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Scituate residents in limbo as turbine testing delayed

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 16, 2013 04:15 PM

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Four months have passed since testing was last done on Scituate’s industrial wind turbine, a delay that has frustrated residents who say the turbine is affecting their health.

“It’s safe to say there is a level of exhaustion,” said Tom Thompson, spokesman for the group of impacted neighbors. “…It’s clear [the town isn’t] doing anything about it.”

Thompson and others said they have suffered from headaches, dizziness, and insomnia since the turbine was turned on in March 2012.

Turbine owners agreed in January to test the turbine’s sound levels, but answers have been limited.

Only one night of testing has occurred since an engineer was selected in April. Though the August test met the conditions, Scituate’s Board of Health discredited the results as flawed.

Testing criteria have been slightly altered since. Though another criteria change may be coming, the immediate plan for testing is merely to wait.

Meanwhile residents say they are still dealing with health problems caused by the machine.

“No one wants to address this issue,” said resident Mark McKeever, who lives 640 feet away from the turbine. “Someone has to, but nobody wants to. Everyone wants to point [his or her] finger at someone else. But my family doesn’t sleep, the headaches, the noise from the turbine, the flicker, it isn’t going away. And it’s overwhelming.”

For the McKeevers, next steps also depend on testing results.

In December 2012, the McKeevers filed a lawsuit with the town over the turbine’s alleged health effects. In late January, a judge determined to withhold ruling on the lawsuit until the town’s testing process had concluded.

Thompson said the neighborhood group wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to change the testing criteria, with hopes of increasing the likelihood that testing would occur. State officials declined the request, Thompson said.

Yet Board of Health Chairman Russell Clark said he would be open to change if the residents push for it.

“I’d like to find this thing out, if [the turbine is operating] within its limits or not,” Clark said. “I’d rather have it done sooner or later, to put [the issue] to bed one way or another.”

Gordon Deane, owner of the Scituate turbine, said his engineers would test during whatever conditions the Board of Health mandated.

“People have asked us to test to specific conditions - wind from the east and wind from the southwest … at a sufficient speed producing at least 60 percent [output] capacity, and no precipitation going on,” Deane said. “You can see it’s a small percentage of the time that these conditions occur, then that’s during the year and it also has to occur in the four hours from midnight to 4 a.m.”

Though turbine output is higher in the winter, because of faster wind speeds, in the last few months the wind direction hasn’t been right or it was raining, Deane said.

“Unfortunately the weather isn’t all that predictable,” Deane said.

Deane said they would continue to monitor the weather twice weekly to search for a prime testing date.

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