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Friday, August 12, 2022

County Commission weighs concerns over biomass plant dust, noise

At an Alachua County Commission meeting Tuesday, noise and dust presented roadblocks as the City of Gainesville moved toward buying the biomass power plant before a 30-year contract kicks in.

County Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird called the wood dust blowing from the biomass plant the highest priority because it’s causing irritation for workers at the Gainesville Public Works building, the plant’s closest neighbor.

Workers are wearing dust masks outside the facility, Bird said, and some staff are noting eye discomfort from these dust particles. They also coat nearby vehicles.

For now, he said the focus will be on cataloging the wood debris falling around the Public Works building and “nagging” the state government to make sure a Florida Department of Environmental Protection air permit is enforced.

“If we can get it fixed at Public Works, we can get it fixed anywhere,” Bird said.

Noise readings show the sounds emitted from the plant register at about 52 decibels outside the perimeter, well below the city ordinance, which limits noise to 66 decibels during the day and 60 at night, said Richard Wolf, assistant director of the Alachua County Department of Growth Management.

He said even though the irritant is below the allowed limit, people are still complaining.

“I think we need to get off the issue of whether it is or isn’t a violation based on measurement,” Wolf said. “We need to concentrate on what’s causing the annoyance and how do we eliminate it or mitigate it.”

Commissioner Susan Baird said before a contract gets set in stone, leaders need to figure out what is causing the irritants and determine if and how to fix them. She said hiring another independent company to take noise readings over a longer period of time would be a “very wise use of funds.”

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 10/9/2013 under the headline "Commission weighs concerns over biomass plant dust, noise"

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