HALLOWELL — The noise is worst at night, from about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and it’s like a “constant fluorescent, balanced hum,” Benton resident Doug Blaisdell said.

“There’s a lot of times that we have to rent a hotel room,” Blaisdell said.

He is among several Benton residents whose properties abut a Central Maine Power Co. substation on Albion Road. On Wednesday, the residents explained how the electrical noise coming from the station is affecting their lives to a panel of Maine Public Utilities Commission officials who are investigating the complaints.

Blaisdell and his wife, Sue, along with their neighbor Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, were three Albion Road property owners making noise complaints about the substation during a technical conference Wednesday at the PUC offices in Hallowell. The conference was the second step in the PUC’s investigation of the complaints, which they launched in February.

The dispute between the property owners and CMP began nearly three years ago, when the abutters of the Albion Road substation began to notice electrical noise coming from the substation, shortly after it was completed in May 2013 as part of CMP’s $1.4 billion system upgrade.

On Wednesday, Blaisdell and Cyrway, in response to examiner questioning, described the noise as a humming comparable to florescent lights in a room. They said the noise is detectable two-thirds of the time, often spiking unpredictably to louder sound.


“We can’t ever just sit and have a quiet and relaxing evening,” Blaisdell said.

Cyrway added that he built his log home on the Albion Road, thinking of the quietest area in town in which he could build his house; but since the installation of the substation, it has been the opposite.

“We deal with this,” Cyrway said. “We want to have a barbecue and we can’t.”

Also in attendance was Heath Todd, one of several Kennebunk property owners who are alleging similar noise complaints against CMP in connection with a substation on Maguire Road in that town.

Commission members interrogated CMP and the property owners last month through an ombudsman. The purpose of Wednesday’s conference was to give the case’s PUC examiner and other parties in the case a chance to ask questions.

Twenty-one parties involved in the investigation were present for the conference Wednesday, including the property owners, CMP representatives, the ombudsman investigating the property owners’ complaints, several engineering and sound specialists, an advocate from the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, and representatives from Burns and McDonnell, the engineering firm that managed CMP’s system upgrade and subsequently conducted sound monitoring and testing following neighbor’s complaints at the substation.


After the property owners had finished answering questions, the panel turned the focus of the conference over to sound testing results obtained from CMP. The results were from a June 2014 report of the sound levels surrounding the station conducted by CMP and Burns and McDonnell.

The report showed that the sound levels were within the 45-decibel limit established by Benton’s noise ordinance and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

However, the report shows that a “tonal” noise is being emitted from the station. Environmental acoustic specialist Scott Bodwell said a tonal noise from one prominent source can be of more annoyance than a mix of tones.

“It is certainly going to be prominent from the sound levels around it,” Bodwell said.

Bodwell also said that the level of sound detected by meters can change depending on the location of the meter, as changes in elevation from the source of the sound could act as a barrier.

The lead PUC examiner in the case, Chuck Cohen, said the commission wants to expedite the investigation because the dispute has lasted for years.


During a break Wednesday, Sue and Doug Blaisdell said the last three years of trying to address their complaints with CMP have been an ordeal. While the PUC took over jurisdiction of the dispute in February, the Blaisdells still wondered whether the issue ever will be resolved.

Given the complicated analysis of the sound information being presented to the panel Wednesday, Sue Blaisdell said, “They’ve taken the human aspect out of it.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252


Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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