BENTON — Selectmen on Monday said they are beyond frustrated by what they say is lack of communication from Central Maine Power Co. about the company’s efforts to test and rectify noise from its substation on Albion Road.
“On their TV commercials, CMP likes to say flip a switch and we’ll be there; in the case of the Albion Road substation, it’s flip a switch and we don’t care,” Selectman Antoine Morin said.
Morin was speaking about the substation issue after a special meeting at which he and First Selectman Dan Chamberlain and Selectman Melissa Patterson voted to meet with Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, and other state officials by April 25 to discuss the noise problem and try to find solutions.
Selectmen handed Nadeau a letter saying they were filing a formal complaint regarding “the lack of good faith efforts” on CMP’s part to fix the noise problem and they want to meet with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, as well as Nadeau, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Watervile, and Rep. H. David Cotta, R-China.
About a dozen residents have been plagued by a persistent buzzing noise emanating from the CMP substation since it started operating in May, they said.
One woman, Cherrie Strohman, calls Chamberlain frequently, as she has Parkinson’s disease and can’t sleep because of the noise, he said.
“She called me a week ago Friday and she was crying,” Chamberlain said. “She told me there was a CMP representative out there every day for two weeks with a sound recorder, and after two weeks he finally noticed it was on pause.”
Another resident’s soil eroded as a result of the substation and runoff goes onto his property, prohibiting him from driving a skidder onto the land to harvest trees, according to Morin.
“He’s a hardworking man and he’s obviously upset about this, and he’s getting roadblocks on all the avenues he’s tried,” he said. “The bottom line is, there are solutions to this problem and CMP needs to step up and fulfill their claim of being a good corporate neighbor.”
Contacted late Monday, CMP spokesman John Carroll said CMP has acted in good faith and done everything it told the town it would do in the process. He said that by May, CMP expects to have completed all site testing, analysis and evaluation of alternatives and report its findings to the town.
“I do hope that people recognize that we understand their concerns, and I think at this point the biggest difference between where we are and they are is a sense of timing,” Carroll said. “We are able to move only at a certain pace.”
He said officials met with the town at least three times and are aware of neighbors’ concerns. CMP started a two-track process for addressing their concerns, he said.
Testing was done twice to determine whether noise levels comply with the town’s and DEP’s ordinances and both times, they were deemed in compliance, he said.
At the same time, CMP officials said they understood neighbors’ complaints and were willing to continue working to address the sound issue, Carroll said. They agreed to do more careful testing, including analytical testing of equipment in the substation, he said.
“Before we can even say if there is a solution or design a solution, we said we’d test and develop a baseline of all equipment in the substation and the noise it is making,” he said.
The scope of the problem must be analyzed, mitigation options exp lored and effectiveness of mitigation options determined, costs estimated and then determine if there is a feasible solution, he said.
CMP officials explained that the process would take possibly five or six months to determine if a solution is possible and feasible.
He added that CMP is following a process established by PUC for just this type of issue. As part of the process, an ombudsman is working with neighbors on issues including aesthetics and noise, he said.
CMP is in regular correspondence with that ombudsman, he said.
“We have continued to acknowledge the adjacent property owners’ concerns. We are not debating whether their concerns are legitimate or contesting that there’s noise; but at the same time, we are trying to be very honest with people, not to overpromise, not make commitments that we can’t meet or set expectations that are unreasonable.”
As for the reports of unprofessional conduct on the part of sound testers, Carroll said, “no one has raised an issue that I’m aware of.”
Of the property owner who has reported soil erosion, Carroll said throughout the project, the company has worked closely with the DEP regarding environmental management. He was not aware of that specific issue, but he said the company obviously would take it seriously.
Meanwhile, Nadeau attended Monday’s meeting and accepted the letter selectmen voted to give to her. After the meeting, Nadeau said she will do everything she can to try to help the town in its bid to resolve the issue.
“I don’t believe that any noise is acceptable if people are complaining about it,” she said. “I don’t care about their (noise) ranges. If these people are not happy with something, you do whatever you can to mitigate it and make it right, because these people aren’t going to go away.”
Nadeau said she is going to give the letter to all the of agencies named in it.
“I’m not doing this alone,” she said. “I’ve already spoken to Rep. Cotta, and he’s on board with this. The Energy Committee is very accessible, so we’ve only just begun. We wouldn’t have to be involved in this at all if CMP would do the right thing by all these people — that’s all I can say — and perhaps they will do the right thing, but right now, the people are very frustrated.”