DIXFIELD — Panelists and townspeople at a public hearing Wednesday night blasted what they believe are insufficient state regulations to govern the half-dozen or so wind farms proposed for western Maine.
The hearing was sponsored by the River Valley Alliance and the Friends of Maine's Mountains, groups that oppose such developments. Other groups, such as the Friends of Spruce Mountain in Woodstock, were also at the hearing.
Among the panelists was Robert Rand, an acoustical engineer from Brunswick, who described the potential effects on people of the sounds made by the blades and generators of turbines.
During much of his talk, he played a recording of a turbine operation he said was made at a small operation in Freedom.
Such noise, he said, has the potential to adversely affect people living as close as 2 miles from an operating turbine. He said the frequency and decibel levels could result in the inability to sleep, high blood pressure and other maladies.
Paul Druan, chairman of the Weld Windpower Committee that is charged with developing a wind farm ordinance, said that when he attended a similar forum with the sound of turbines turning, one man became nauseated.
Sean DuBois, whose residence was not immediately available, said he believed more studies should be conducted on the possible adverse health effects.
“Don't you think it's too early to judge health effects?” he said.
Rand said he didn't think so.
“There are people in Mars Hill, Freedom and an island on the coast who definitely have problems," he said. "I'm concerned about the lack of peer-reviewed studies by the companies."
He said that sounds from turning turbines do not decrease as quickly over water as they do over land.
A home should not be located less than 2 miles from a turbine, and even then, the sounds could affect people, he said.
Also speaking was Karen Pease, a resident of Lexington Township which is next to the state's largest proposed wind turbine project in Highland Plantation. Independence Wind LLC, whose principals are former Gov. Angus King and Rob Gardiner, have proposed construction of 48 turbines.
She spoke of the effect the siting of wind turbines could have on real estate. She said Maine doesn't have a sufficient number of houses on the market to do comparable studies, but one done in Illinois showed at least a 25 to 40 percent drop in value for homes about 2 miles from a wind project.
“Some are a total loss,” she said.
Also, she said, wind developers are not being required to provide a bond for decommissioning turbines so that they could be taken down and the land reclaimed.
Dan McKay, a major player in the organization of the hearing, said that with the number of people who live in the River Valley area, building what he estimated to be about 100 turbines made little sense.
“Turbines are a chance to shut down the recreational opportunities in the area,” he said.
Nearly 200 proposed turbines are in various stages of development from the Rumford area to Highland Plantation. First Wind LLC of Newton, Mass., has proposed siting up to 19 turbines in Rumford and Roxbury; Independent Wind LLC is proposing the Highland Plantation project and 22 turbines in Roxbury; and Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., has proposed a total of about 50 turbines in Carthage, Dixfield, Canton and Woodstock.
McKay said signatures were being gathered on a petition asking the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to change the acceptable decibel level produced by turbines to 5 decibels above the ambient level in an area currently without turbines.
He said the signatures collected in several River Valley towns and Woodstock would be sent to the Citizens Task Force, which is circulating a petition statewide calling for more regulations on wind development.