Itinerary 1) Meet at and tour Wunsch Property 2) Meet at and tour Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project
Note from the BPWI Research Nerd: This will be an open meeting and subject to open meeting rules. The public is allowed to attend, observe, and record the proceedings but cannot participate or speak to council members while the meeting is in session. The Nerd hopes to see you there.
LAST Wednesday was International Noise Awareness Day, but if you missed it, you weren’t alone. Begun in New York 15 years ago as a grass-roots effort to educate people about the harmful health effects of excessive noise, Noise Awareness Day rapidly gained attention and advocates around the world. Gradually, though, America’s enthusiasm for the day began to abate. This year, in New York City, a mobile unit offered free hearing tests behind City Hall — that was about it for one of the noisiest cities on earth.
The scale of our noise problem isn’t in doubt. In recent years rigorous studies on the health consequences of noise have indicated that noise elevates heart rate, blood pressure, vasoconstriction and stress hormone levels, and increases risk for heart attacks. These reports prove that even when we’ve become mentally habituated to noise, the damage it does to our physiologies continues unchecked.
Studies done on sleeping subjects show that signs of stress surge in response to noise like air traffic even when people don’t wake. Moderate noise from white-noise machines, air-conditioners and background television, for example, can still undermine children’s language acquisition. Warnings about playing Walkmans and iPods too loudly have been around for years, but some experts now believe that even at reasonable volumes a direct sound-feed into the ears for hours on end may degrade our hearing.
Yet by focusing on the issue exclusively from a negative perspective, in a world awash with things to worry about, we may just be adding to the public’s sense of self-compassion fatigue. Rather than rant about noise, we need to create a passionate case for silence.
Evidence for the benefits of silence continues to mount. Studies have demonstrated that silent meditation improves practitioners’ ability to concentrate. Teachers able to introduce silence into classrooms report that it fosters learning and reflection among overstimulated students. Professionals involved with conflict resolution have found that by incorporating times of silence into negotiations they’ve been able to foster empathy that inspires a peaceable end to disputes. The old idea of quiet zones around hospitals has found new validation in studies linking silence and healing. These are macro benefits, but often silence feels good on a purely animal level.
If you have the means, you buy your luxury silence in the form of spa time, or products like quiet vacuums, which are always more expensive than their roaring bargain cousins. The affluent pay for boutique silence because, like silk on the flesh and wine on the palate, silence can kindle a sensory delight.
Unfortunately, in a world of diminishing natural retreats and amplifying electronic escapes, this delight is in ever shorter supply. The days when Thoreau could write of silence as “a universal refuge” and “inviolable asylum” are gone. With all our gadgetry punching up the volume at home, in entertainment zones and even places of worship, young people today often lack any haven for quiet.
These problems are everywhere, but can be especially acute in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Too many people think of silence only in terms of “being silenced,” of suppressing truth. In consequence, silence itself is now often suppressed.
People who appreciate the values of silence have, by and large, done a poor job of sharing their understanding — let alone of actually making silence more democratically accessible. Yet silence can be nourished in our larger spaces not just by way of an inward journey most people lack the tools to embark upon, but through education and architecture.
Some of the imaginative work being done today by urban planners involved with soundscaping demonstrates that it’s easier to create oases of quiet — by, for example, creating common areas on the rear sides of buildings with plantings that absorb sound — than it is to lower the volume of a larger area by even a few decibels. And having access to these oases can greatly enhance quality of life.
A recent Swedish study found that even people who live in loud neighborhoods report a 50 percent drop in their general noise annoyance levels if residential buildings have a quiet side. These modest sanctuaries can provide at least a taste of silence, which is then recognized not to be silence at all, but the sounds of the larger world we inhabit: birdsong and footsteps, water, voices and wind.
Perhaps rather than observing a muted Noise Awareness Day, next year we should declare the whole of April to be International Silence Awareness Month: an opportunity to think about how to bring a positive experience of silence to the growing numbers of people who live in a relentless wave of sound. Even a little bit of silence can create a sense of connection with our environment that diminishes alienation, and prompts a desire to discover more quiet.
George Prochnik is the author, most recently, of “In Pursuit of Silence.”
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: The World Health Organizations says nighttime noise levels should be kept to 35 decibels and below to insure healthy sleep. The PSC has approved noise levels of 50 decibels for wind projects in our state.
THIRD FEATURE: WHAT'S ON THE DOCKET?
Want to keep up with what's going on with the wind siting council? For some it's like watching paint dry, for others it's watching people toss your future around in their hands
This from Brown County Resident, Joanne Vercauteren
Everyday someone is writing and telling you that the setbacks have to be farther away from the nonparticipants property line, well I`m going to say it again.
To do the right thing for everyone involved in these projects you most have some consideration for the nonparticipants. We pay for the property and we pay the taxes on it, so we should have a little bit to say how close we want something to our property line.
I know the host have their rights also as our town board keeps reminding, but they have no rights putting the turbines so close to our homes and property. If they need the money that bad that they have to go behind closed doors and sign contracts without talking to their neighbors to see how they feel, then let them put these things as close to their homes and families as necessary to get them at least ½ mile if not farther from our homes,families and property lines.
That would be the fair thing to do. ½ mile is not a lot to ask, seeming other countries are putting them 1 mile away from nonparticipants property lines, because of health and safety reasons.
Between now and September the people in the town of Glenmore are going to know what it feels like to live among the turbines. Some people that are going to have these things real close to their new homes are starting to speak up, but it`s too late, because their town chairman told them at meetings that these were government regulated, but actually they are not.
The town`s people could have stopped the project it they would have been told the tru[th]. I feel sorry for them, but we tried to explain it at one of their meetings and the board said there is no more discussion on turbines, because there is nothing we can do, the government wants these.
So I guess either their town board was lied to or they just didn`t care enough to really check into it out. Money always rules!
This is how things are happening now, so that is why you have the job to make it right for all people involved with the turbine projects.
I do not thin[k] these wind turbine are a good fit for our communities that are highly populated, you sure wouldn`t think about putting them right downtown among the homes and business there, so why are our communities any different.
We have homes, schools,churches and business too! The companies that are pushing these turbines most likely disagree with a 1/2 mile setback, but then again they are just in it for the money, they do not care about anyone else`s feeling.
Maybe if they would listen to people who have to live with these things everyday they would understand, but instead they just turn their backs on them and try to pay them to be quiet.
Why don`t you take a week like a few of us suggested and live in the turbine farm and also talk to some of the people who have wrote about their lives living with the turbines in their backyards, then maybe you could understand where we are coming from asking for the setback to be no less them ½ mile from our property lines.
These setbacks will hopefully keep our families , friends and neighbors safe from any health effects that these wind turbines may cause. I'm hoping you take our letters in to consideration when you make you final draft.
Town of Morrison
May 2, 2019
FEATURE NUMBER FOUR: From the Better Plan Vaults:
What's the connection between noise and coronary heart disease? What do wind turbines have to do with any of this?
According to the results of a new peer-reviewed study made available to us by the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health, the connection between noise and coronary heart disease -particularly at night- is serious.
Our wind energy ordinances must include a top limit for how much turbine noise can safely be added to our environment. The wind industry and the Wisconsin Draft Model Ordinance tell us 50 decibles is safe. This article by M. Nathaniel Mead helps us understand why this is not enough protection.
NOISE POLLUTION: THE SOUND BEHIND HEART EFFECTS
More than 15 million Americans currently have some form of coronary heart disease (CHD), which involves a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Risk factors for CHD include diabetes, high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, obesity, smoking, menopause, and inactivity. To this list we can now add noise, thanks to a recent study and assessment of the evidence by the WHO Noise Environmental Burden on Disease working group. The findings, first presented at the Internoise 2007 conference in August 2007, will be published in December.
“The new data indicate that noise pollution is causing more deaths from heart disease than was previously thought,” says working group member Deepak Prasher, a professor of audiology at University College in London—perhaps hundreds of thousands around the world. “Until now, the burden of disease related to the general population’s exposure to environmental noise has rarely been estimated in nonoccupational settings at the international level.”
The separate noise-related working group first convened in 2003 and began sifting through data from studies in European countries to derive preliminary estimates of the impact of noise on the entire population of Europe. They then sought to separate the noise-related health effects from those of traffic-related air pollution and other confounding factors such as physical inactivity and smoking. In 2007, the group published Quantifying Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise, their preliminary findings on the health-related effects of noise for Europeans. Their conclusion: about 2% of Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep, and 15% suffer severe annoyance due to environmental noise, defined as community noise emitted from sources such as road traffic, trains, and aircraft.
According to the new figures, long-term exposure to traffic noise may account for approximately 3% of CHD deaths (or about 210,000 deaths) in Europe each year. To obtain the new estimates, the working group compared households with abnormally high noise exposure with those with quieter homes. They also reviewed epidemiologic data on heart disease and hypertension, and then integrated these data into maps showing European cities with different levels of environmental noise.
The noise threshold for cardiovascular problems was determined to be a chronic nighttime exposure of at least 50 A-weighted decibels, the noise level of light traffic. Daytime noise exposures also correlated with health problems, but the risk tended to increase during the nighttime hours. “Many people become habituated to noise over time,” says Prasher. “The biological effects are imperceptible, so that even as you become accustomed to the noise, adverse physiological changes are nevertheless taking place, with potentially serious consequences to human health.”
To further assess the noise-related disease burden, the working group estimated disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to noise-related CHD. DALYs reflect how much the expectancy of healthy life is reduced by premature death or by disability caused by disease. This measure lets policy makers compare disease burdens associated with different environmental factors and forecast the likely impact of preventive policies. The working group estimated that in 2002 Europeans lost 880,000 DALYs to CHD related to road traffic noise.
Chronic high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and immune problems. According to a review of the research in the January–March 2004 issue of Noise and Health, arousal associated with nighttime noise exposure increased blood and saliva concentrations of these hormones even during sleep. “Taken together, recent epidemiologic data show us that noise is a major stressor that can influence health through the endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems,” says Prasher.
Other recent support for an association of cardiovascular mortality with noise comes from a study published in the 1 January 2007 issue of Science of the Total Environment. The results showed an 80% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality for women who judged themselves to be sensitive to noise. “Given these findings, noise sensitivity is a serious candidate to be a novel risk factor for cardiovascular mortality in women,” says Marja Heinonen-Guzejev, a research scientist at the University of Helsinki and lead author of the paper.
There is also a potential interaction between noise and air pollution, given that individuals exposed to traffic noise, for example, are often simultaneously exposed to air pollution. Prasher is currently investigating the effects of noise alone and in combination with chemical pollution.
The broader implications of chronic noise exposure also need to be considered. “Noise pollution contributes not only to cardiovascular disease, but also to hearing loss, sleep disruption, social handicaps, diminished productivity, impaired teaching and learning, absenteeism, increased drug use, and accidents,” says physician Louis Hagler, who coauthored a review on noise pollution in the March 2007 Southern Medical Journal. “The public health repercussions of increasing noise pollution for future generations could be immense.”
Written by M. Nathaniel Mead Environ Health Perspect. 2007 November; 115(11): A536–A537.
Copyright This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose.
Noise Pollution: The Sound Behind Heart Effects
M. Nathaniel Mead
1/17/08 WIND FARM NOISE IS A BIG PROBLEM FOR RESIDENTS, BUT WIND FARM OWNERS STILL AREN'T SURE THERE IS A PROBLEM AT ALL
January 17, 2008 The Tribune-Democrat
The Portage Township supervisors are jumping into the fray over what some residents say is excessive noise from turbines at the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm.
Supervisors will hire a private sound engineer to determine the amount of noise made by the spinning turbines.
The move comes at the urging of residents who say the windmills sometimes operate at sound levels exceeding ordinance limits.
Two months ago, officials in Juniata Township, Blair County, ordered an independent sound study.
"We're agreeing to work with them on this," Supervisor Elwood Selapack said of a plan to hire Paul Heishman, a sound engineer from Mechanicsburg, to conduct noise studies.
A dollar limit on the study was not set by Portage Township officials, but the cost is not expected to exceed a few thousand dollars, based on a proposed fee for the Juniata work.
Built by Gamesa Energy USA and sold last year to Babcock & Brown, the wind farm is at the Cambria-Blair county line, and the turbines affect residents in both counties.
Heishman is expected to do the studies after Feb. 1, when steps being taken by Gamesa to eliminate the noise problems are completed, officials said Wednesday.
Local residents Bruce Brunett of Portage Township and Jill Stull of Juniata Township are convinced the noise - which they compare to the roar of a jet - is not the rotors, but a design flaw.
The townships have ordinances setting allowable noise limits from the turbines at 45 decibels, a level Heishman said is similar to bird calls on a summer day.
Juniata Supervisor Dave Kane said he heard the noise from the turbines and is concerned.
"They definitely have a problem. The windmills were making noise last week. They sounded like jet motors," Kane said.
Babcock & Brown spokesman Matt Dallas said the company is hopeful that work to repair the turbine rotors will quiet the machines.
The company still is not convinced noise levels exceed maximum allowable levels.
Recent testing by a sound engineer showed the levels within the ordinance levels, Dallas said, adding the testing was done "under every condition."
Of particular concern for Portage Township officials is the yet-to-be-completed second phase of the project, where many of the turbines overlook Martindale, a town of 150 homes about a half-mile from the site.
"The topography and configuration of the Martindale area is exactly what it is in Juniata Township. They're down in the valley, and they're going to get the noise," Brunett said.
Meanwhile, Babcock & Brown said it wants to be a good neighbor.
"We're willing to do what it takes to make sure we are within those (ordinance) guidelines," Dallas said.