Turbine setbacks fail to protect vulnerable
Counties throughout Indiana are now beginning to rewrite their zoning ordinances pertaining to industrial wind turbines, due to new health and safety information coming out almost daily. As citizens become more and more aware of the health risks associated with both the audible and inaudible sounds turbines produce, they are calling on local officials to amend current ordinances, thereby better protecting their citizens — especially those living in rural areas. For example:
• Whitley County now has a half-mile setback from the property line.
• Noble County has changed its setback to three-fourths of a mile and has put in place a noise limit not to exceed 40 decibels at 1,000 feet from a turbine, and requires that a tower’s blinking lights be shielded.
• DeKalb County’s setbacks have also been increased and its allowable noise limit is now reduced to 35 decibels.
• Wells, Adams and Tipton counties are all now in the process of amending their ordinances.
• Marshall County is in the process of writing an absolute ban on commercial wind development anywhere in the county. It should be voted into law on May 6.
The current Howard County zoning ordinance fails to adequately promote public health, safety and general welfare in the sections pertaining to industrial wind turbines. Especially disturbing is an allowable noise limit of 55 decibels for rural areas that contain wind turbines.
As with any ordinance meant to “protect,” the laws must be sure to address the most vulnerable in any given area, and that would be the elderly, the chronically ill, and children. With all the new information now widely available concerning health risks to children from turbine noise and infrasound, it is hard to understand why we are not following the World Health Organization’s recommendations for safe noise limits for children.
The WHO recommends that nighttime sound levels should be less than 30 decibels to protect children’s health.
Another highly respected and frequently used source for noise ordinances, the ISO booklet, is available in most counties throughout the nation in their city planner’s office. It contains useful data from the International Standards Organization. According to a chart in the ISO booklet, the recommended community noise limits for all persons living in a rural district is 35 decibels daytime and 25-30 decibels at night.
Once again, the current Howard County ordinance has an allowable noise limit of 55 decibels for rural areas containing industrial wind turbines. This is clearly irresponsible and incredibly unprotective. For those unfamiliar with sound, an increase of just 3 decibels is noticeable, and a 10 decibel increase doubles the sound.
Howard County allows a noise limit six times greater than recommended by either the WHO or the ISO.
The World Health Organization now recommends a minimum setback of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) as a safe distance between turbines and homes for the average population, and 1 mile for children, elderly and the chronically ill.
With Kokomo being known as the “city of firsts,” let’s not let Howard County be remembered as being the last county in Indiana to bring zoning ordinances up to date on the issue of large industrial wind turbines. Please protect your rural citizens, especially the elderly and children.