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Malta officials satisfied new chip plant would be quieter

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
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— Malta town officials say they’re satisfied that a proposed second GlobalFoundries computer chip factory won’t generate the nuisance noise complaints the first factory has.

The question of noise appeared to be settled Wednesday with a sound engineer’s finding that the backup power unit building at the proposed Fab 8.2 won’t generate the same extraneous noise as the first plant, if properly designed.

“Overall the conceptual design [for Fab 8.2] is a significant improvement over the first building,” said Jack A. Zybura, an acoustic engineer retained by the town’s engineering consultants, The Chazen Companies.

Zybura recommended the town require materials with a high acoustic absorption factor be used in the building — something GlobalFoundries appears willing to do.

“We can write it into the procurement specifications,” said Steve Groseclose, GlobalFoundries’ director of risk management, sustainability and real estate.

The town is currently doing an environmental impact review in anticipation of deciding whether to change its zoning law to allow the new factory, which could bring total employment at GlobalFoundries to more than 6,500 by 2020.

GlobalFoundries hasn’t yet committed to building the $14.7 billion factory, but has asked the towns of Malta and Stillwater to make their zoning decision by July 1.

Concerns about noise, traffic and the plant’s visual impacts have been the subject a series of Town Board workshops, but the report delivered at Wednesday’s workshop appears to have put the noise issue to rest.

“I think our engineers have done the evaluation so we have the information we need to adequately address noise mitigation,” said Town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville.

Noise has been an issue because the backup power units at the first factory have generated a high-pitched hum which is audible at times in the Luther Forest housing development and in parts of Stillwater.

The backup power unit buildings contain flywheels whose continuous spinning seems to be the source of the sound, which has generated months of complaints from neighbors.

Noise wasn’t expected to be a problem when that building was being designed, so it didn’t use acoustic absorption materials.

After trying to address the problem by installing baffles on vents in early 2012 and then new silencers on stacks last fall, the company will be spraying cellulose insulation inside the building starting later this month because some nearby residents are still hearing the noise.

Zybura said the insulation should reduce noise reverberations inside the building.

Also Wednesday, the Town Board decided to form a task force to pursue plans for a new Northway Exit 11A to help handle additional traffic from GlobalFoundries and from the intermodal rail yard in Halfmoon.

“I don’t want to lose any momentum on this,” said Councilman Peter Klotz, who will co-chair the task force with Councilwoman Maggi Ruisi.

Representatives of the village of Round Lake, the Saratoga County Department of Public Works, the Capital District Transportation Committee, GlobalFoundries, the Luther Forest Technology Campus and state transportation and economic development agencies will be asked to join the task force.

Officials acknowledge it may take many years to get federal and state approvals and financing for a new exit. In the meantime, the town and GlobalFoundries are discussing making traffic improvements at six existing intersections.

 
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