Residents Tell How Turbines Have Impaired Their Health
By: Brent Runyon
An overflow crowd of more than 80 people packed the selectmen’s meeting room at Falmouth Town Hall last night to give and hear testimony about the impact to the health of residents who live near the largest wind turbines in Falmouth.
A total of 30 residents gave testimony about a range of problems, including sleep disturbance, depression, abnormal heart rhythms, ringing in the ears, weight gain, and the increased stress, anxiety, irritability and anger they attribute to their proximity to the town-owned Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbines, the privately owned Notus Clean Energy turbine and the Woods Hole Research Center turbine.
The board of health did not make any decisions last night and will continue to accept written testimony until May 31. All of the testimony will be sent to the Mass-achusetts Department of Public Health, “both with a sense of urgency, and with the provision for department personnel to further investigate this issue,” said chairman of the Falmouth Board of Health Gail A. Harkness.
While the testimony given at the Falmouth hearing is public, Ms. Harkness said the Department of Public Health can keep health information confidential. Nearly all of the residents who testified said they would give more detailed descriptions of their health problems, but felt they could not because of the public forum.
The tone of the evening was subdued as residents spoke quietly into the microphone at the lectern to the board of health, as other residents, State Representative Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket), Falmouth Town Manager Julian M. Suso, Selectman David Braga, a news crew from WBZ-TV, the CBS affiliate in Boston and other people from as far away as Saugus and Kingston, Rhode Island, listened. The testimony was so quiet at times that about half of the speakers were told to speak directly into the microphone so the audience could hear them.
Dr. Harkness opened the hearing by showing off a gavel that she said, “in its previous life had been a meat tenderizer,” but she never used it to quiet the crowd. The only unruly moment of the night was when Joanne T. Vannah from the Saugus Alternative Energy Committee repeatedly attempted to make a statement about wind turbines in her community. Dr. Harkness ruled her out of order, and the other members of the board and the audience shouted at Ms. Vannah until she sat down.
Residents described a range of health problems they attributed to living near the wind turbines.
“There is no getting accustomed to the noise from these machines,” said Diane C. Funfar of Ridgeview Drive who lives 1,662 feet from Wind 1 and 1,558 feet from Wind 2, which are sited at the town wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road. Both turbines are Vestas 1.65-megawatt models that stand 262 feet at the hub. Ms. Funfar described eye problems she believed are caused by the turbines. She has worn contact lenses for 42 years, she said.
When Wind 1 started two years ago, she said, “I began having eye discharge, eye irritability and headaches, which have worsened with time.” When she has traveled, she said her eye problems cleared up.
Ms. Funfar also described the effects on her husband, Barry A. Funfar, a Vietnam veteran who has post traumatic stress disorder and whose symptoms had been getting better. After the wind turbine started, she said, “I witnessed his decline, with his worsening irritability, anger, drinking, and severe depression, and he again became difficult to live with.”
“We are suffering and need relief,” she said. “Please help us return to and enjoy the peace and tranquility we once had in our home. Please turn these tortuous machines off.”
John J. Ford of Blacksmith Shop Road also described a high level of stress and disturbance. “My life has not been the same since the three 1.65-megawatt industrial wind turbines have been operating,” he said. “I felt tortured.”
“While prior to the wind turbine installations I had the luxury of excellent health, I am currently depressed as well as fatigued and now deal with high blood pressure and an elevated level of triglycerides,” he said.
“Headaches, earaches, anxiety, stress and anger are just some of the physical and mental maladies of this human being that stands before you,” Mr. Ford said. “Waking at night with labored breathing and a pounding chest are common occurrences. Getting back to sleep is very difficult. Adding acoustical windows to my bedroom to eliminate the noise has not worked. Bouts of unannounced vertigo are experienced while at home. Interestingly, I do not experience these symptoms when I am away from the turbines.”
Neil P. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, who also spoke for his wife and daughter, described a constant and monotonous ringing in the ears that is exacerbated by other sounds. “Something as simple as the microwave buzzing has us blocking our ears,” he said.
“My wife and I have aged over five years in the past two years,” he said. “Our lives are in your hands.” He said he knows of at least six Town of Falmouth employees and board members who are experiencing negative health effects from the wind turbines, but who will not come forward unless their testimony is kept confidential.
Mary Zawoysky of Ransom Road, the only resident who spoke about the turbine at the Woods Hole Research Center on Woods Hole Road, described an unusual phenomenon, in which she felt her heart beat at irregular rhythms. She attributed the cause to the low frequency waves from the wind turbine. She said she also has chronic sleep disturbances related to the turbine.
Edward Hobart of Blacksmith Shop Road described his wife’s chronic migraines and sleep disturbance that resulted in her sleeping in the basement. “We cannot sleep in the house because it’s agony,” he said. The couple now plans to move from their home, he said.
Paul B. Tarr of Ambleside Drive described headaches, severe nausea, similar to seasickness, and an inability to stay focused as a result of living near the wind turbines.
Other residents identified sleep disturbance as the primary problem with the turbines. Madeline Tundidor of Brush Hill Circle lives near the Notus Clean Energy turbine in Falmouth Technology Park, owned by Daniel H. Webb. “It’s like a fleet of planes continually over my house,” she said. “It’s not easy to go to sleep,” Ms. Tundidor said.
Robert J. Sagerman of Deer Pond Road said he lives about a mile from the Notus Clean Energy and is awoken by the “whoosh whoosh” sound when the wind blows from the north or northwest. “It is a distinct sound that is annoying and makes it difficult to go back to sleep.”
Sharon P. Eddy of Blacksmith Shop Road who lives near Wind 1 also described sleep disturbances, along with ringing in her ears and a pressure in her head. She said she has left her house four times to recover from the feelings.
Mark J. Cool of Fire Tower Road, an air traffic controller for 32 years, described the sleep disturbances he experienced over the past two years. Recently, he said, two planes he was controlling nearly collided. His lack of concentration from the sleep disturbances may have affected his decision-making, he said.
Loretta O’Brien of Blacksmith Shop Road, who lives near the Notus turbine, said the turbine has affected her mental, emotional and physical health. Most of her problems stem from being awoken by the turbine; that has disrupted her work and decreased her ability to concentrate.
Todd A. Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road also described sleep disturbances, headaches, stress and anger related to the turbines. He said other residents would not come forward because they feared being harassed by other members of the community.
Other residents described various ways the turbines had disturbed their daily routines and schedules. Jill V. Worthington of Blacksmith Shop Road, who lives near the Notus turbine and Wind 1, said she has had trouble concentrating and forced herself to play Sudoku to focus. As a result, she said she plays Sudoku more often and feels she cannot take time to relax her mind.
Charles E. Eastman Jr. of Ambleside Drive said Wind 2 “looms over the neighborhood and is very ‘dissettling.’ ”
Paul Koh from Blacksmith Shop Road lives near the Notus turbine and described a video he has of the turbine creating interference on his television set. Mr. Koh is a 19-year-old Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School graduate, who attends the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He said his father, who sleeps on the side of the house closer to the turbine, is bothered by sleep disturbances.
Kelley T. Souza of Blacksmith Shop Road said she initially said the proximity of the wind turbines did not bother her, but now said she feels that the turbines are affecting her entire family.
Linda H. Ohkagawa of West Falmouth Highway lives near Wind 2 and described changes to her mood. “I have reportedly become irritable,” she said.
One resident gave testimony that the turbines does not bother him. Paul C. Lorusso of Blacksmith Shop Road, who lives about 2,000 feet from the Notus turbine, said the wind turbines do not affect him or his family. “I can honestly say I have had no sleep issues,” he said. “It’s not problematic and it’s really not an issue.” Initially, when the turbines went up, he marveled at how tall they were, but he said, “they just became part of the landscape.” There is some flicker effect on his home, he said, but he added some shades, which alleviated the problem.
Terri L. Pentifallo-Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road said she is a neighbor of Mr. Lorusso, and said the topography of the land around their houses plays a role in how they experience the turbines. Because her home is on top of the hill, and his is below the tree line, their experiences vary greatly, she said.
After the testimony, Rep. Madden said he will help the town in any way he can. “My goal is to help the town. If there’s anything I can do,” he said. “We’re here to help.”