GOT TURBINE NOISE?
We've been following this story since the the middle of January when trouble with the noise from turbines in this community was first reported. Read about it in the 1/18/08 Special Features Archive Called "Got Noise?"
Four and a half months later, the noise goes on--
Couple goes to court for windmill distress
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Juniata Township couple seeking relief from noisy wind turbines has taken their complaint to Blair County Court.
Todd and Jill Stull, in a lawsuit filed at the courthouse, accuse Gamesa Energy USA LLC and the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC of destroying their quality of life and damaging their health. They’re seeking an injunction ordering the noise to be reduced.
Ever since the wind turbines were built on acreage spanning Blair and Cambria counties, the Stulls say they have endured excessive noise and vibrations, causing loss of sleep, emotional distress, inconvenience and loss of property value.
“Defendants’ wind turbines have destroyed the peaceful environment formerly enjoyed by plaintiffs and their neighbors,” the lawsuit states.
Representatives for Gamesa Energy and Babcock & Brown, which owns the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, said Thursday that they had not yet received the lawsuit and declined comment.
In April, Juniata Township supervisors commissioned a study to determine if the turbines exceed the noise level allowed by township ordinance. Solicitor Michael Routch said the information is needed if the township is to force action to reduce noise at the request of residents.
Pittsburgh attorney Bradley S. Tupi said the Stulls’ lawsuit is based on nuisance laws applicable when a property owner uses his property in a way that interferes with how others use theirs. These laws historically surface in noise disputes between airports and neighbors, with rulings often reflecting who was there first, Tupi said.
The Stulls have lived on their 100-acre property since 1992.
The 30-turbine wind farm, which spans five townships and borders the Stulls’ property, went into operation in 2007.
The lawsuit also accuses Gamesa and the wind farm of securing permits and approvals to build on the basis that the turbines would cause no noise. Based on that premise, Tupi said the Stulls raised no objections or appeals to the proposed project, but now find themselves exposed to noise, vibrations and flicker during a setting sun.
“There is no question that the noise from these turbines are having a terrible effect on the Stulls,” Tupi said.
In the common pleas court of Blair County, Pennsylvania
TODD STULL AND JILL STULL
GAMESA ENERGY USA, LLC and
ALLEGHENY RIDGE WIND FARM, LLC
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF (partial list)
14. Some of the industrial wind turbines are as close as 2,400 feet from Plaintiffs' home.
15. Before the wind turbines were erected, Plaintiff's property was a quiet, rural location where the predominant sounds were those of songbirds and leaves blowing in the wind. Defendants' wind turbines have destroyed the peaceful environment formerly enjoyed by Plaintiffs and their neighbors.
16. During windy conditions, the mechanical turbines become extremely noisy. The turbine blades make a "whooshing" sound almost like jet aircraft, except that the sound is cyclical, alternating louder and softer over short intervals. The turning of the industrial wind turbine hub housings to face the wind (or otherwise) makes a piercing, screeching, metal-on-metal noise.
17. The noises from the turning turbine blades can last many hours or even days. The noises from the turning of the hub housings are of shorter duration. The noises occur during daytime and nighttime. The noises are unpredictable and are generated without notice to Plaintiffs. The noises are audible inside Plaintiffs' home, even with windows closed.
18. The turbine noises interfere with Plaintiffs' sleep. Since the operation of the industrial wind energy facility began, Plaintiffs have not been able to sleep with their windows open, and even with windows closed Plaintiffs use an indoor fan to create "white noise" in a vain effort to cancel out the noise of the mechanical turbines outside.
19. The mechanical turbines also generate disturbing, low-frequency vibration that adversely affects the Stulls and their property. Both the audible noise and the vibrations, either individually or collectively, make Dr. Stull so uncomfortable that he often cannot sleep at night. Sometimes he goes down into an unheated cellar to try to find a quiet place to sleep.
20. Dr. Stull has experienced stress, anxiety and frequent disruptions of his sleep as a result of the noisy wind turbines.
21. The turbines' noises have a negative effect on Plaintiffs' enjoyment of their property and quality of life. The noises disrupt Plaintiffs' efforts to entertain guests on their property. The noises disturb Plaintiffs' use of their property for all outdoor family activities including hiking, hunting and other recreation.
22. Upon information and belief, the turbines' noises have diminished Plaintiffs' property value.
23. The turbine blades also create a disturbing "flicker" effect as they turn in the light of the setting sun. This also adversely affects the Stulls and their use and enjoyment of their property, including watching birds and wildlife, and hunting.
24. In order to induce state and local officials to grant permits and approvals necessary for construction of the industrial wind project, Defendants Gamesa and Allegheny represented that the wind turbines would be quiet. Those representations were false.
25. Plaintiffs relied upon Defendants' misrepresentations inter alia, by declining to oppose permits for the industrial wind energy project, by declining to appeal various local and state approvals of the project and by declining to sue to halt the project.
26. After the industrial wind energy facility was constructed, Plaintiffs complained about the turbine noises. Defendants offer various unsatisfactory explanations. Sometimes Defendants asserted that there simply were no noises. On other occasions, Defendants said that the turbine blades were defective and needed to be replaced. Defendants allegedly replaced the tape on the blades in January 2008, but the noises continued.
27. At various times, Plaintiffs have measured the noises from the turbines on Plaintiffs' property in excess of 70 decibels.
28. Defendants' conduct is ongoing, and Plaintiffs' harm is ongoing.
Count VII Injunctive Relief
55. The averments of the preceding paragraphs are incorporated by reference.
56. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to abate the nuisance and violations caused by Defendants' design, construction and operation of the wind turbines.
57. Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits.
58. Plaintiffs are suffering immediate and irreparable harm, including ongoing personal injuries, anxiety, and emotional distress.
59. Money damages or other remedies at law are inadequate. Money damages cannot restore the peace and quiet Plaintiffs enjoyed on their property before the industrial turbines were built, and cannot free Plaintiffs from the constant anxiety and physical and emotional distress they suffer as a result of Defendants' conduct. Plaintiffs should not be forced either to continue to suffer these invasions or to move out of their home.
60. A balancing of the equities weighs in Plaintiffs' favor because, inter alia Defendants obtained permits for the industrial wind project based upon misrepresentation that the mechanical turbines would cause no noise.
61. A balancing of the equities weighs in Plaintiffs' favor because Plaintiffs relied upon Defendant' misrepresentation, inter alia, by declining to oppose permits required for the industrial wind energy project, by declining to appeal various local and state approvals of the project and by declining to sue to halt the project.
62. Consideration of the public interest weighs in Plaintiffs' favor because, inter alia, Defendants obtained permits for the industrial wind power plant complex based upon misrepresentations that the mechanical turbines would cause no noise. The industrial wind power plant complex not only affects Plaintiffs, but Plaintiffs' community.
63. Consideration of the public interest weighs in Plaintiffs' favor because Art. 1, Sec. 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment." Defendants' conduct has robbed Plaintiffs of the natural scenic and esthetic values of their environment at Pine Springs Farm.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs demand injunctive relief against Defendants to abate the nuisance caused by the offending industrial wind power turbines, together with costs and such other and further relief as the Court deems just.
TUCKER ARENSBERG, P.C.
Bradley S. Tupi, Esquire
William Haberstroh, Esquire
Attorneys for Plaintiffs,
Todd and Jill Stull