Saturday, Nov. 6


Hush remains elusive as factory tries to be a good neighbor       Send a link to a friend

Noise pollution addressed

[NOV. 6, 2004]  With industry you have noise. An expansion at a local factory has led neighbors to complain about the noise they hear in their homes.

Since about five months after a local box factory expanded, the company has been receiving complaints about noise. Weyerhaeuser, formerly known as Willamette, completed a $12 million, 70,000-square-foot addition in May 2002. The plant is located at the corner of Fifth Street and Business 55. Most of the complaints have come from nearby residents on Third Street.

The company has been trying for two years to eliminate the noise. "I think we're getting closer," production manager Ed Reihl from Weyerhaeuser said. In March of this year the company began working with city codes officer Les Last and city attorney Bill Bates. Reihl came before the council explaining the measures that the plant has taken so far, the results and what is planned for the future to reduce the noise.

A device called a cyclone that is used to collect cardboard scraps is believed to be the major noise source, Reihl said. They have two cyclones at this time. "We've had one for 30 years," he said, but the location of the newest cyclone and the combination of having two is thought to be the major problem.

The cyclones are located on the roof and use high-speed blowers to collect cardboard scraps, which are compacted, baled and then sent to paper mills to be made into paper. This process is an integral part of operating a box factory, Reihl said.

Six rooftop blowers connect into the cyclone, and there is a blower underneath.

A noise consultant from Indianapolis came shortly after the first complaint was received in the fall of 2002. One of his recommendations was to build a muffler for each blower. That was done at a cost of approximately $4,500. In a test of the new system from the home of a neighbor, Lyle Ruff, no change was detected by the human ear.

Another recommendation was to install springs below the blower to isolate vibrations.

Springs and flexible connections were added to a blower at $6,000. Again, there was no detectable change.

Next the company had a custom blanket designed to go around a blower, which cost about $3,000. This, too, failed to show any improvement.

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So it was back to the drawing board, Reihl said.

Noise readings were taken to try to determine if the source is the blower casings, the exhaust or someplace else. "I'm convinced that it is the exhaust from the cyclone blower that is the principal source," he said.

On Oct 10 this year a crane was rented to rotate the main exhaust from south to west.

Following that, noise measurements were taken. Decibels should be down in the 40s, Reihl said. The sound was measured to the east on Third Street at 60 decibels. Holly Drive measurements are about 46 decibels. Areas of Eighth Street are now reduced to the 40s, he said. Problems for five homeowners are still being addressed.

At present, as the next step, another custom muffler is being considered.

Tonals come off the blades of the blowers at 200, 400 and 600 hertz. Higher broadband noise is also produced at 800, 1,000 and 2,000 hertz. Reihl is confident that the muffler makers can help with this if the correct tone is addressed.

Mufflers for all the small blowers or for the larger exhaust blower are being considered, and a proposal is expected from the muffler maker in the next couple of weeks.

If the next mufflers don't provide the needed changes, the next consideration is to build a wall. Since that would be about $40,000, Weyerhaeuser is trying the less expensive measures first, Riehl said.

Mayor Beth Davis responded: "We appreciate the update and your being here in the community. You are a big asset to us, and we know you are working on the problem."

"If we could identify exactly what it is, it would have been easy. But it is one of those that is difficult to figure out," Reihl said.

[Jan Youngquist]

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