Neighbors rally against proposed sewer plant turbine

It would seem the winds have shifted on what had been mostly favorable reaction to a proposed 275-foot-high wind turbine at the Riverhead sewer plant.

In the two weeks since a Feb. 15 Town Board meeting drew big support for the project, nearby residents of Riverside Avenue and River Avenue have sent over a dozen letters to town officials voicing concerns ­­— and even opposing the project.

The proposed 750 kw wind turbine would cost the town, at most, $1.8 million to build but the energy it generates for the sewer plant would pay off that cost within 11 years and the turbine would generate $5 million in energy savings over its projected 25 year life, according to consultant Peter Rusy of DHL Power, which did a feasibility study on the proposal.

The turbine height would be 275 feet when its blade is turned vertically, officials say. They have insisted it will be under the town noise limit and will barely be visible to nearby homes because it will be obscured by trees. Officials said the turbine would be most visible from far away, like on Sound Avenue.

The town received one letter in support of the turbine. It came from Antonio Valeri of AVN Realty Corp in Bohemia, who has a business in Riverhead. He wrote, “development of economically feasible energy benefits all taxpayers in Riverhead. In my understanding, the long-term impacts to the town are significant and will reduce the tax burden for us after a mid-term increase.”

But the other 14 letters, which were from nearby residents, were less than supportive of the project.

They largely concluded that the town needs to hold a second public meeting to explain the project to residents, and they raised concerns with the height of the proposed turbine, its potential noise and with what they fear will be its negative impacts on their quality of life and property values.

Several suggested the town pursue solar power options instead of wind power. Others said the town should do an environmental impact study on the project.

“While we both agree that reducing energy usage and cost seems like a noble goal, we must state that we strongly object to any movement forward on this project until residents, especially those of us who live only a few hundred yards from the proposed installation site, have had the opportunity to learn more and come to a decision about how this project may impact our lives,” read one of the letters, from Dr. Michael Walters and Tara Suswal. They live on River Avenue, which is the street the sewer plant is on.

They said that potential negatives could include low-frequency noise, flickering shadows and decreased property values.

“I’m already sick and tired of the noise of ‘cesspool cleaning’ heavy trucks driving seven days a week, especially early in the morning at 6:20 a.m. in the summertime,” wrote Riverside Drive resident Rysard Duba. “I can’t imagine the noise coming 24/7 from the wind turbines built next to my property.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to call for another hearing on the turbine plan. “Do you know what’s interesting about this?” Mr. Walter asked. “Nobody wants us to build a nuclear power plant, nobody wants us to build coal-fired power plants, nobody wants us to go get gas in the Adirondacks and the Catskills. Nobody wants anything. But everybody wants to drive their car, everybody wants to heat their house. Here you have an opportunity to save 40 percent of the electrical costs of the sewer plant on a project that, worst case scenario, will pay us back in seven years.”

He said he and sewer district supervisor Michael Reichel plan to travel to Atlantic City in the next few weeks to visit a wind turbine field there.

“Using clean energy is one of these things that everybody in the country is clamoring for,” Mr. Walter said.

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