Noise from a fan used at Twentymile Coal Co. has frustrated nearby residents in recent months, but the company said it planned to install a muffler to silence the noise by the end of this year.
The large fan was installed this year to replace another fan, Twentymile spokesman Ron Spangler said. It is one of two fans used to ventilate the mine for workers, and it operates with a 3,000-horsepower motor, exhausting about 600,000 cubic feet of air per minute.
Residents in the Whitewood, Deerwood and Creek Ranch subdivisions, south of Steamboat and less than 10 miles from the fans, have complained the fan sounds like a low-flying plane that never goes away, Routt County planners said.
The Routt County Regional Planning Department has received 18 complaints about the noise.
Karen Richards, a resident in the area, described the noise as a constant high whine that keeps some residents up at night. She said her house is less affected than others; she can hear the noise only when standing outside.
"I think it's the highness (in pitch) that's irritating," Richards said. "It's just so constant. It goes on for like 12 hours, and it gets to you."
Residents have complained that the problem is taking too long to fix and should have been solved last month, but the planning department said it has been working with the company and that a solution is in the near future.
Because similar noise complaints about fans have been made in the past, Routt County planner John Eastman said the company was required to install a muffler for a previous fan.
An updated permit said the county would check new fans for noise. When the new fan was installed in June, Eastman said planning officials went to the site and heard a loud, constant hum. They began talking with the company, which has agreed to have the muffler installed by the end of December, weather permitting.
"Yes, we agree it's a problem, (and) they clearly need to resolve it," Eastman said. "Unfortunately, the process is such that by the time that we force them to solve it, it's going to be solved anyway."
Spangler said the company has measured the decibel level on and beyond its property lines at about 30 decibels, half of what is allowed in industrial zones by county rules.
But because of the complaints, the company has agreed to install the muffler, which is the size of a small house and costs about $200,000, Spangler said. He said that although the company feels it is in compliance with county requirements, it wants to be a good neighbor.
"We want to be good citizens of the community," he said. "We will do things to try to work around it (and) try to solve concerns."