A Massachusetts judge has ordered fewer operating hours for two municipally owned wind turbines that have been blamed by neighbors for a variety of health problems.
According to an Associated Press report that appeared in the The Boston Globe, the Cape Cod community of Falmouth has been told to limit operating hours for the 1.65-megawatt turbines to 12 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The turbines can’t run at all on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.
The turbines were installed at the town’s wastewater treatment facility 3 1/2 years ago to power the plant and to generate income for the town through the sale of electricity to the local utility. At first, the turbines ran around the clock, but more recently they have been running from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m., the AP said.
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse, shortening the workday for both turbines by four hours, was the first time a U.S. court has ruled there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas can be a health hazard, an environmental group called Wind Wise Massachusetts said.
Turbine noise has been “devastating”
Among the neighbors who blamed the turbines for a variety of health problems were Neil and Elizabeth Andersen, who live about 1,300 feet away from the closest turbine.
Neil Andersen said by telephone that he was happy with the court’s decision because “it will give us a little bit of a break,” but he said the low-frequency noise produced by the turbines has been “devastating.”
Andersen said he was a contractor who built Energy Star houses and had installed renewable energy systems and had no bias against wind turbines. But he said the low-frequency turbine noise was relentless, eventually forcing him to give up his business and go through much of their life savings.
“I don’t expect anybody out there to get it,” he said, “It’s taken over our lives. Totally.”
He and his wife have not seriously considered selling their house, Andersen said, because they doubt anyone would want to buy it. Even if it sold, he said, he wouldn’t expect to net any more than half its assessed value.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recognize “wind turbine syndrome,” the name given to the health effects of exposure to low-frequency sound, but that didn’t stop Judge Muse from siding with the Andersens.
“The court finds the Andersen’s claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that each day of operation produces further injury, to be credible,” he wrote.