BENTON — Central Maine Power Co. has begun requesting proposals to analyze the sound generated from the Albion Road substation and study ways of lessening that noise, but those measures may take a minimum of six months.
The utility company sent a letter to Public Utilities Commission ombudsman Leah Sprague, who is assisting the town in the struggle to lower the noise produced from a CMP substation that has affected about a dozen residents since May.
“The residents are disappointed it will take so long,” said Antoine Morin, a selectman in Benton. “On Monday we’ll give an update on where we are in the process and discuss the proposal.”
The letter, which was sent to Sprague in January, said CMP has begun the request for proposals from consultants to run the sound tests.
“We expect to receive proposals from consultants soon,” said the letter from Chris Marshall, the community relations manager at Burns & McDonnell, the engineering firm CMP contracted for the project. “However, we expect that it will require a minimum of six months to measure and analyze the sounds, to develop mitigation options, and to evaluate their effectiveness, costs and impacts on operations.”
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 Benton residents since the machine was turned on last spring.
The letter outlined five steps that CMP will take through the Maine Power Reliability Program to combat the noise, starting with verifying that the equipment generating sound, including the transformers and reactors, is installed correctly.
A first test, according to the letter, will be an evaluation of the sound produced by the substation transformer and reactors, including continuous sound recording near the equipment and an evaluation to identify sound fluctuations.
The second study would evaluate sound mitigation options. Sound from the substation will be measured and the consultant will evaluate multiple options for mitigating the sound.
In December, CMP released the results of its November sound level tests at four residences near the substation, which indicated that the substation was in line with the town’s sound level ordinance of 45 decibels at night.
Previous sound level tests at the substation site were conducted in late June and were also in line with the town’s ordinance.
Residents have disputed CMP’s previous study results, claiming the utility company cherry-picked the times and conditions when the tests were condicted. At the last selectmen’s meeting on Jan. 13, representatives from CMP and several of the affected residents and Sprague discussed the November test results.
“Every resident who had their home tested said that the sound wasn’t as loud as other times,” Sprague said. “If you have four different people say the sound wasn’t as loud during the testing as it had been, then I question the credibility of the test.”
According to Morin, the conclusion of the first sound study will be available around the beginning of April.