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JULY 21, 1997

Front Page

Neighbors banding together against noisy pipeline: 'Thump' dampers to be installed month early

  by Andrew Walgamott
   The thumping sound Northwest Pipeline officials hear next may be headaches as neighbors of their noisy 30-inch natural gas line east of Woodinville begin to band together. Last weekend, Martin and Amy Adair, and Ray Foley began knocking on doors and passing out flyers to families living along the company's right-of-way near 216th Avenue N.E. It is in this area that complaints about the pipeline's 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week thumping have been focused recently.
   The flyer alerts readers to a recent leak on the pipeline and asks them to attend a meeting at East Ridge Elementary School July 23. It proposes forming a coalition to ensure Northwest Pipeline operates safely and addresses their property value concerns. Some families are considering legal action against the company.
   The company owns parallel 26-inch and 30-inch natural gas pipelines that run from Canada to New Mexico, locally passing near Echo Lake, Timbercrest Junior High, East Ridge Elementary and Lake of the Woods. The thumping noise comes from a 5,200 horsepower compressor at Echo Lake in south Snohomish County used to move the gas through the lines. Northwest Pipeline was running the compressor at its maximum 330 RPMs before complaints began earlier this summer. Now it operates at 315 RPM. Thumping can be heard as far as 12 miles from the station.
   While the Adairs have been the focal point of media attention following an article in The Woodinville WEEKLY addressing their concerns over noise and safety, others are stepping forward as well. Ray Foley, a 20-year neighbor of the pipeline along 214th Avenue N.E., says he thought he was alone with his concerns until he saw the Adairs on television. He said he gave them a call and thanked them for bringing the situation to the media's attention.
   Foley, who lives with his wife, Terri, and two children in a house close enough to open a window and spit on the pipeline, says he's been complaining about the pipeline for years with little result.
   He said the pipeline has always made noise but a cleaning of engines at the Echo Lake compressor station 18 months ago has increased the volume of the constant thumping three or four times. Foley says company officials told him noise dampers would be placed on compression equipment last September. That project was not done due to design problems, according to District Manager Grant Jensen.
   However, a project to quiet the compressors with pulsation bottles this summer has being fast-tracked for completion by the end of August. The bottles capture compression noises. Jensen estimated the cost of design, parts and installation of the device at $500,000. Before attracting the attention of media stations KOMO, KING, KIRO, KPLU and newspapers Eastside Journal, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times, the noise dampers were not going to be installed until the end of September. Jensen said incentives have been made for the supplier and contractor to install the devices by the end of August.
   But what if the pulsation bottles don't quiet the noise, Foley wonders. What then?
   "We're confident with the pulsation bottles," Jensen said. He has said that a similar project at a Chehalis station had "very good success" at reducing the thumping. He adds that the company may also install steel plates on the Echo Lake station to further quell noise.
   The thumping noise is only one facet of the neighborhood's concerns.
   The Adairs have worried that the pulsation bottle project will only allow the company to pump higher volumes of natural gas. Since July 1, the company has pumped an average of 659.2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day through their 30-inch pipeline, according to company data. Jensen has said the pipeline is capable of handling 1 billion cubic feet of gas a day. But to alleviate local concerns on pipe strength, the company will perform tests on the pipe from Mount Vernon to Redmond beginning August 1.
   Still, residents worry about their property values. When selling their homes, they must disclose their proximity to the pipeline. Alan Harvey, a 10-year neighbor of the pipeline near Lake of the Woods, says he is clipping newspaper articles as evidence of Northwest Pipeline's commitment to solving the noise problem. Harvey said he is considering selling his acreage, though not necessarily to get away from the pipeline. He will use the articles to inform buyers of the company's promise.
   This Wednesday, the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District will host a town meeting focusing on the recent gas leak and evacuation plans. Northwest Pipeline officials are expected to attend. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at East Ridge, located at 22150 N.E. 156th Place.
   Neighbors of a noisy natural gas pipeline east of Woodinville are banding together to force the operators to quiet their line and address their safety and property value concerns. For their part, Northwest Pipeline officials have fast tracked projects to quiet compressor generated pipeline noise.