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Falmouth ordered to cut wind turbine hours

BARNSTABLE — The town of Falmouth was ordered by a judge Friday to limit the hours that two wind turbines operate after neighbors blamed them for a series of health problems.

Effective immediately, the turbines at the Cape Cod town’s wastewater treatment facility are allowed to operate only from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day of the week except Sunday, and are to be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse wrote in the decision.

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Neil and Elizabeth Andersen, who live about a quarter-mile from the town-owned turbines, said they caused ‘‘continuous insomnia, headaches, psychological disturbances, dental injuries, and other forms of malaise’’ they had not suffered prior to the turbines construction.

‘‘The court finds the Andersens claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that each day of operation produces further injury, to be credible,’’ the judge wrote.

Continued operation of the turbines at previous levels put residents at risk of ‘‘irreparable physical and psychological harm,’’ the judge wrote.

The environmental group Wind Wise Massachusetts called it a landmark decision.

‘‘This is believed to be the first time that a court in the US has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,’’ said Virginia Irvine, a group member.

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The decision has repercussions in other Massachusetts communities where turbines are being blamed for health problems, Neil Andersen said.

The 1.65-megawatt turbines were erected about 3½ years ago to power the treatment plant and to create revenue for the town by selling electricity back to the grid.

They ran 24 hours for seven days a week at first, but more recently they have been running from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily, he said. Each turbine is almost 400 feet tall from the ground to the highest point of the blades.

They have been the subject of disagreements and lawsuits between town boards and townwide votes on whether to dismantle them entirely.

Falmouth officials argued against restricting the hours of operation, saying shorter hours would reduce revenue. The judge rejected that argument.

The town’s lawyer was not immediately available to comment on the judge’s decision, and he told both sides to work on a mitigation plan.

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