A high-pitched squeal, a screech, an annoying whine.
That’s how fed-up Penhold residents describe the noise coming from a nearby bulk sand plant.
The problem stems from a major expansion at the Custom Bulk Services plant last fall in an industrial area on the west edge of the town.
Neighbours also complain that the expanded plant has now boosted noisy truck traffic and the amount of dust, which leaves a white coat on their homes and vehicles.
“They just put in these auger-type things. When they start these up they just whine,” says one resident, who did not want her name used. “It comes right through the walls and everything.”
Adding to the annoyance are the number of trucks going in an out of the plant, picking up sand for fracking.
They line up as early as 6 a.m., she said.
“To me, this is something that shouldn’t be in town.”
Another resident said she is selling her home because of the racket.
“I can’t do it anymore. It’s a high-pitched squeal and you have the whack, whack, whack of a belt.”
Custom Bulk Services president Myles Monea said the noise is connected with new bucket elevators that were put in last November as part of a $2.5-million expansion.
A housing was built around the equipment but that only caused echoing and did little to reduce the noise caused by belts and pulleys.
Since then, changes have been made to one of the elevators that has reduced the noise, and the plan is to make the same changes to the other two elevators in the next two to three weeks.
“You know you get a new piece of equipment and it doesn’t do what it needs to do so you have to go through a few things to find out what makes it tick.
“I think we found part of the solution, or a good solution, on one piece of equipment.
“Now we’ve got two other pieces of equipment we can actually work on and make it a little quieter.”
Monea doubts noise will be completely eliminated “but it will be a lot better.” The noise mostly becomes an issue when the wind is blowing towards town.
To reduce the aggravation to neighbours, the plant tries to keep operating hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., said Monea. But the plant is located in an industrial area and is permitted to operate 24/7, he added.
Mayor Dennis Cooper acknowledges the town has received a number of complaints about the plant and truck traffic and has been working with the company to resolve those issues.
“It’s not very loud, but it has whine to it and it has a tendency to be annoying,” said Cooper of the racket.
The town is working on creating a designated truck route to reduce some of the traffic concerns.
Dust has also been an issue for some residents and efforts continue to reduce that. Air quality has been tested and meets all guidelines.
Since the plant is in an industrial area, there are no noise restrictions or curfews.
“The challenge is we have residential across the street from industrial.”
Cooper said the town is keeping an eye on the situation. “We continue to go out there and monitor and listen to it.”