Good news for Falmouth: Judge orders limited use of wind turbines

Judge orders limited use of Falmouth wind turbines
AP / November 22, 2013

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) — The town of Falmouth was ordered by a judge on Friday to limit the hours two town-owned wind turbines operate after neighbors blamed them for a series of health problems.

Effective immediately, the energy-generating turbines at the Cape Cod town’s wastewater treatment facility are only allowed to operate from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on every day of the week except Sunday, and are not allowed to operate at all on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse wrote in the decision.

Neil and Elizabeth Andersen, who live about a quarter of a mile from the turbines, said they caused ‘‘continuous insomnia, headaches, psychological disturbances, dental injuries, and other forms of malaise’’ they had not suffered prior to the turbines’ construction.

‘‘The court finds the Andersens claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that that each day of operation produces further injury, to be credible,’’ the judge wrote.

Continued operation of the turbines at previous levels put residents at risk of ‘‘irreparable physical and psychological harm,’’ he judge wrote.

The environmental group Wind Wise Massachusetts called it a landmark decision.

‘‘This is believed to be the first time that a court in the U.S. has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,’’ said Virginia Irvine, president of Wind Wise Massachusetts.

The decision has repercussions in other Massachusetts towns where wind turbines are being blamed for health problems, Neil Andersen said.

‘‘It’s torture,’’ he said of the turbines’ noise and pressure effects. ‘‘But this decision is a victory. It gives us some relief.’’

The 1.65 megawatt turbines were erected about 3½ years ago to power the treatment plant and to create revenue for the town by selling electricity back to the grid.

They ran 24/7 at first, but more recently have been running from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily, he said.

Each turbine is almost 400 feet tall from the ground to the tip of the blade at its highest point.

They have been the subject of disagreements and lawsuits between town boards and townwide votes on whether to dismantle them entirely.

The town argued against restricting the hours of operation, saying shorter hours would reduce revenue from sales of energy back to the grid. The judge rejected that argument.

The town’s lawyer was not immediately available to comment on the judge’s decision.

The judge told the sides to work on a mitigation plan and submit it to the court in 75 days.

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