Sparta residents sound off on cell tower noise

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    SPARTA-A little peace and quiet. That's all Dennis Alderson ever wanted when he decided to build a home in Sparta more than a decade ago. Alderson found peace in the Glenn Road section of the township, "the highest point in Sparta," he said proudly. Now, more than 10 years later, Alderson and his family are still looking for a little quiet. Each morning, when Alderson looks into his backyard, he can see for miles — as far as the Delaware Water Gap when there are no leaves on the trees in the winter. He also sees a water tower 200 feet from his property line that was part of the package when he had the home built. What he doesn't want to see are five generators used to transmit signals used by cell phones throughout the region, nation, and world. "Hummmm," said Kathleen Alderson, Dennis' wife, trying to replicate the sound that emanates from her backyard 24-seven. "It's a humming noise. It sounds like a refrigerator." Dennis Alderson said the generators were not on the water tower when he purchased his home. Work began five years ago with the installation of one, and has now escalated to include five. "We built a home in the middle of the woods so that it would be quiet," said the Morning Star Drive resident. "We never thought they'd build an industrial generator site near our property, but they have." Alderson said he approached the township about the noise and officials agreed to contract an outside engineering firm to check for illegal sound levels. Alderson said the tests concluded the generators were producing noise levels above those allowed by township variances. However, township planner David Troast said "elaborate" sound walls, using foam similar to that found on barriers along Interstate 80, were erected to absorb some of the noise at a cost to the telecommunications companies. "The companies were not happy," he said. Michelle Corrice wasn't happy either when she learned a Verizon generator was to be installed on another water tower near her home on Milcreek Road in the Glenn section of Sparta. "We fought the town tooth-and-nail, went to all the meetings and were very involved with the process," she said. Corrice said she accepted her fate and eventually understood that the cell phone generator would bring in $2,500 a month to the township in tax revenue. She even went so far as to move an equipment shed some 30 feet from the water tower so that she would not be bothered when service workers attended to the site. One day, though, she saw AT&T crews near the water tower. "I nearly dropped my car keys," she said. "We started calling the town and no one called us back. That kind of aggravated us. We felt it was done underhandedly. The town went and put in a second carrier and there was nothing we could do about it." Troast said the generators are mandated under Federal Communications Commission law and can be installed on existing structures including water towers, but no more than 25 feet above tree lines. He said there are three in Sparta, one near the bypass, another near the business center, and a third off Route 94. "There are wires everywhere and a lot of noise," said Alderson. "Who knows if our health is affected? Given that they won't allow these generators to be built near hospitals or schools, there must be some risk." Alderson said he planted some pine trees about 20 feet in height along the wall to enhance the aesthetic look of his property, but the sound lingers. He said attempts to try and contact the engineering firm have been unsuccessful. "Unfortunately, he (Alderson) bought a house next to a water tower," said Troast. "I don't think you can sit in any backyard and not hear noise." Alderson said he contacted a local attorney who has since dropped the matter after writing a letter to the township complaining about the noise. "The township has sold itself out on this generator site to every single cell phone company," said Alderson. "Nobody wants to take the township on. They have too much political clout." Troast said he had not heard from the Alderson family in the last six to eight months and "assumed everything is fine," but will go out to the residence and verify a problem. "If there's something else we can do, we'd be happy to listen," said Troast. "We owe that to him (Alderson)." Alderson, said business travel prohibits him from pursuing the matter more extensively, but he will "eventually get to the bottom of this" when the time comes because he likes the community and the people who live there. "I want to expose these people (township officials) for what they are," said Alderson, who is not a stranger to owning a home, having purchased 10 new homes in 12 moves with his wife and two daughters. "I am worried that people in Sparta don't understand what they have going against them."