Noise issue at Energy Center being investigated

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Board of Light and Power continues to look into noises and vibrations believed to be coming from the Marquette Energy Center.

The generating facility, at 2200 Wright St., is located in the city of Marquette near the border with Marquette Township.

Shortly after the MEC went online last year, several township residents submitted formal complaints pertaining to noises and vibrations. Over the year, the number of complainants increased to around 20 people who have stated they’ve been or are consistently disrupted by the facility.

BLP Executive Director Tom Carpenter said international emissions and noise management company INNOVA Global recently conducted a sound measurement survey at noise-sensitive receptors near the MEC.

“What they’re recommending is we thicken the walls on the building,” Carpenter said. “They think they have a methodology to do that in a somewhat efficient way.”

Carpenter said INNOVA also recommended layering the ceiling and roof, as well as reconfiguring silencers to direct the noise away from residential areas. The BLP is still waiting on a final report from INNOVA as well as a budgetary estimate.

In addition to the vibrations, township resident Mary Thorrington said she hears a high-pitched whining noise while she’s at her home.

“At the last meeting, there was a comment about (how) the whining could be fixed,” Thorrington said. “That’s still ongoing as of today.”

Thorrington said she’s dealt with the disruptions for around 16 months and it’s wearing on her.

“We’ve heard ‘It’ll be in two weeks’ or ‘It’ll be in a month’ to get this study done or that,” she said. “We even had a gentlemen come from Michigan (Technological University) within the last month (to) our property and walk around. I have no idea what came of that evaluation. As a person who is dealing with the effects of this and how it’s wearing and tiring and how it changes and impacts our life, I ask you to please address these issues.”

Carpenter said the whining sound is a radiator noise that can be fixed more efficiently than issues pertaining to lower frequency sounds. He explained that the man from Michigan Tech is a consultant who contacted the BLP to act as a third party to review INNOVA’s analysis.

“If we tear the walls off the building and add more layers and it doesn’t work, that’s going to be real bad news,” he said. “So we want to make sure it’s going to work and then if we get a third party review … (it) would be very helpful.”

Recently, BLP officials have been 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 engineering firm.

Carpenter said Wartsila suggested a resonator solution.

“We’re wary on that because it’s very narrow-banded and only absorbs certain frequencies, … where a thicker wall solution actually resolves a whole spectrum (of) sound,” he said, adding that INNOVA has taken the other company’s reports into account as well.

David Puskala, vice chairman of the BLP board, asked if the vibration is sound related or vibration of the ground. Carpenter said it’s a pressure-related sound.

“It’s not the ground itself shaking,” he said.

The next phase for the BLP is to wait for INNOVA’s price estimation and move from there.

Board member Jerry Irby asked if the board could hold a special meeting if INNOVA sent a proposal soon since the board’s next meeting isn’t until October.

“That’s our whole premise this year for having one regular meeting a month — with the option, if there’s a topic that’s time sensitive, that’s important, that we can throw in a second meeting quite reasonably,” said BLP Chairman Tom Tourville.

BLP board member Ed Angeli asked if Carpenter has a time frame of when residents can expect something to be done about the noises and vibrations. Carpenter said he currently doesn’t, but hopes INNOVA will have more answers when they hear back from them.

During the BLP’s regular meeting Monday, the board unanimously approved its fiscal year 2019 budget. According to BLP’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Link, $8.3 million is reserved for capital expenditures.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.