Wendell Board of Health drafting regulations for battery energy storage systems

Posted on March 15, 2024


Contact: Wendell Board of Health
Barbara Craddock, Chair
Sarah Robertson, Clerk

WENDELL – The Wendell Board of Health is seeking public input as they work to draft regulations concerning utility-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS). In response to the growing reliance on batteries to facilitate the green energy transition, and concerns expressed to our board about how this emerging technology can threaten public health, our board feels it is necessary to consider implementing safety measures that address unique circumstances in Wendell.

“It’s important for us to help reduce climate change by lessening the need for fossil fuels and increasing the use of green energy,” said Wendell Board of Health chair Barbara Craddock. “While battery storage is essential to achieve that goal, the siting and operation of such facilities must be conducted thoughtfully with the health and safety of our residents in mind.”

The threat of thermal runaway fires and the potential release of toxic chemicals from utility-scale BESS could harm the local drinking water supply, air quality, and the physical safety of Wendell residents. The town has no municipal water system, relies entirely on local aquifers for drinking water, and has limited emergency response capacity to handle large-scale battery fires or the release of hazardous chemicals. In a heavily forested town with many miles of dirt roads, adequate evacuation plans must also be taken into consideration, especially as climate change causes more severe weather events that may impede travel.

“As a physician I am particularly concerned about the potential human health hazards posed by large-scale lithium battery storage facilities,” said Wendell Board of Health member James Frank. “While my family and I are committed to personal efforts to reduce our carbon footprint in addressing the threats of climate change, we do not feel it should be done at the risk of compromising the wellbeing of residents of this small rural community.”

Chapter 111, Section 31 of the Massachusetts General Laws gives local boards of health the authority to enact reasonable regulations to protect public health, safety and welfare that expand upon existing state or local statutes. The Wendell Board of Health will consider requiring annual operating permits, periodic inspections, environmental monitoring, and other conditions for utility-scale BESS.

As the Board of Health works to better understand the public health implications of BESS, they are seeking input from other town boards, state officials, environmental groups, and industry specialists. They will work with other town departments to ensure these regulations complement existing public health and safety programs and comply with state laws.

The public is invited to provide input as the Board of Health works to draft these regulations by emailing their suggestions to boardofhealth@wendellmass.us.

*A public input session will be held during the Board’s next scheduled meeting on Monday, March 25 at 5:30 p.m.**.* This will be a hybrid meeting held in-person and via Zoom. Those wishing to speak during the public input session should email boardofhealth@wendellmass.us to register ahead of time. Information on how to join the meeting can be found on the Board’s web page at least two business days prior to the meeting at https://www.wendellmass.us/board-of-health-meetings and posted at the town office building at 9 Morse Village Rd.

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