Steamboat Springs When Margot Gasch was recovering from hip-replacement surgery last year, she couldn't sleep in her own bedroom because it was too noisy.
From her Deerwood Subdivision home, Gasch was listening to what she called the constant "high-pitched" hum coming from a huge fan at the Twentymile Coal Company's mine.
She said she noticed the "absolutely outrageous" noise was even louder when she was feeding horses in her metal barn. It was something she said she couldn't get away from.
Since the mine installed a silencer on the fan, Gasch no longer hears the hum, but worries that she will have trouble selling her house because of the noisy history.
In the nearby Whitewood subdivision, residents say the noise has not gone away, even with the silencer, and are demanding that the county do something about it.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners heard complaints from Gasch and others at a meeting Tuesday.
The complaints have flooded in since the coal mine started operating the large exhaust fan in June 2003, Routt County Planner John Eastman said.
In late 2003, Twentymile installed a silencer, which lowered the noise by about 10 decibels. But for residents of the Whitewood subdivision, which is about five or six miles from the fan, that was not enough.
"Calling it a silencer is like calling a bucket of water the ocean; it's obviously an exaggeration," Whitewood resident Scott Vierke told county commissioners.
More than a half-dozen residents told county commissioners they were upset about the constant noise, and asked that the commissioners not approve an amendment to Twentymile Coal Company's permit, which extends the company's permit for 10 years and lets it add a new air shaft that would not have a fan.
The county has received dozens of letters and phone calls, as well as a recent petition signed by almost 50 residents of the area,0 asking the county to take care of the fan.
County commissioners approved Twentymile's permit amendment, but added the condition that the company take active measures to mitigate the noise from the fan, including cleaning the fan and installing insulation, and providing a quarterly report on the situation.
The company already has begun work on the two suggested measures.
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said there needs to be some solution to the noise problem, and that he wondered why the mine built one large, main exhaust fan instead of several smaller ones.
The fan in question has six times the power of its predecessor, and is used to help ventilate the underground mine shafts.
Michael Berdins, manager of technical services for Twentymile, said that Twentymile has taken all of the steps it could so far, and is continuing to work on the noise problem.
"We want to address this any way that we can, and we're taking it steps at a time," Berdins said.
"We're going to do whatever it takes to get that noise down," he said later, adding that it could be impossible to get rid of it 100 percent.
Giving the company another year to fix the problem was not acceptable, said Whitewood resident Donald Walling.
"If we let it go until 2005, there's another year I've lost enjoying my investment in Routt County," Walling said.
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