More talk about noise

BLP officials continue to address racket reports

Marquette Board of Light and Power Executive Director Tom Carpenter, second from right, discusses the noise stemming from the BLP’s Marquette Energy Center as Jerry Irby, BLP board member; Ken Seavoy, assistant city attorney; and Mary Adamini, director of personnel and employee relations, look on. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Board of Light and Power continues to work toward a solution for noises and vibrations believed to be coming from its Marquette Energy Center off Wright Street.

Last month, the BLP officially shut down the 44-megawatt, coal-fired Shiras Steam Plant once the last remaining coal was used. June 11 was the first official day the MEC — which consists of three 18-megawatt reciprocating internal combustion engines powered by natural gas or fuel oil — was used as the BLP’s primary source of power after the closure of Shiras.

Shortly after operations began at the MEC last year, at least 17 Marquette Township residents submitted written complaints about the sounds and vibrations.

Currently, BLP officials are working to review data with Wartsila, a Finnish manufacturing company that provided the engines; Sargent & Lundy, a Chicago-based construction engineering company that designed the facility; and Shiner & Associates, a Chicago-based acoustical engineer firm.

Wartsila recently finished prototyping a sound mitigation device for the MEC. BLP Executive Director Tom Carpenter said four Wartsila engineers have been in the area and Shiner & Associates provided a noise analysis evaluation over a week ago. However, the results have not yet been retrieved by the BLP, but Carpenter said the BLP is attempting to cover “every possible angle.”

At a BLP Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, BLP Board Member Edward Angeli asked Carpenter if Sargent & Lundy had any maximum noise level requirement it aimed for during preliminary phases of the MEC.

“Inside the building, Wartsila, by contract, kind of determined the level limit of mitigation. Outside the building, Sargent & Lundy hired Shiner and did an evaluation based on Wartsila’s input and they gave them data … they set a standard. (There aren’t) any federal, local, state-level ordinances, rules or regulations we have to meet for noise in the area. So they set a self-implemented level — I think it’s 50 decibals, or less,” Carpenter said. “It wasn’t supposed to be a nuisance to anybody in the area.”

Board Chairman Tom Tourville said the BLP took additional steps that weren’t required to lower the sound. He said whatever the final fix might be, it’ll most likely be expensive.

Two Marquette Township residents addressed the board Tuesday, explaining what they hear and feel at their nearby residences.

Felicia Flack, of Jenny Lane, said after owning a house along Forestville Road that was adjacent to power lines, her family decided to move to her current residence in a quiet neighborhood.

“We built an even better house and when I sit out on my deck, I see nothing but trees,” she said. “Now you can hear those engines and it’s different. It’s louder at certain times than others … We’re very interested in the noise mitigation that you’re doing.”

Flack said once she was in her bedroom and her eardrums felt like they were vibrating.

“That’s what it felt like to me. It sounds like a train running through our neighborhood constantly,” she said.

Ray Ranta, of Granite Street, said there are different levels to the noise.

“Sometimes it’s bearable and sometime it’s not very bearable,” he said. “There are different sounds too, but there’s a high winding pitch you hear. When you’re listening to it for four-five hours, it gets to you.”

Ranta said he didn’t notice any vibrations at his residence but that items sometimes shift in his house.

“The two different sounds you’re hearing are definitely the radiators, the high winding sound, and that does possibly vary depending on the temperature outside, and last week, of course, was very hot,” Carpenter said, adding that the low frequency is related to the engines and the BLP will continue to work with its partners to figure out solutions.