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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Montville residents concerned over noise, trucking at new salt facility

    Montville ― When Richard Daigle gets home at 11:30 p.m. after working second shift, all he can think about is getting into bed.

    Instead, he says his Gair Court home is barraged by noise from the new Gateway Montville LLC salt storage and distribution facility, which recently began operating about 400 yards away at what is now 131 Dock Road.

    So, Daigle took time off of work to address the Town Council at its meeting Monday night. While the topic was not on the agenda, he waited more than an hour with his wife, Crystal Passero-Daigle, and neighbor Joanne Stauffer-Johnson, for public comment.

    “What are we going to be doing about the noise at night there? he asked the council.

    But council protocol prohibits members from answering questions during public comment.

    Daigle also told the council he had concerns about the increased traffic on Depot Road and trucks blocking residents’ homes and driveways. He also asked why the town is not currently purchasing salt from Gateway and what other materials will be stored at the facility in the future.

    Daigle showed The Day a video on his phone with an 11:30 p.m. time stamp, taken from the back deck of his house, of trucks moving salt around the facility. He and his wife said there used to be bushes and trees that acted as a barrier to block some of the noise, but they have recently been removed. The bright lights from the facility can shine into homes, which Daigle said hasn’t bothered him just yet.

    He recalled one night he thought someone was breaking into his home. He looked around his home and checked outside, only to find it was the noise from the facility.

    “I understand during a snowstorm or something,” Crystal Passero-Daigle said. ”Yeah, they need to be busy, but there’s no snow and we’re hearing the banging already.”

    Stauffer-Johnson, who owns three properties in the neighborhood, had a similar scare. She said she was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a loud banging and was concerned it was a problem with her furnace. After stepping outside in a blanket, she realized it was noise from the facility. She said the noise “happened all night long.”

    The site is the former home to the AES Thames Cogeneration Facility, which shut down in 2011, and WestRock Papermill and Packaging plant, which closed in 2020. As a 20-year employee of the papermill, Daigle said the company used to average 35 trucks a day, or around four trucks per hour, down Depot Road.

    F.A. Hesketh & Associates Inc. of East Granby conducted a traffic impact analysis prior to Gateway’s approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission last July, and projected a typical increase of 10 trips per hour to and from the site during the summer and 25 per hour in the winter, with occasional pre-storm spikes of up to 65 trips per hour.

    The report also said the facility would operate 14 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The report concluded that the roads have the capacity to handle the increase in traffic.

    “We’re not going to be able to handle the trucking down there,” Daigle said, who’s afraid the trucks will eventually back up to Route 32.

    Attorney Harry Heller, who represents Gateway, also addressed the council. Though he said he and Gateway will look to address the complaints received by the town’s planning department, he reminded those in attendance that the property is in an industrial zone and had been approved by Planning and Zoning Commission.

    “Gateway has a substantial investment in this community and they want to be a good corporate citizen,” Heller said.

    Heller said he could not guarantee that there will be no nighttime operations, because there will have to be, especially prior to a storm.

    He stressed that the property “is an important economic development engine for the town of Montville.”

    Stauffer-Johnson said she understands that businesses can operate in the zone. She is upset that the neighborhood did not receive a warning as she can hear trucks at 2 and 3 a.m.

    “[I] wake up in the middle of the night at two in the morning thinking my house is going to blow up,” she said.

    The new facility has filled the void left by the closure of DRVN Enterprises, which previously distributed road salt from State Pier in New London but was forced to leave to make way for an offshore wind-turbine hub. Gateway is the terminal operator for State Pier and also operates a port terminal and road salt facility in New Haven.

    The Gateway facility here uses the pier already in place to receive shipments via barge and stores the salt on a 2.3-acre concrete pad that can hold up to 120,000 tons, according to documents submitted to the town.

    Kevin Blacker also addressed the council claiming that Gateway so far has unloaded just part of one ship and estimated 20,000 tons have arrived in Montville. Blacker, who a critic of the State Pier project, said the town is “seeing the very small beginning signs of a problem.”

    “The problems that you’re seeing are a direct result of displacement of conventional cargo from State Pier in New London,” he added.

    Following public comment, Councilor Lenny Bunnell Sr. said he shared the concerns of the residents and is hopeful there will be “some kind of understanding and some progressive work to correct the problem.” Councilor Billy Caron commended Daigle for attending his first council meeting and for trying to address the problem, and offered the planning department as a starting point.

    Council Chairman Tom McNally said the town is working with Gateway to address some of the problems, such as the use of loud, hydraulic truck brakes, and other methods to “curtail” the noise. He said Gateway has been “easy to work with” and that the town received an “attractive offer” to purchase salt from Gateway in the near future.

    “Things are looking up,” he concluded.

    Daigle is not so sure.

    He is still wary of the amount of trucks in the neighborhood and the potential increase in traffic if Gateway expands the business, as Heller previously mentioned to the Planning and Zoning Commission in May of last year.

    “It’s going to get worse,” Daigle said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    k.arnold@theday.com

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