BMH boiler project gets green light

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BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Memorial Hospital will begin its boiler replacement project after the District 2 Environmental Commission approved its Act 250 application on Tuesday.

The process began on June 25, when BMH filed its application. The filing was followed by a site visit and public hearing on July 18 and a request for additional information. The District 2 Environmental Commission of the Natural Resources Board has jurisdiction to review applications from BMH because projects there constitute "a material change to a permitted development or subdivision ..."

With the go-ahead, BMH will replace its three 35-year-old boilers with four new boilers. The boilers provide steam for heat and the hospital's sterilization equipment, as well as hot water. The two 150-horsepower boilers and the 100-hp boiler currently in use will be replaced with four new 100-hp boilers.

"We are pleased to receive ACT 250 approval which now enables us to proceed with replacing the hospital boilers which provide hot water for heat throughout our facility and steam for laundry and sterilization processes," stated Gina Pattison, BMH's director of development and marketing in an email to the Reformer. "These new boilers will ensure safe and continuous operations so that we can continue to provide quality care in a comfortable, efficient environment to our patients and community."

Sandra Cunningham and Francine Condosta, who both live on Maple Street, requested and were granted party status due to their proximity to the boiler room. Cunningham argued that the sound study, conducted by Eddie Duncan, a sound engineer with Resources Systems Group, was invalid because not all of the hospital's machinery was running during the test, nor was all the machinery running during the Commission's site visit. Other sources of noise at the hospital, said Cunningham, include the kitchen's exhaust fan, a roof-top air-conditioning unit, and delivery trucks. She also contested that when RSG conducted its study, the noise level as a result of activity at the hospital "was not at full capacity." She urged the Commission to request a new study. Duncan conducted a revised computer simulation and returned the same basic results as presented during the July 18 hearing.

In the computer simulation, the highest sound level at Cunningham's house was 38 decibels, wrote Duncan.

"This is 1 [decibel] less than the 39 [decibels] previously reported for the existing scenario. From this updated replacement scenario, other receivers in the area would see a 1 to 7 [decibel] reduction in sound levels from boiler operations. As discussed previously in the Sound Modeling Report and at the hearing, these modeled sound levels for the existing scenario, replacement scenario, and updated replacement scenario, are generally less than existing background sound levels throughout the area."

In its approval, the three members of the Commission noted they were "disappointed that even though boiler technology has improved over the 35 years since the existing boilers were installed, that the sound levels will be higher than they are currently."

However, stated the approval, given sound mitigation measures such as the installation of acoustic louvers, keeping all windows closed and limiting the boiler room door opening to a minimum, "the project will not have an adverse aesthetic impact."

One of the conditions of the approval requires "confirmation that the sound mitigation measures are reducing sound to the levels that the Applicant estimates."

It is expected construction will take three to four months, with boiler replacement done in phases. Weekend construction must be limited to interior work only, according to the permit.

According to the approval, BMH will be required to submit to the Commission an Act 250 approved Master Plan that addresses traffic and aesthetics "as it relates to noise and lighting in concurrence or prior to any future applications. The existing and future sound levels and sources and existing and future lighting sources must be addressed."

Appeals of the Commission's decision can be filed with the Superior Court, Environmental Division within 30 days of the date the decision was issued.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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