SHEFFIELD -- Steve Therrien, who lives about ¾ of a mile away from one of the 16 turbines belonging to the wind development of First Wind, pleaded with selectmen Wednesday to help address the suffering he said hs family endures by living so close to the spinning blades.
He said the wind development affects him and his family in multiple ways; they're unable to sleep, work, or function normally, he said.
Therrien was joined by planning commission member Keith Ballek, who supported Therrien's concerns. Therrien and Ballek pressed the select board to see what the town can do to help the family.
Last week, Luann Therrien testified before a state Senate committee considering a bill to put a three-year moratorium on industrial wind project creation while more studies, including those on health effects, are undertaken.
Wednesday night, Luann was home with the couple's two preschool-aged children, who are having a hard time sleeping, he said. In addition to sleep disruption, said Steve Therrien, they've got dark circles around their eyes, and various symptoms from ringing in the ears to motion sickness. He said things are only getting worse.
"We are becoming very ill due to these towers behind us. We have appealed to everyone, I don't know whose responsibility it is to look after our safety, but we are now sick. I have doctors' notes. I have been put out of work. I want suggestions," said Therrien. "Somebody is responsible. We need resolution. We need to get out of there."
Select Board Chairman Max Aldrich put on the table that it was public knowledge that the couple has asked First Wind for a buyout, and asked Therrien about that, and whether there was any communication still happening.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, from Boston on Thursday, said he was aware of a buyout request, but did not comment specifically on questions related to the request. He said he was speaking with other company officials and would respond to the newspaper's questions, but no statement was received by press time.
The Therriens have been asking for help from state officials and from First Wind of Boston for longer than a year, saying that the family's health has been impacted, and is worsening, from the noise levels, both audible and inaudible.
First Wind's noise monitoring, required under the company's Certificate of Public Good issued by the Vermont Public Service Board, have shown noise levels to be within permitted ranges, said Lamontagne.
After hearing from Steve Therrien, the board, including select board members Charles Gilman and Audrey Hearne, agreed with Aldrich that they should seek counsel from the town attorney on what to do with Therrien's appeal.
"We were sort of caught with our pants down, we didn't know anybody was coming," Aldrich said.
Ballek, sitting beside Therrien, said, "From what I understand, if there were any noise issues they [First Wind] were going to cooperate and work with the town."
"We're sacrificed," Steve Therrien said, near tears. "We did not oppose this, and I'm not against renewable energy and I'm not against trying to benefit this world, but it's of little benefit to me if my family is suffering at this point ... If you could look into my kids' eyes and see the dark circles, that ain't right; that ain't right at all."
Resident Biff Mahoney, at the meeting, said to Therrien, pointing to the select board members, "I think you should invite these people to come and live with you for a few days."
Annette Smith, executive director for Vermonters for a Clean Environment, has worked to try to find the Therriens somewhere to live affordably, perhaps a caretaker situation.
"The Therriens have done absolutely everything that they are supposed to do, they have cooperated with everybody... the state is allowing this," said Smith. "[The Therriens] are true innocents."
"Sheffield is rolling in dough, so use some of that to find them a place to live," she suggested. "The wind company has to be held accountable, and if the town is in a position to hold them accountable, step up and do that...The town is rolling in dough at their expense," she said.
Smith said the Therriens land and home are worth $250,000, and they have stated it would take $100,000 to $150,000 for them to start over somewhere, by leaving the property, and buying a mobile home to put on a piece of land elsewhere.
She said they would like to keep the land that has long been in their family, and that someday, their children might have it, "some day, the turbines might come down," said Smith.
Special thanks to the Caledonian Record for granting us permission to share this article.