Wood County Commission discusses humming sound from Ohio

PARKERSBURG — As a sound continues to emanate from the Eramet plant in Washington County that is being heard in Vienna, local people are turning to their elected officials to see what can be done.

The Wood County Commission has received complaints from Vienna area residents of the noise, a humming sound, that has been coming from around the Eramet site for a few months. Numerous people in Vienna have heard the sound regularly, at all hours.

The Wood County Commission will be sending a letter to the Washington County Commission regarding the situation as they discussed the sound at Thursday’s commission meeting.

Commissioners said they were limited in what they can do because it involves a company in Washington County.

“My authority ends at the Ohio River,” Commission President Blair Couch said.

Similar complaints were made against a race track that operated along Ohio 7 near the river between Marietta and Belpre, officials said. There apparently is no ordinance to deal with such noise issues in Washington County, they added.

“It is a problem,” Couch said. “I think a good company like Eramet would try to address it, because it is very loud.”

Couch lives in Vienna, but said he was in an area where he hasn’t noticed it.

“We are still receiving complaints and at this time of year especially with the leaves off of the trees, sound does travel much farther,” he said.

The commission is sending the letter because it is not as familiar with the laws and regulations in Washington County, relating to noise, Couch said.

On Nov. 23, Eramet of Marietta posted a message to its Facebook page acknowledging the situation and its steps to deal with it.

“As a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley community, Eramet Marietta Inc. takes seriously the concerns that have been raised about the unusual noise that started mid-October,” the message said. “It was not anticipated as a collateral effect of our effort to improve the dust collection system on one of our process and we are working with the equipment supplier and our engineers to determine its exact cause to correct the situation.

“Over the last several years we have been diligently improving the performance of our facility including its environmental performance and invested several millions of dollars to that effect so as to secure a future for the company and its employees.”

On Oct. 12, after over a month of outage on one of Eramet’s processes to greatly enhance installation designed to control air emissions, the company re-energized the main equipment.

“The noise level at the dust collectors was immediately identified as unusual and was checked; decision was made that we needed to find means to reduce it,” the statement said. “We were not initially aware, however, that the noise was reaching outside the plant, certainly not across the Ohio River.

“Our normal operation involves large, hot and noisy equipment in a continuous production process 24/7.”

The company said it is looking for ways to dampen the noise with the equipment supplier and engineers. An acoustical engineering firm was hired to assist the company. Acoustical data will be collected from several locations in and around the plant, the statement said.

The results of that study will determine how to deal with the problem. Officials said it will take time to complete.

“Unfortunately, there is no interim measures that we could find to dampen the noise in the meantime,” the statement said. “Rest assure that we are doing our utmost efforts to correct the situation for all of us working here and to remain a good neighbor.”

Eramet officials could not be reached for further comment on where their efforts now stand.

Couch said the situation is a “Catch 22” in that the company is trying to improve its processes so it emits less particulates, but the process creates a noise problem that causes people distress.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said the noise is a constant hum, like a vacuum cleaner being run constantly. Some people, depending on their location, have heard screeching sounds.

Couch said engaging with companies in the past who had noise issues usually brought about changes that were beneficial to the community.

If the situation was reversed and there was a plant in Wood County causing noise problems in Washington County, the Wood County Commission would have company representatives appear before them to get an update on the situation, Couch said. It would all officially be on the record where the public could have access to the information through the local media, Couch said.

“Our biggest thing is to have someone come before us in a meeting and talk to us about what they are trying to do to help their neighbors,” he said. “I believe the majority of businesses and factories in Wood and Washington counties want to be good neighbors.

“Their employees live here. It is a rare business that thumbs their nose at the community. If it was (a business here in Wood County), I am sure they would want to come in, talk to us and keep us updated,” Couch said.

Couch said there are good commissioners in Washington County that Eramet would be responsive to.