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Hammond committee to learn about noise

HAMMOND – Volunteers from Hammond’s wind committee will get a three-hour crash course on measuring background noise today as Charles E. Ebbing, Grindstone Island, and Clifford J. Schneider, Cape Vincent, attempt to educate those in attendance on the nuances of measuring sound.

Mr. Ebbing, a retired engineer from Carrier Corp., and Mr. Schneider, a former fisheries biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, have been asked by the wind committee to provide some guidance and instruction on using sound meters and methods of measurement, according to Mr. Ebbing.

“We’re not coming to do any official sound survey,” he said Tuesday. “We’re going to focus on what they would like to get out of this. Its about education and them arriving at the where, when, and what they want to measure.

“We hope to offer them what they need to find out first hand what their environment is,” Mr. Ebbing said.

Having spoken at several and actually presenting at least two meetings in Hammond over the past few years, Mr. Ebbing said he is aware of the factions that the possibilities of an industrial wind turbine project have caused in the town. At a recent wind committee meeting, he became the focal point during a presentation about background noise and was peppered with questions about accountability and professionalism from a couple members of the public.

“What I will tell them (on Thursday) is that it is significantly quieter in Hammond on those nights when there is no wind blowing at ground level,” Mr. Ebbing said. “The other thing we will talk about is the number of locations (to be measured).”

Mr. Ebbing said that most people don’t realize the intricacies and nuances of measuring background noise.

“Leaves shuttering are going to affect the background noise. Voluminous traffic will affect residual background. The number of people will affect background noise,” he said, adding that he will make an analogy up front, showing those in attendance satellite pictures of the earth at night and maps showing population density.

“People equals noise,” he said, “and in Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and surrounding counties, there are lower numbers of people. Less cars, less going on. Its significantly quieter here than most places across the United States.”

The point is, Mr. Ebbing said, when measuring background sound levels, those measuring for accurate data should focus on locations with “no noise.”

“Some folks have suggested 45 to 55 dBA (decibels) – noise levels you would expect in suburban areas. But that’s just not the case,” Mr. Ebbing said, suggesting that using sound meters has to be done right. “People need to wake up and smell the roses,” he said.

Mr. Ebbing said that MP3 files from “an actual noise study” done by “a friend of mine in the business” would also be available for volunteers to take advantage of. Contained on these files, he said, are “outtakes” or things that couldn’t be used in establishing the data because it was residual sound.

“Crows, dogs, traffic, people talking. All things that must be ignored,” he said. “You have to train your ear.”

Mr. Ebbing said he would spend about an hour teaching volunteers to actually use the sound meters – changing batteries, calibrating, and checking two meters at once to verify accuracy.