HALLOWELL — Residents of Albion Road in Benton will have to endure disruptive noise from a Central Maine Power Co. electricity substation near their homes for at least a few more months as the Public Utilities Commission investigates the issue.

Three Albion Road residents have complained for years about the noise, which started after CMP built the station in 2013 as part of a statewide system upgrade called the Maine Power Reliability Project.

In January, a public advocate retained by the company to mediate landowner complaints that arose from the project referred the case to the PUC because CMP had said it would take at least until late 2017 to solve the problem and the company would require commission approval before it could implement mitigation.

In a case conference Thursday morning at the commission in Hallowell, hearing examiner Chuck Cohen plotted out a schedule that would put hearings and a decision in the case well into the spring.

Benton resident Scott Cyrway, one of the complainants and the Republican state senator representing District 16, told Cohen that while he appreciated the commission was trying to move the case forward, he and his neighbors already had been waiting too long for a resolution.

“As residents and landowners, it has been three years now; and when you say timely, it is torturous rather than timely,” Cyrway said.

“It’s like David and Goliath, that’s what it is,” Cyrway said in an interview following the conference.

John Carroll, a spokesman for AVANGRID, CMP’s parent company, said in an interview Thursday that the company wasn’t trying to drag its feet in solving the problems, but it could not start the expensive repair program until it got commission approval.

“I know that has been frustrating for the neighbors, but we can’t just go ahead and fix the problem. Even if we know what it was, we don’t have the authority to go and spend that money to fix it without going to the commission for an order,” he said.

“We are not doing this unwillingly. We are not doing this over our better judgment. We have been constrained by the regulations that we operate under,” Carroll said.

When CMP started its line upgrade, the commission set up a special team to deal with landowner disputes related to the project and authorized it to order mitigation that would cost up to $200,000.

Fixing the substations, however, is expected to cost significantly more than that, which means the commission itself has jurisdiction over the case.

Carroll declined to provide an estimate of how much fixing the problems would cost, but he said the likely cost of the solution would have to be recovered from ratepayers, a move the commission needs to authorize.

CMP has until March to submit its response to the complaints, to engineering and sound studies and to other technical details in advance of a technical conference with the commission staff in April. Hearings before the commission will follow that.

Alongside the noise dispute, the commission is investigating whether CMP’s operation of the station is in violation of its legal obligation to provide safe, reasonable and adequate service.

Benton residents Doug and Sue Blaisdell, who also complained about noise from the station, said they were glad the commission is taking the matter under consideration.

“We’ve been waiting too long. It’s been taking too long,” said Doug Blaisdell, who with his wife was at the PUC hearing.

Residents of Maguire Road in Kennebunk who have complained about similar problems involving a CMP station near their homes are also parties to the commission case.

Representatives for CMP said at the hearing that fixing the problems at the station won’t be easy and will cost a significant amount of money.

In a referral to the commission, ombudsman Leah Sprague said CMP identified the cause of the noise as DC current coming into the substation that strongly correlated to geomagnetically induced current events, natural disruptions in the Earth’s geomagnetic field that can damage electrical infrastructure.

CMP believes it can install devices to block the current to solve the problem, but at the conference Thursday, Jared Desrosiers, a partner at Pierce Atwood representing CMP, said there is no consensus from engineers that it will work.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire