Ver­mont cabin be­comes lab to study wind tur­bine noise

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - MARKETPLACE - By Dave Gram

SH­EFFIELD, VT. >> Once it was just an­other cabin on a Ver­mont hill­side. Now it’s an em­blem in the de­bate over noise from the grow­ing wind en­ergy in­dus­try.

Stud­ies have re­peat­edly found no ev­i­dence con­nect­ing noise from wind power tur­bines to hu­man health prob­lems. But crit­ics ques­tion the sound­ness of those stud­ies. Among them are Steve and Luann Ther­rien, who say a wind farm near their home made their lives hell.

The case has cre­ated a fis­sure among en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in this lib­eral state with a rep­u­ta­tion for green think­ing, pit­ting those who see wind en­ergy as key to re­duc­ing re­liance on pol­lu­tion-spew­ing fos­sil fu­els against those con­vinced au­di­ble noises and in­audi­ble “in­fra­sound” present health threats to those liv­ing nearby. And each side ques­tions the ob­jec­tiv­ity of the other’s re­search.

The Ther­riens’ old cabin is up 5 miles of dirt road from town, but is just a quar­ter­mile from a ru­ral stretch of In­ter­state 91. The high­way noise largely didn’t bother them.

But af­ter the 16 tur­bine tow­ers of the Sh­effield Wind Project went up on a nearby ridge­line in 2011 — the clos­est about three-quar­ters of a mile away and five within a mile — things changed, the Ther­riens say.

Deep in the night, when things were quiet on the high­way, a low hum came from the op­po­site di­rec­tion, punc­tu­ated oc­ca­sion­ally by louder noises, the Ther­riens say. Soon, they say, they and their two small chil­dren were plagued by sleep­less­ness, nau­sea and other prob­lems.

“The ver­tigo was pretty much all the time, but if we had a lot of noise, the dry heaves would be more of­ten,” Luann Ther­rien said.

Steve Ther­rien gave up his job as a trash truck driver — too sleepy to drive, he said. They aban­doned their home in 2014 and have been un­able to sell it.

A group op­posed to largescale wind projects, En­er­gize Ver­mont, is plan­ning to set up sound mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment at the Ther­riens’ for­mer home to try to doc­u­ment their con­cerns with data.

Ver­mont Gov. Peter Shum­lin and fel­low Democrats who con­trol the Leg­is­la­ture have pro­moted re­new­able en­ergy. Three big wind power projects — all of which have drawn com­plaints sim­i­lar to the Ther­riens’ — have been built on Ver­mont moun­tain­tops dur­ing Shum­lin’s six years in of­fice, with five more in plan­ning or con­struc­tion. The state is pur­su­ing a goal of 90 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy by 2050.

Luann Ther­rien said the cou­ple has not sued tur­bine own­ers be­cause they can’t af­ford to hire a lawyer and have not found one will­ing to take the case for free.

But an­other per­son liv­ing near the Sh­effield Project, Paul Brouha, has sued, say­ing the noise is “out of char­ac­ter with the sur­round­ing area, is ex­ces­sively loud and con­tin­ues un­abated for long pe­ri­ods of time both day and night.”

Brouha de­clined to com­ment, cit­ing the pend­ing law­suit. Lawyers for the tur­bines’ own­ers have de­nied his claims in court fil­ings.

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