There was a time when no one thought that cigarette smoking caused health problems and there was a time when children in Manville, New Jersey played in the piles of asbestos that were outside the John Manville plant in that town, but today we all know that cigarette smoking causes cancer and asbestos destroys the lungs.  But there are still a lot of things we don’t know about health, and there are a lot of people who would scoff at the idea that unwanted noise causes stress which leads to high blood pressure and related problems.  It is interesting to note that when people have no control over the noise they are forced to hear, the stress level is higher.  So if you choose to make noise, it will not be as stressful on you as it will be for the neighbor who is forced to listen to your noise until you are ready to be quiet.

Global Winds Harvest has said that they are planning to site a turbine 1000 feet from our home.  We believe that will put the turbine about 500 feet from our property line.  I am not sure about Ecogen’s policy and I do not know whether there are cases where putting a turbine 1000 feet from a home will place the turbine even closer to a property line.

At the September 22 meeting hosted by the library, Alice Sokolow pointed out that according to NYSERDA(http://www.nyserda.org/energyresources/largewindturbines.pdf) a large wind turbine such as will be constructed in Prattsburgh will emit a noise level of 80-90 decibels at the base.  Erich Bachmeyer from Global Winds Harvest said that at 1000 feet the noise level will be 50 decibels.  According to NYSERDA, at one quarter of a mile (1300 feet) the sound of the turbine drops to 35 dB and is barely discernable above normal conversation

In order to make sense of this it is necessary to understand that every three decibels is a factor of two in loudness so 50 decibels is really 32 TIMES LOUDER than 35 decibels. Thus, the difference between 35 and 50 decibels is quite significant.  According to the League for the Hard of Hearing (http://www.lhh.org/noise/decibel.htm) 50 decibels is the sound of rainfall or a refrigerator.  In the work world, fifty decibels is the sound of a large office.  Fifty decibels is also the sound of the quietest electric toothbrushes, washing machines, air conditioners and electric shavers.

Ninety decibels, the noise emitted at the base of the turbines, is the sound of the loudest food processors, blenders and garbage disposals.  Ninety decibels is also the sound of a tractor or a lawn mower or a truck or a quiet subway.  Eighty-five decibels is the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

In an e-mail I received from Rose Hamm, a utility consumer program specialist with the Office of Consumer Education and Advocacy, she says that New York State does not have a state noise code, but various localities, such as New York Cityand Buffalo have adopted noise codes that would apply to power plants.

She says that the appropriate noise level for a power plant (i.e. a wind turbine) at a receiving property line (i.e. the neighbor’s property) depends on the existing sound level WITHOUT the plant, and on the nature of the receiving property land use.

In other words, when determining what would constitute reasonable noise levels at your home in Prattsburgh, one must take into account what the noise level would be if no turbines were built next door.  Then one has to consider what the noise level usually is at your property.  Is your property used as a factory or as a residence?  Ms. Hamm says that in New York City, the noise from a power plant is limited to 55 decibels at a residential property line, while 40 decibels would be more appropriate in a quiet rural area.  The DEC also says that 40 decibels is the appropriate noise level.

She emphasizes that the appropriate noise level varies with the existing background noise level.  As we all know, Prattsburgh is a lot different from New York City.  On Baker Road it is an event when a horn blows.  Especially at night there are long periods when the only sound that can be heard outside is a frog or an insect or animal noise.  Because there is no steady background noise in Prattsburgh and because of the terrain, the sounds can carry for an amazing distance in our hills.  NYSERDA’s prediction that wind turbine noise will die off at 1300 feet might or might not be true for Prattsburgh – only site by site examination could determine that even then one couldn’t be totally sure.  It would be better to err on the side of caution.

When you go into the information that is on line, the one thing that is repeated over and over is that the wind companies come into town and tell the locals that wind turbines used to be noisy but they’ve taken care of those problems now.  Then the turbines get built and people on neighboring land can’t stand the noise, but it is too late.  Every single site in Prattsburgh that is targeted for a wind turbine should have a separate environmental study for noise to determine the distance the turbine should be placed from a property line.

And note that I said property line.  Global plans to put the turbine 1000 feet from our home and we do not find that acceptably far away from the house, but the noise will be much worse as you walk closer to our property line.  For people to have full use of their land, the turbines need to be far enough away from the property lines so that they are not intrusive.