Luminant says work will address noise issue

Area residents' nerves 'are shot,' says woman seeking cooperation

Luminant will begin installing steel plates Nov. 6 at its Sandow Power Plant Unit 5, a two-week project that is expected to reduce vibrating noises which have been the subject of complaints in recent weeks.

Laura Starnes, manager of corporate communications for Luminant, said the work is estimated to last two weeks during which time Sandow 5 will be off-line.

Some residents in the area south of Rockdale have complained about the noise.

Dorcas Owens, who lives 3-1/2 miles east of Sandow 5, and who has worked as a safety specialist/ trainer for mining operations, told The Reporter windows and walls shake at her home and water jiggles in a glass on her nightstand.

'Acoustical trauma'

Owens said a neighbor has compared the noise to a "helicopter hovering over her house."

She termed the noise "acoustical trauma" in which "low, resonant sounds upset the internal rhythm of the human being."

Owens, who works as a safety trainer for mining operations, has sought help from state and federal lawmakers, as well as that of the TCEQ, OSHA and the EPA.

"It may sound far-fetched, but this is a health and safety issue. People have gone with no sleep and their nerves are shot," she said.

Owens said the noise is worse between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and surmised both Sandow 5's boilers were running at night with only one in operation during the day.

She theorized one boiler produces a systematic booming sound but when both boilers run a "sound vortex" and "artificial thunder" is created.

Luminant response

Starnes agreed the sound from Unit 5 is greater when two units are in operation but added "we have recently been only operating one boiler, not two, and not two at night."

At 3:27 a.m. Tuesday (Oct. 27) Owens e-mailed Stephen Skidd, director of the Sandow Steam Electric Power Station, to ask Unit 5 be shut down until proper repairs were made.

Owens said she was "sitting in my living room clutching a pillow to my chest, trying to keep the constant pounding noise out of my chest."

Skidd replied at 6:40 a.m. noting that at the time of Owens' e-mail Sandow 5 was off-line.

"The plant was shut down at 4:55 a.m. Oct. 26 (Monday) to address some unplanned maintenance issues and has been down since that time," he said.

Both persons sent copies of their e-mails to The Reporter.

On the grid

Starnes said Sandow 5 is still in the final stages of tuning and testing and is now producing electricity that is sold on the statewide grid.

"As the unit moves toward full operations, additional environmental testing is in progress," she said.

"Sandow 5 features a circulating, fluidized bed boiler and advanced, yet mature, technology in operation for many years," she said.

"Plant leaders have consistently met with neighbors and thoroughly and openly explained the process to make repairs," Starnes said.

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2009-10-29 digital edition

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