If it's any consolation, that annoying noise coming from the Wheelabrator plant in Peekskill should stop in about three more weeks.
Wheelabrator, which converts solid and fuel wastes into clean energy using steam, is doing maintenance work on its three generators this month. In order to complete the work, the plant is working on one generator at a time. Because the plant isn't working at full capacity, the excess steam that's built up has to be released into the air.
Unfortunately, residents have noticed the noise and have brought their concerns to the Common Council. A group of residents, represented by the Westside Neighborhood Association, have sent a number of emails to city officials detailing their frustrations with the steady drone.
Brett Baker, the plant's operations manager, said this process goes on every seven years. The steam release stopped momentarily on Saturday to coincide with maintenance work being done by Consolidated Edison and additional repairs that needed to be made to one of the plant's generators.
But the steam release is scheduled to resume Wednesday and continue through March 3, Baker said.
"On a night like [Monday night], when there's a heavy fog, you hardly notice it," Baker said of the noise. "But when the sky is clear, you'll notice it a lot more."
Baker also said the wind plays a factor in how much residents are forced to hear.
Tina Bongar, a city resident, said the noise seemed to be more intense this time around.
"It's never been this bad and it's never happened during the hours that it's happening now," Bongar said. "The seniors down at Riverbend, who are part of the Westside group, aren't able to sleep."
Bongar wondered if there was some sort of fine or action that can be used to make the plant reduce the level of noise to a more comfortable level.
During Monday's Common Council workshop, city Engineer Brent W. VanZandt spoke about the plant's steam release process. VanZandt said the plant has been burning less trash in recent years due to the economy.
VanZandt also said that the plant registered little to no decibel readings last week on Feb. 5-6, when the noise was being monitored. Alot of that had to do with the direction of the wind during that period.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is also responsible for visiting the site every two weeks to check for any environmental impacts, VanZandt said. Baker told VanZandt that the plant hasn't had any incidents reported by the DEC in five years.
VanZandt said the plant initially slowed down its plant burning operation to the minimum, which is about 125,000 pounds of garbage an hour, to reduce the sound. The maximum amount of garbage the plant can burn per hour is about 180,000 pounds, VanZandt said.
The plant has since gradually ramped up its operations, but the noise hasn't been as noticeable.
"They have worked with us," VanZandt said.