WATERVILLE — City police are cracking down on drivers of vehicles whose mufflers or exhaust systems produce excessive noise.

That commotion can wake people in the middle of the night, startle residents outside their homes, interrupt diners at outdoor restaurants and even cause windows to rattle, according to police Chief Joseph Massey.

Massey said Friday that police issued warnings starting Thursday to motorists whose vehicles emitted loud and excessive noise and had illegal exhaust systems. In a couple of weeks, they will start writing tickets.

State law says a vehicle can not have an exhaust system louder than the original equipment the vehicle had when it was purchased, according to Massey. If an officer is in traffic and notices one vehicle among several has an exhaust system that is noticeably louder than the others, he may cite its driver, Massey said.

A few years ago, Massey’s department cracked down on violators, and he received a backlash, particularly from some motorcyclists. But residents do not have to put up with noise pollution that affects the peace, tranquility and quality of their lives, and officers will be enforcing the law throughout the summer, according to Massey.

“It’s been a recurring problem since we first did it three or four years ago when we increased enforcement against motor vehicles emitting loud and excessive noise and had illegal exhaust systems,” he said. “I have not done any increased enforcement over the last two or three summers.”

Massey said he has received several complaints from residents about the loud exhausts.

“They are just beside themselves that they have to put up with this,” he said.

In downtown Waterville, some motorcyclists rev their motors as they pass through the area, causing the noise to echo off buildings, according to Massey. People conversing on the street or at outdoor dining facilities cannot hear each other speak and must stop what they are doing.

“It’s noise pollution and it’s aggravating and no one wants to listen to it,” Massey said.

He said warnings will be issued for a couple of weeks and then tickets will be given out. A motorist who gets a ticket has the choice to pay a fine by mailing it, or can ask for a hearing, which would be before a judge.

When his department enforced the law on loud exhausts a few years ago, people had all sorts of reasons why loud pipes are OK, including that they save lives, he said. But such systems are illegal and there is no reason for people to want to draw attention to themselves than to appear “cool,” according to Massey.

“I just find it baffling that people don’t have any consideration for other folks. They’re so caught up in ‘me,'” he said.

Massey said he could have started the summer enforcement without a public announcement but instead chose to let people know about it.

“I hope people will comply and understand, but I also have to at least address this issue because I’m getting so many complaints. I think residents deserve that.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17