DEVENS — A former Evergreen Solar facilities manager has apparently stepped forward again to state that the company can, in fact, take steps to quiet the noise.
David Ogle appeared at the June 30 Devens Enterprise Commission (DEC) meeting to explain methods to achieve quiet at the plant. He apparently penned an e-mail obtained by the Harvard Hillside earlier in the week. In the e-mail, Ogle wrote that since he had not been contacted in the aftermath of the DEC meeting for any follow-up, he opted to author an e-mail to the DEC as it continues to consider its regulatory approach to the problem.
Possessing inside knowledge of the plant’s operations, Ogle suggests various methods to quiet the plant at night, including a stop to “cell and panel fab tools at night,” allowing them to “ramp down the (air cleansing volatile organic compound) VOC units fans.” Ogle called the VOC air cleansing and exhaust system “one of the loudest elements in back of the plant.”
Ogle also suggested turning off various furnaces and other devices, thereby producing less heat to tax the nine enormous air cooling towers at the rear of the plant. Reducing the load would “significantly” result in lower fan speeds and less noise, he said.
Harvard neighbors successfully lobbied selectmen to pen a letter to the DEC asking that the plant’s round-the-clock operations be shut down overnight so they can sleep.
Stating the company is sensitive to the neighbors’ plight, sound consultants and in-house approaches are being taken to silence the noise, Evergreen Vice President Rodolpho Archbold explained. But he said it’s not as simple as flicking a switch. He said it would take some 20 hours daily to cool critical machinery and the evacuation of chemicals during a shut down (by either trucking them off site or filtering and dumping discharge into the Devens’ wastewater system).
Ogle addressed the claim head-on in his e-mail. “Restart is very simple (and) not complicated like they are trying to say. Evergreen starts and stops tools all the time as a normal part of doing business.”
Ogle agreed with the company that there is a long cool- down and heat-up process that would likely prohibit a total daily shutdown of the plant with regard to the VOC systems, “but they can ramp them down.” Ogle also cites other air intake and exhaust fans could also be quieted.
“In fact, the factory is running half of the factory in the back end of the week and the whole factory in the front of the week due to reduced product demand,” explained Ogle. “If they run 100-percent during the day and shut down from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., it should be a minimal impact to their bottom line,” he said, adding “they could also do maintenance at night and not do maintenance during the day.”
When contacted midday Wednesday for comment, an Evergreen Solar spokesman was not available to comment about the Ogle e-mail.
Evergreen Solar did release this statement in response to Ogle’s suggestion to the DEC. “These statements are inaccurate. The remedies suggested will have no impact on the noise level and at the same time will increase environmental impacts.”
In the early afternoon on Wednesday, Ogle confirmed he’d written the e-mail and when pressed for comment, offered the following statement:
“I am proud to say that I was the strongest proponent for safety and regulatory compliance at the plant from the time I was hired until I was released. My previous experience working on nuclear reactors on board US Naval submarines and time spent working for companies like Air Products and Chemicals, ST Microelectronics, Intel have taught me that safety and environmental matters must be the first thing you think about every day in everything you do.
“Green Industry has a lot of growing to do and needs to understand that the laws that are written are not optional and that it is their responsibility to comply in actions not just words. The fact that a company is producing green products does not excuse them from compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
“I think these companies get a pass due to the hype associated with the word green. This is dangerous to the employees, neighbors and to the environment. Every employee has the right to work in an environment free from recognizable hazards. It is the responsibility of management to aggressively address safety and environmental issues identified by all employees and contractors.
“Cost-cutting efforts should never be put ahead of safety and environmental concerns. I will continue to put safety and environmental compliance at the top of my priorities at whatever company I move on to. From what I understand the DEC has hired an independent consultant to analyze my input in regards to a nighttime ramp down. If Evergreen can find other ways to mitigate the noise quickly, a nighttime ramp down might not be needed.”