January 9

Benton residents, officials and CMP to meet on noisy substation

Monday night meeting with a Central Maine Power Co. official will delve into substation noise that Albion Road area residents say keeps them up at night.

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BENTON — The selectboard will meet with a Central Maine Power Co. official next week about continuing complaints concerning noise from the company’s substation, despite a recent report that it didn’t violate the town’s sound level ordinance.

click image to enlarge

MAKING NOISE: Cherry Strohman says the buzz from a Central Maine Power near her Benton home is waking her and neighbors. The area residents are now using town-provided sound meters to measure the noise.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

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SOUND: A Central Maine Power Co. official says the company is taking the concerns the residents seriously, but solutions to the noise problems take time.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

The selectboard intends to have representatives from all parties involved attend Monday night’s meeting — including residents, CMP and the Maine Public Utilities Commission — with the intention of talking about potential solutions.

Neighbors of the Albion Road substation have complained about a persistent buzzing since May, when the substation began operation.

The substation, which takes higher voltage current and steps it down to a lower voltage before it’s distributed throughout nearby communities, has caused frustration and distress for about a dozen Albion Road residents. Some of the affected residents are planning their own sound tests, while another is a considering lawsuit.

In late December, CMP released the results of its latest sound level tests at four residential locations near the substation. Each test showed that the noise level was below the nighttime ordinance limit of 45 decibels, according to the report by TRC Environmental Corporation of Lyndhurst, N.J.

The nighttime limit of 45 decibels is a little below the sound of a normal conversation and is the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s recommended limit for a noise ordinance.

Several of the residents who had sound level testing done at their homes are skeptical of the power company’s test results, including selectwoman Melissa Patterson.

“I knew what the report was going to say before we even got it,” Patterson said, adding that she believes CMP cherry-picked the times and conditions to run its tests and they weren’t done when the noise level was loudest.

The tests, which were conducted from late night on Nov. 20 to early morning Nov. 21, were run during a night of calm wind and clear skies, according to the report, with temperatures between 25 and 32 degrees. Ten-minute measurements were taken at two locations at four nearby homes, while a control sound level meter was conducting measurements at the substation.

The sound level at each location was below the 45 decibel limit, at between 25 and 35 decibels.

Cherry Strohman, who lives at one of the four houses tested, disputes the results.

The levels at the two sites at Strohman’s home tested came in at 27 and 28 decibels.

In early December, Strohman wrote down the decibel levels she recorded with a hand-held sound meter that the town lent her. She took the readings from three locations, her front porch, back porch and outside her bedroom window. From Dec. 4 to Dec. 11, between midnight and 2 a.m., Strohman recorded sound levels ranging from 46 decibels to 51 decibels.

A couple of the substation’s antennas can be seen over the trees from Strohman’s back porch, about 500 yards from the structure.

A retired anesthesiologist, Strohman, 43, has Parkinson’s disease and said the noise has affected her sleep.

“When you can’t sleep and you have an illness, it makes it worse,” she said. “They keep saying they’ll fix it, but they’re not the ones suffering.”

Strohman, who will attend Monday’s meeting, is looking into litigation against CMP.

The highest reading recorded during CMP’s Nov. 20 and 21 tests was 35 decibels at resident Doug and Sue Blaisdell’s home.

“The sound is constantly there,” Doug Blaisdell said, adding that because of the noise, backyard recreational activities such as relaxing campfires are almost out of the question.

“If you have a group of people all talking, I guess you can kind of block it out,” he said. “But if you just want to listen to a fire, there’s no way.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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QUIET PLEASE: Benton resident Sue Blaisdell stands at the gate to the CMP substation near her home off the Albion Road on Thursday. Blaisdell and other neighbors have complained about noise levels coming from the substation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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