Wind Farm Noise, Lead Poisoning Concerns Aired

The Chautauqua County Health board discusses concerns of lead poisoning in children and wind farm noise disturbances. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Board of Health listened to concerns shared by village residents regarding the noise disturbances caused by the Arkwright Summit Wind Farm and the high rate of lead poisoning in children that continues to persist in the city limits of Jamestown.

Residents of Fredonia, Sinclairville and Arkwright presented research and shared what they viewed at best as annoyances and at worst negative health effects concerning the area wind farms. This outpouring of concern follows the negative comments given at a recent Chautauqua County Legislature meeting this month.

The ongoing wind farm project has been the object of controversy and complaints for months, and residents at the health board meeting attempted to share specific health-based complaints. One resident said the the World Health Organization commented on acceptable noise from wind turbines, stating that 45 decibels is the maximum level that should be allowed. The resident said the noise level has been measured at 55 decibels and has contributed to noise-related annoyances that have caused sleep deprivation, adverse cardiovascular and metabolic effects, headaches and dizziness.

Another resident shared her concern about the lack of safety standards associated with wind farm noise exposure. Infrasound was also said to be produced, which can’t normally be heard by human beings but can still pose adverse health effects such as breathing and digestive problems. Wind-turbine syndrome can be experienced by those who live close to wind farms; symptoms include sleep problems, headaches, ringing in the ears, irritability, anxiety and more. Concern over the wind farms and the resulting low frequency noise being the cause of vibroacoustic disease was also expressed.

A resident said the turbines are 1,000 feet away from populated areas and have been suggested to be placed at least 1 kilometer away from residences. Due to the proximity, another resident complained about sounds and vibrations that have penetrated nearby residences.

Natalie Whiteman, program coordinator for the county’s Lead Primary Prevention Program under the division of environmental health services, joined Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller, a healthy communities consultant, in asking the board to consider changing their meeting schedule in order to speed up the hearing process for those who are found to have lead, usually in the form of lead paint, at risk of poisoning children in their apartments or residences.

It was suggested that either the board have more frequent meetings (it only meets quarterly while boards in other counties meet every other month or monthly) or host more special meetings in the future. Whiteman and Schmidtfrerick-Miller intend to come back at the January meeting with more information as to how other counties have stuck to a 45-day maximum length of time in the prevention process.

The time suggestion means that from inspection of a property to awarding the clearance that states it is free of lead, only 45 days at most should pass. In between inspection and the clearance process, the property owner or landlord is given materials such as sanding equipment and new paint with which to remove all traces of lead that could harm children.

Whiteman mentioned that 147 kids in the Jamestown city limits have a potentially unhealthy amount, between 5 and 15 micrograms per deciliter, of lead in their bodies. She also said that Jamestown had the fifth highest level of lead poisoning of all municipalities in New York state when she assumed her position in 2010 and that the situation in the city hasn’t improved much since.

She said they have placed warning placards over the doors to apartments and the common area doors for apartment buildings when suspected residences have become vacant. According to Whiteman, some landowners prefer not to address the lead situation by agreeing to renovate, repair and paint over the spot where lead paint used to be and instead leave the properties vacant.

“(Lead poisoning) affects the whole community,” Schmidtfrerick-Miller said.

The two women aim to increase public awareness of lead poisoning and hope for further enforcement that could decrease the amount of kids poisoned by digesting lead paint chips or breathing in lead paint dust.

In other news, an $86,000 water distribution project has nearly been finished in the High Acre Mobile Home Park that provides 175 lots for residents. The well system is almost newly restructured and tied together, with the project set to be completed next week.


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