From his “BE QUIET” license plate to his email signature statement, “Neighbors are far better acoustic analyzers for determining the quality of their life versus any acoustic instrument left unattended by an expert,” Stephen Ambrose has been a champion. His quest has been to safeguard the health and well-being of the public from unwanted noise. As an acoustician, he has addressed noise threats–from manufacturing plants to commercial turbines. His expertise led the MassDEP to invite him to serve on the WNTAG panel.
The recommendation (below) has specifications to deal with limiting noise, but its implementation mandates even more accountability:
Noise measurements are the financial responsibility of the project owner and shall be independently performed by a qualified professional
Noise measurement shall prevail versus noise predictions.
In Louise Barteau’s comments to the MassDEP, she finds the WNTAG process deeply flawed and incapable of protecting the public from the noise pollution generated by wind turbines like the ones in Fairhaven.
I remain deeply troubled by this lengthy and expensive WNTAG process that refused to include in any meaningful way the voices of Fairhaven citizens who are forced to live near Fairhaven Wind’s Industrial Wind Turbines. This follows a pattern by the MA DEP, the developers, and town officials to exclude these citizens from meaningful participation in decisions that significantly impacted their health and their quality of living.
She questions the purpose of all the study if the DEP refuses to enforce the existing noise regulations for “’multiple measured exceedances’”
The WNTAG process has been an egregious and dangerous example of the bias of the state government when it chose to favor the wind industry over the lives of individual citizens of the state of Massachusetts–many whose health has been sacrificed, whose properties have been taken without compensation, and whose faith in their government has been destroyed.
“Frustration was the sentiment felt when I reached … SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS, in RSG’s ‘Research Study on Wind Turbine Acoustics,'” commented Marie J. Stamos.
A lot of time, manpower and taxpayer money ($491, 986 To RSG and $68,821 to Consensus Building Institute as of September 2015), were used, in essence, to create one-half of a report, and we are left, still, with a lot of questions unanswered, and many gray-area assumptions and an uncertain path ahead.
Stamos included compelling photos of the latest wind turbine project underway in Bourne. She emphasized in her submission:
The most disturbing fact, and this cannot be said often enough, is that … none of the Massachusetts wind turbine victims have been called upon to give their “testimony” and the facts and knowledge they have about the coming of the industrial wind turbine into their lives, into their homes and creating an unhealthy environment. The testing completed in the RSG Report, one would assume, was to give a better understanding and insight into the Massachusetts wind turbine complaints, identify the problem-causing entity, resolve the problem, and establish a protocol, based on fact, that would avoid issues in the future. Instead, infrasound and low frequency sound have been swept under the rug, gagged and tied and held harmless, but Something is harming people and must be identified before the industrial wind turbine agenda is allowed to continue in any location in the State of Massachusetts.
With the meetings of the Wind and Noise Turbine Advisory Group (WNTAG) concluded, the MassDEP opened a comment period. Among those submitting their response was Lilli-Ann Green who said in her overview:
There are at least 21 wind turbine locations in Massachusetts where people living near wind turbines have reported health problems since 2010. The people did not experience the health problems they now report prior to wind turbine construction. When they leave their home, they do not experience the health problems. When they return to their home, they experience the symptoms. They report the symptoms become worse over time. The problem is not going away. The citizens of Massachusetts deserve to be returned to good health. The source of their health problems needs to be addressed and as soon as possible. It is not fair or right to knowingly harm people living in Massachusetts. The foundation of our democracy is that minorities have rights and the health of citizens should be protected.
To date no wind turbine has been permanently shut down by any Massachusetts agency. Some Massachusetts agency needs to step in and take action steps to help the people suffering if local boards of health are not protecting and helping people in their cities and towns.
Read the full comment
Her conclusion asserts
…the next logical step is assessment of health problems for people living and working near wind turbines who had originally filed noise complaints. This will help determine what symptoms remain and what next steps are in order to eliminate the health problems.
Update: The comment period has been extended to May 13, 2016.
As a result of the series of meetings held with the Wind and Noise Turbine Advisory Group (WNTAG), new regulations, guidelines, or policies may be in the cards. And while the deck has been largely stacked against wind neighbors, this is an opportunity to throw down the aces: include infrasound, set L-90 low, use fast meter settings, recognize amplitude modulation. Play the wild card, too: anticipate wind shear.
Public comments are due April 8, 2016. Send them to the MassDEP’s Deputy Regional Director Laurel Carlson (Laurel.Carlson@state.ma.us) and to the Consensus Building Institute’s Senior Mediator Stacie Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This table shows the relevant slides on potential regulation and guidelines. Click on a slide to view it or access the whole draft at Scope of Possible Noise Regulation and Policy.
Acoustician Stephen Ambrose has released a one-page illustration (with the two graphs shown here) of the difference between modeled noise and the experience of measured noise as described in an RSG report from 2008. Modeling the current class of industrial wind turbines turns out to be a poor predictor of noise, either as recorded by instruments or as heard by the humans who come into contact with it.
Ambrose’s reminder comes at a time when the Wind and Noise Turbine Advisory Group (WNTAG) is about to have it’s “final” meeting, which will feature the “final report” the DEP plans to issue. According to Bethany A. Card, Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning of the MassDEP, in an email on March, 14, 2016:
The March 18th meeting is to provide an overview of the final report. In addition, MassDEP will also present ideas for possible revised noise policies and regulations. We will accept comments on that presentation and the ideas until early April and any on-going work related to possible regulation changes will provide additional opportunity for stakeholder and public involvement and comment.
No published decision today, but Sean Driscoll reports in the Cape Cod Times that the “Falmouth turbine permit (is) headed for denial.”
The majority of board members found fault with the application on more than one front, including the zoning requirement that the turbine known as Wind 1 will not have “adverse effects” on either the neighborhood or the town. Throughout the permit hearing, which stretched over a half dozen meetings and several months, neighbors of the turbine presented evidence on multiple fronts, including personal testimony, in an attempt to show the negative effects of the turbine.
While Wind 1 has not been operating since September 2015, the final decision will assure that it does not start up again.
For a better understanding of the permit status, read Mark Cool’s Firetower Wind post, “Falmouth Turbine Found Not Eligible for Permit” (3/5/16).