Last fall, ABC News profiled a Massachusetts couple who blamed a single wind turbine more than five football fields away for a litany of health problems and their home's falling value. But a recent local hearing on the couple's claims included a major revelation that wasn't included in the ABC report, raising serious questions about the network's reporting.
The ABC News report that aired on Good Morning America gave an extremely long, very credulous account of the story of Sue and Edward Hobart. The Falmouth homeowners claim a wind turbine 1,600 feet away - well over a quarter of a mile - caused a wide range of mysterious health problems. The Hobarts filed a six-figure lawsuit against the turbine manufacturer, claiming the turbine hurt the value of their home.
Fox and other conservative outlets immediately seized on the Hobarts' claims to attack wind energy. It went viral with wind hypochondriacs - the original ABCnews.com article has over 1,000 comments, including tales of wind turbines causing instantaneous fainting.
The Hobarts stuck to their story even as Sue Hobart later admitted that she had suffered from ringing in her ears for "quite a while," but claimed it had gotten worse "since the turbines."
But this week, Falmouth ruled against the Hobarts' claims and in the process revealed something not mentioned in any previous reporting:
The Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals declined to call a privately owned wind turbine a nuisance Thursday night, saying that claims of detrimental health effects because of its operation were insufficient.Mold and radon are both very real health threats, unlike easily disproven health claims related to wind turbines.
The turbine at 82 Technology Park Drive in East Falmouth is owned by Notus Clean Energy LLC. Ed and Sue Hobart, formerly of 476 Blacksmith Shop Road, complained last year about the turbine's noise and the subsequent effects on their health. Building Commissioner Eladio Gore found the turbine did not constitute a nuisance, and the Hobarts appealed his ruling to the zoning board.
Zoning Administrator Sari Budrow said the four members of the board who participated in the discussion Thursday night, which was the conclusion of a hearing that began in March, unanimously found the health complaints were not persuasive.
The Hobarts have sold their house and argued the loss they took on the sale was a direct result of the turbine; however, other factors, including mold and radon on the property, also were found to be at work, Budrow said the board determined.
Why didn't ABC ask if the Hobarts' health claims were caused by mold or radon? The article never even mentioned the words "mold" or "radon."
And the notes from that zoning hearing contain yet another revelation:
The neighbors were given a limit of 6 decibels over ambient as opposed to the normal 10 decibels over ambient standard. A complaint was filed in November of 2010 and testing was done at this location and it was determined that it did not exceed the permit requirements. The information in the Hobart’s complaint is the same information in the previous complaint. The have not used the complaint procedure given in the permit. If the board shuts the turbine down it won’t improve their living conditions because they don’t live there anymore. Their monetary claim is now in Superior Court. It is a small house next to a sand and gravel quarry. The home inspector found mold and high levels of radon. They found a buyer at $325,000, so the house is not unsellable. The listing contract has a disclosure form that indicates that the physical symptoms they have existed before the turbine. A signed offer proves that it is sellable.To review: They admit they've always felt sick, they sign a legal document that their symptoms pre-date the turbine, and a home inspection shows serious health concerns inside the home. Yet none of that made it into the ABC News story.
Why? Did the Hobarts withhold information about the problems their home? I'm not saying they did, but their lawsuit certainly provided financial motivation to do so. Or did ABC News not ask tough questions about the Hobarts in their home - or worse yet, choose not to report about the mold and radon? In any case, ABC didn't tell viewers the whole story.
ABC should consider retracting its original report. At the very least, it should run an update and explain why viewers didn't hear about mold and radon in the first report.