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Bristol-Myers Squibb, Rock Tenn cited for noise level

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DEVENS — Two companies are running afoul of the Devens Industrial noise standards. Each is struggling to find a temporary fix before launching long-term silencing solutions.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing giant Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) on Jackson Road was given a violation notice by the Devens Enterprise Commission on May 6. The company is expected to answer the sound complaint by June 6.

The noise has been targeted as the sound of steam escaping a vent atop a utility shed near the Queenstown Road lot line. Commission Planner Neil Angus notified the company on May 3 that the noise measured 64 dbA (A dbA is a decibel weighted to take into account human hearing). The maximum noise level permitted at commercial lot lines in the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ) is 60 dbA..

Angus reported that BMS Environmental Health and Safety Director Dan Noberini said the company was “aware of the problem and have engaged a noise consultant, put aside capital to fix the problem and are actively working on mitigation both short-term and long-term.” Angus said that plan was due this week. A fabric curtain was planned for a short term fix to silence the steam stack.

An accompanying complaint was that the plume of smoke seemed to stink of starch. However, neither Angus nor MassDEP officials discovered that smell.

“Is it a one-shot deal?” asked Commissioner William Castro about the DEP scent inspectors. “[What] if they don’t smell on Tuesday or if they have a pattern?”

“The DEP came and sent someone on the scent [issue]. If there is cause or concern, or if an odor is present, they’d take additional action,” said Angus. “They’ve been out once and they will be out again. We’re driving by the site on a daily basis.”

Linda Jordan, the director of communications for Bristol-Meyers Squibb, responded,: “We are aware of the noise concerns.” Jordan said the company is “engaging studies to evaluate” the problem and that Bristol-Meyers Squibb is “committed to taking the appropriate action.”

Meanwhile paperboard manufacturer Rock Tenn is still struggling to cope with an April 6 noise violation issued for its 51 Independence Drive plant. In a May 9 letter to the General Manager Jay Toland, Angus said: “I am granting you an additional 30 days to correct the interference and/or demonstrate that good faith efforts have been initiated to correct the violation.”

That extension lapses on June 6. The soonest the commission could cite and fine Rock Tenn would be the committee’s June 16 meeting. The maximum fine is $300 a day.

Angus said the company asked for a September deadline to fix the noise. “We told them that’s inadequate and to do it within the next 30 days or we’ll go forward with further action.”

Commission Director Peter Lowitt said the staff felt there “may be some air-quality issues” at the Rock Tenn plan and so MassDEP was called. The state environmental agency separately issued a violation notice to the company, Lowitt said.

Lowitt said there’s an ongoing history of noise complaints emanating from the Rock Tenn site at 51 Independence Drive. Lowitt said Rock Tenn proposes some scaffolding to tamp down on air pollution-control measures around dust collectors, the apparent source of the noise.

A Harvard resident asked if the company will be forced to shut down if the violations continue, or at least be forced to shut down overnights to provide restful sleep for residential neighbors. Commissioner and Devens resident Armen Demerjian picked up on the thread.

“By the sixth, if they don’t comply and we say we’re going to penalize them, from what date [do the penalties start]?” Demerjian asked, since the commission doesn’t meet again until June 16.

“From the sixteenth,” answered Lowitt. “But each day is a separate offense [thereafter].”

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