the last several months, testifying to the negative effects they have experienced living in the vicinity of these turbines and asking for reconsideration of the permits that allow the turbines to operate.
"At a recent Board of Health meeting we were told that the Plymouth Health Department has received some noise complaints," McGrath told the Old Colony this week. "I had learned earlier that the building inspector was simply turning noise complaints over to ConEdison."
"We basically just want an independent gathering and analysis of data by the appropriate town department," McGrath said. "That would allow residents to have access to information about what is clearly a nuisance and quite likely, a health risk."
McGrath lives about 2,000 feet from the closest turbine and has his own complaints. In the summer, after the turbine began operating, "the sound waves made it impossible to peacefully enjoy our patio and yard," McGrath told the Old Colony this week. "They bounced off neighboring houses and came back towards us."
In the winter, McGrath says, it got worse.
"During the big windstorm two weeks ago the sound of the blades was plainly audible inside my home, and my house actually vibrated," McGrath said. "My wife had to steady a television on the dresser upstairs as it moved toward the edge."
McGrath says he doesn't want to make this personal. He wants data to be gathered, analyzed, and appropriate action taken.
"The data should be collected and investigated by the town officer, mandated by Massachusetts statute," McGrath said.
That, he said, should be the health agent.
At the present time, McGrath said, data is not being gathered and complaints are not being reviewed by the town.
"There's a lot of information that should be available, and not just complaints from residents. Bird and bat kill numbers, too, are required by the state to be documented, but we know nothing of these numbers," McGrath said. "The town government that permitted these things should demand and monitor the information to ensure the health and quality of life of the residents and taxpayers of Plymouth are protected."
McGrath offered three specific recommendations.
1. That the Plymouth Board of Health formally demand any and all data collected by the operator and their agents to determine the noise, infrasound and flicker levels of all four turbines operated by ConEdison/Future Generation Wind in Plymouth.
2. That the Plymouth Board of Health write to the Ccmmissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and formally request assistance in independently collecting, compiling and analyzing the ConEdison/Future Generation Wind data. The Board shall request that the DEP issue an environmental impact report that addresses any correlation between complaints and the health effects of all residents living within 1.5 miles of the turbines.
3. That the Board of Health assigns the task of collecting all noise and health complaints from Plymouth and Bourne residents living within 1.5 miles of the turbines permitted in Plymouth. The health agent shall make all these complaints public and make findings when appropriate. The Plymouth Health Department shall make a monthly report of all noise and health complaints received.
DEP regulation 310 CMR 7.52 , McGrath says, directs police, fire or a board of health official to enforce violations of the statute.
"I think that the Board of Health official is the most practical official to enforce this," McGrath said. "Certainly not the building inspector, as suggested by the former health board chairman. If the wind turbines are the cause of health problems," McGrath points out that the regulation says, they "shall be removed or prevented."
"Without independent collection of data, the nuisance cannot be accurately and credibly examined," McGrath said. "ConEdison is not going to report on itself."
But the Board of Health is not ready to assume ownership of the issue and Board Chairman Steven Striar suggests that McGrath's concerns might be more effectively addressed by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
"We appreciate the efforts of Mr. McGrath and his neighbors in bringing their concerns to the attention of the BOH," Striar told the Old Colony this week. "While we are sympathetic to those concerns the Board feels it will need more information from other sources before determining what actions, if any, should be taken to address the turbine issue.
Striar said the ZBA placed conditions on its approval of the turbines. "I believe the collection of data as well as the fielding of complaints was addressed in their decision," he said. "I think, given that the Board of Health has only just become involved with this issue, it would be inappropriate to voice an opinion at this time. I expect this matter will be discussed further by the board as more information and facts become available."