Wind Turbines Board of Health Questio...

Wind Turbines Board of Health Questionnaires

Posted in the Fairhaven Forum

Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#1 Jul 5, 2013
Questionnaire on wind turbines raises concerns
By Peggy Aulisio
July 04, 2013 12:00 AM
FAIRHAVEN — A questionnaire sent to residents who have filed complaints about the wind turbines has some asking questions about how it originated and why.
Board of Health Chairman Peter DeTerra said Town Counsel Thomas Crotty sent the e-mail.
"He was gathering information on the lineup of the speakers," Mr. DeTerra said, referring to the July 15 meeting with the turbine developer.
Mr. DeTerra said Mr. Crotty was "looking for people who are more neutral," who have submitted complaints but are not "vocal" at town board meetings.
"He wants neutral people to come up and testify," Mr. DeTerra said. He called it "gathering information for the meeting July 15."
The questionnaire was e-mailed by the Board of Health to residents who have submitted complaints. Louise Barteau, who actively opposes the turbines, said she received a copy from a concerned resident who received it. Ms. Barteau provided a copy to the Advocate.
Ms. Barteau said she was "concerned" and that the resident was concerned because most of the survey questions center on whether the resident had opposed the wind turbines before they went up. It also asks whether their health problems existed before the turbines began running.
Mr. DeTerra said the questions were just intended to weed people out who have opposed the turbines from the beginning.
Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy said Monday he was upset to learn about the questionnaire after it was e-mailed and not from the Board of Health.
Patricia Fowle, health agent, said Tuesday she would not comment until she'd talked to the Board of Health. "I prefer to talk to the board before I talk to the press," she said.
When told that Mr. Murphy expressed what was close to anger about the survey, Ms. Fowle said, "He's not the Board of Health."
Board of Health member Barbara Acksen said Monday she knew nothing about it. She said there was no vote of the Board of Health to approve the questions or send it out.

Ms. Barteau said the questionnaire sounds like something the developer, Fairhaven Wind LLC, would have written. She said it raises red flags because it is mostly concerned with whether residents were opposed to the wind turbines before they went up and had health problems previously. She said the survey doesn't seem to be interested in the sleep deprivation or health problems residents are experiencing.
Fairhaven Wind has been trying to mitigate the noise levels that exceed the state's limit of adding 10 decibels to existing background sound. It did testing two nights last week trying to reduce noise by feathering blades and shutting one of the two turbines down from midnight to 4 a.m.
At Monday's Board of Selectmen's meeting, Sumul Shah said shutting one turbine down at night seemed to solve the problem.(See related story, page A3)
Ms. Barteau said the tone of the questionnaire seems "prejudicial." She said it seems like an attempt to "sort out people" who opposed the turbines before they went up.
"It seems like a process of intimidation," Ms. Barteau said. "There are fewer questions about health and more about 'were you concerned before they went up.' Anyone who is an abutter would have been concerned before they went up."
Ms. Barteau said she was concerned not just about the questions but also about the fact that all the residents' e-mails are listed, even though the Board of Health had earlier promised confidentiality. She called the listing of e-mails "a violation of public trust." She said the e-mail addresses should have been on a "blind carbon copy."
Mr. DeTerra said the e-mail addresses were supposed to be confidential. "That was a mistake," he said, adding that the survey was only sent to people who filed a complaint.
Jack Kelly

Jamestown, RI

#3 Jul 6, 2013
This is truly incredible, as is the fact that the BoH decided not to send questionnaires to people whom they considered "vocal opponents" of wind energy.

On what possible basis could the BoH believe that this is justified?

Answer: only one -- namely, that the BoH is making an implicit assumption that anyone who reported a health problem and was opposed to the wind turbines before they were built should not be considered unbiased or equally as credible as someone who did not oppose the project or warn about its potential adverse impacts.

Think about that.

It is bad enough that it carries a strong echo of the baseless and dismissive assertions of the wind energy lobby that the only people who really complain about wind turbines are those who are somehow predisposed not to like them -- or who suffer from the "Nocebo effect" -- which is nothing more than a figment of AWEA's imagination.

But what is even worse is that, from the point of view of the affected resident, anyone who had the foresight to do some research, appreciate the adverse impacts and protest his or her fate -- as an involuntary victim of the development, for the developer's commercial profit -- and who was RIGHT as rain in forecasting the adverse impacts and who tried strenuously to WARN the town government and his or her community -- is NOW to be completely disregarded, or to have his or her opinion deeply discounted, because this person is now, perversely, perceived by the BoH to be "biased."

This assumption is completely without foundation and must be rejected. The mere act of the BoH -- or anyone else -- restricting any such surveys and responses to any subset of the population of people who have complained is completely illegitimate and must be rejected on its face.

It is all the MORE objectionable that this action appears to have been taken not the BOARD of HEALTH -- as a committee, following due process, during open session, deliberating in public -- but by some subset of the members of the BoH who have illegitimately presumed to speak for the BoH and who have illegitimately appropriated authority that does not belong to them personally.

This entire initiative must be rejected and replaced by some legitimate course of action that arises out of public deliberations by the BoH and is pursued following a formal Resolution and majority Approval by the BoH.

The public should also be invited to comment on this process before the BoH takes any concrete actions.

After all, it is the health and well being of the families in this community -- the public -- that are at stake here. This is not an abstract problem to be resolved. Certainly, the BoH can discuss the provisions of such a survey in public prior to its issuance to individual members of the community.

By the way, it should be lost on no one that the BoH cannot obligate anyone to waive their privacy about personal health issues and that the BoH is arguably in violation of privacy laws through its publication of the names of people who received copies of the survey -- which the BoH has already stated to be limited to people who have filed health complaints.

All the more reason for the BoH -- and its problematic, and apparently ethically challenged, Chairman -- to get back on the straight and narrow path here where it concerns personal privacy and the proper governance of this public body -- which belongs to the public and is not an instrument for his own use, to promote his own personal "solution" to this issue.

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