‘It’s frustrating’: Niles residents speak out about noise at power plant

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

NILES — Howard Township residents who live near the new Indeck Power Plant came to the Niles City Council meeting Monday looking for a solution to the noise problems that continue to come from the power plant. 

They didn’t get the answers they wanted but they did get sympathy from city officials. 

When noise concerns first came up last spring, company officials assured residents that the noise was associated with the construction of the plant and would end once the plant started up. They said that the noise came from the release of steam created by purging contaminants and construction debris from the plant systems. 

Residents said Monday that the noise never went away even after the plant started operating last summer and has actually gotten worse in recent weeks. The plant is located at the north end of the Niles Industrial Park and is surrounded by Cass County’s Howard Township. 

Laurie Gregory said her 93 year old mother lives on Creek Road on property the family has owned since 1932. “She said she heard the humming in her head and I stayed there and heard it,” she said. “I realized it wasn’t in her head and was real … It needs to be fixed.” 

Several residents of the Misty Acres subdivision located off of M-51 north of Niles and west of the power plant also spoke. They said they live where they do for the peace and quiet of the area and the rural, country setting. As one woman said, “Who wants to live with this noise? it’s very sad.” 

Among questions they raised were asking the city to enforce their noise ordinance on Indeck. Their concerns centered not only on the noise which they fear will lower the value of their properties but also on how it is affecting their health. 

Shannon Frame was among those talking about how the noise and vibrations are affecting their health. “I have a hard time falling asleep and when I wake up it sounds like it’s right outside,” she said. “It wears on you, it’s frustrating.” 

Ginger Brawley likened the noise to someone driving in her driveway and leaving their radio on. “Just shut it down until they get it fixed,” she said. “They should be good neighbors. There are hundreds of people who bothered by it.” 

Diane Hill said she lives in Sumnerville which is halfway between Niles and Dowagiac and she hears the noise there as do her elderly mother and aunt who live in Howard Township. She said she and other residents of that area want to hear back from Indeck on what they’re doing to resolve the situation. 

Niles Mayor Nick Shelton sympathized with the residents and asked City Administrator Ric Huff to report on what he knew. Huff said he has been in communication with company officials but they can’t give a date as to when the issue will be resolved. 

He said Indeck has brought in engineers and others to look into the issue and to find a solution. “They’re trying to find out what caused it and how to mitigate it,” he said. “They’ve started constructing sound barrier walls last week. That is an interim solution as they try to identify the problem.” 

While some residents suggested that the plant be shut down, Huff called that problematic as the plant provides energy and power to 650,000 homes. He said having the plant operating has become even more essential as coal-fired plants are being shut down. 

Council members also sympathized. Second Ward Councilmember Amanda Dunnem said she drove out to the plant and to Misty Acres and heard the noise. “It was enough to drive you a little bit crazy, I sympathize with you,” she said. 

Councilmember John DiCostanzo said he felt bad about what the residents are going through but knows from his own work experience at the AM General H3 plant in Mishawaka that a problem like this can be hard to resolve. 

Shelton thanked people for coming to the meeting and giving their feedback. He noted that the council meeting doesn’t offer a forum to have a back and forth with residents but assured everyone that Huff is speaking daily with Indeck officials. 

As for what residents say they are experiencing, he said he witnessed it himself when he drove out to that area and heard and felt the low humming. “It’s like a lawn mower that doesn’t stop,” he said. “We want to bring a resolution to the issue as soon as possible.”