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Town, residents undertake separate studies on Scituate turbine

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 29, 2013 03:56 PM

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As Scituate officials embark on a study to measure the turbine’s noise, residents have announced that they will conduct their own analysis of the machine.

Residents, the town, and turbine developers initially were planning to undertake a study together. However when town officials decided to conduct a study with a relatively small scope, residents objected.

In an announcement late March, members of the resident group opposing the turbine announced that they would do their own study, to happen concurrently with one being done by the town.

“We’re comfortable that the report that we’ll be generating will be an accurate reflection of the noise emanating from the turbine,” said Tom Thompson, a representative of the resident group.

The double study will allow residents to focus on a broader set of noise measurements, and will look at sound levels besides just the ones measured by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protections.

Thompson also said that the residents are skeptical of whatever results may come from the developer-sponsored study, especially after errors were found in a similar study done at a turbine in Fairhaven.

Turbine developers, who own both the machines in Fairhaven and Scituate, have said that those errors were honest mistakes and have stood by their findings.

Jennifer Sullivan, director of public health, was unsure how much weight the Board of Health will give the resident-backed study, however Sullivan wasn’t against the idea of more analysis.

“I think the more information that’s developed, the better,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know who they are using, any of the background of anyone they are using for their own consultants, so I don’t know what credibility the board will give the information.”

Who will do the residents’ study has yet been finalized, Thompson said, noting that the cost will fall on the backs of residents who can afford to help.

Yet while the resident group works on finding an engineer, the town has moved forward with selecting their own.

Tech Environmental, an engineer recommended by the developer, will begin the town’s study in April.

Though the residents also put forward a candidate for the study, Board of Health members said the developer’s recommendation was more experienced and more flexible.

“They had a bigger, more professional staff, more experience in general, and they were quicker turnaround time on developing the DEP protocol. And they left their testing period commitment open-ended,” Sullivan said

The study, which will cost the turbine owners an estimated $19,900, will begin as soon as possible.

When the study will wrap up largely depends on the cooperation of Mother Nature.

“The trouble with the testing is getting the right meteorological conditions,” Sullivan said. “If you don’t have the right wind speed, you’re not going to test. If it’s raining you’re not going to test. You want the right wind direction and wind speed, and we also want to do it at a high tide and a low tide, because we’ve had some reports that high tide the noise reflects off the water and increases the noise. So we have to coordinate that as well.”

Residents hope to conduct their testing concurrently with the town’s.

“Our intention is certainly to have the testing that we’re going to undertake be simultaneous to what’s being done by Tech Environmental … [though] I suspect our locations will be a bit different,” Thompson said, again citing potential problems with the sites selected by the developer

Yet according to turbine owner Gordon Deane, the sites were chosen with the community.

Engineers will conduct testing at various locations around Scituate, both to the east and west of the turbine during both high and low tides.

“They are doing a compliance test under Massachusetts rules for noise,” Deane said. “That involves two items, one measuring the increase over the background noise, which cannot be more than 10 dB(A) … basically what people hear. And basically it’s not allowed to have any pure tone. Pure tone would be like hitting a key on a piano.”

Deane said regardless of the testing residents planned on doing, that the results of the town’s study would show the most important data – whether or not the turbine is in compliance with town rules.

“The neighborhood group also wants to collect different sound data, but it's not sound data used for compliance,” Deane said.

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