MALTA - GlobalFoundries has set a 16-week time line for softening noise from a power-generating system that neighbors of the chip-fab plant described Tuesday as agonizing.
"It hurts your ears," said Simone Moriarty of the sound created by nine power-generating units that have run without pause since mid-June. "I certainly hope you'll find a solution to this. It's going to affect my health."
At a meeting Tuesday evening of Malta's Community Response Board attended by about 40 to 50 people, the company unveiled its plan to stem the problem: installing baffles to absorb the noise around the structure that houses the nine spinning flywheels.
The project has been put out to bid, said Mike Russo, GlobalFoundries' director of government regulations and regulatory affairs.
"We're committed to sticking to the time line and getting this done as quick as we can," he said. "It's a big priority for us."
Residents near the chip-fab plant, which is expected to be fully operational in late 2012, began complaining nearly immediately when the units were turned on. The units are intended to provide power to the facility between the onset of an electrical power outage and the startup of generators.
The industrial hum has been measured at 40 to 50 decibels off the site, according to town officials. Normal conversation is considered about 60 decibels. But neighbors say the sound is constant and varies in pitch, making it very irritating.
Russo said the company realized that sound escaping the building was being funneled "like a big speakerbox" towards the residential streets off of Thimbleberry Road, which are located about one-third of a mile north of the facility.
Jillian Ehrenberg came to the meeting with the names of 155 people she said would like the problem fixed. She said the noise has been "very stressful" and cited an adverse effect on human health from constant noise.
"I get very emotional about this. I'm really starting to lose my mind," she said.
Her husband, Jeff, said the company's four-month time line for addressing the problem means his family will have been living with the noise for a minimum of nearly seven months.
"So we continue using our air conditioner through the fall and into the winter so we can sleep at night?" he asked.
Another resident said the property value of her home hinges on a solution.
"If this doesn't work, my single greatest financial asset is affected," Susan Coveneg said. "Could I sell my house? Would anyone buy it?"
Others expressed concern about noise that could come if more such units are added to the site, which Russo said was a possibility.
But he said lessons learned from the current problem would be applied to any new installations.
"I guarantee you there are going to be lessons learned from this," Russo said.