Monday, May 4, 2009

Pelham Gets a Natural Gas Compressor

By Terry Date

PELHAM — Neighbors of a natural gas compressor station being built off Mammoth Road will pay close attention to noise from the plant once it is up and running.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. started clearing land on its 7-acre site in the Pelham Industrial Park Wednesday and plans to have the facility running by Nov. 1, Richard Wheatley said.

Wheatley is a spokesman for El Paso Corp. of Houston, the parent company of Tennessee Gas.

The Pelham compressor itself will cover 3 acres near the Windham town line, Wheatley said. It will boost natural gas capacity for customers between Dracut, Mass., and Laconia, Wheatley said.

Pelham has no natural gas outlets nor does it have any plans to draw service from the plant, town Planning Director Jeff Gowan said.

There are about 181 residences within a half-mile radius of the compressor, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Eighty of those units are across Beaver Brook at the nearby Whispering Winds neighborhood in Windham.

A former president of the neighborhood association, Phyllis Irvin, said Wednesday that residents in the 55-and-older community are primarily concerned about excessive noise coming from the plant.

"It's an older community, people sleep late," she said.

Irvin said she also is worried about the plant detracting from property values and the scenery along Beaver Brook.

On the Pelham side, resident Kevin Hebert said he, too, is concerned about excessive noise from the plant.

Hebert said he will wait and see what kind of a neighbor Tennessee Gas is. He and others expressed concerns about plant noise at public hearings and in letters last year.

"To be honest, we've accepted it," he said. "And if the noise is too loud, we will sell — no doubt at a loss."

The company, because it is a utility, is exempt from local oversight, but needed federal approval. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the certificate Aug. 28, 2008, authorizing construction.

Certificate conditions prohibit noise levels above 55 decibels in noise sensitive areas, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said. The noise sensitive areas range from 660 feet to 4,189 feet, depending on the direction.

The federal agency will monitor the noise level randomly once the plant is operational. In addition, the agency has an enforcement hot line, 1-888-889-8030, for people to lodge complaints, she said.

Wheatley said the station noise level should be well below the federal level. He said he thinks the facility's 6,130-horsepower compressor station will not exceed 46 to 48 decibels.

"We at all times want to be a good neighbor," Wheatley said.

Pelham fire Chief James Midgley has reviewed the site and met with company representatives. He said he has confidence it will be a safe facility.

"I have no fears or issues with that plant being there," Midgley said.

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