Photo: Jason Fochtman, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
Entergy power station crews are conducting “steam blows” on the new plant near Willis which has at least one Lake Conroe resident rattled.
Entergy officials said the crews are cleaning piping throughout the plant of dust and other debris, which the company said is a normal part of the commissioning process and helps ensure the safe operation of the plant which remains on track to be completed by 2021.
“During these steam blows, local residents may notice steam coming up from the plant or hear a low-frequency rumble as the plant conducts unit commissioning,” Entergy stated in a release and posted on its website. “The work began on August 31 and we expect this process to conclude around September 30; however, this time frame is subject to change as work progresses.”
The 993-megawatt combined cycle gas turbine plant, which is Entergy Texas’ first power plant to be constructed in 40 years in the state, is being built next to the existing Lewis Creek Power Plant in Willis to address the growing demand across Southeast Texas. As part of the process, it uses gas combustion and steam turbines to produce electricity.
About three miles away, retired Entergy employee Melvin McDaniel, 63, said he and his neighbors could not only hear a rumbling sound traveling from the new power station, but could feel it in his home and body. The first time, around Aug. 31, he said the sound lasted for about 12 hours throughout the night until 10 a.m. On another occasion, he said the sound lasted for about 4-5 hours.
“We are a spread-out community out here by the lake,” McDaniel said. “Everybody has about 2-5 acres of land. We ride golf carts around and talk. That morning everybody woke up and was like, ‘oh my God, this noise has not went away all night long. That is when we all started doing our research of, is this something we are going to have live with for the future?”
Entergy’s Senior Communication Specialist Allie Payne said it is not for the long-term.
“The elevated noise is only temporary as we complete the commissioning process,” Payne stated in an email. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our neighbors for their patience as we work to ensure safe and reliable operations of the plant.”
McDaniel, who is concerned about his property value, said he was satisfied by Entergy’s response.
“That was our concern if this new brand-new plant if this was a noise we were going to have to contend with for a period of time,” he said. “It was like wow; people around here would be moving away from this place because it was bad. You could feel it inside your house, your body was even rumbling inside trying to sleep and stuff. But they said after Sept. 30 it would be over with.”
Melvin said the information does not state, after Sept. 30, how loud the new plant will be. He said he and other neighbors questioned the sound decibel level. While in some incorporated areas the sound level must be kept down to 85 decibels, he learned that was not the case in an unincorporated area.
For the future moving forward, he believes the county should make some changes regarding sound levels in unincorporated areas, especially with consideration to growth in the area.
“People out in the county can just make as much noise as they want to and you can’t do anything about it,” Melvin said. “You have more people moving out in these unincorporated areas because of the growth in Montgomery County, you can move next door to a plant or machine shop and there would be absolutely nothing you can do about. Which is sad because I am 1,500 feet from Lake Conroe and there is lots and lots of money on this lake right here.”
Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador said Entergy officials informed his office and emergency responders in advance that the power station would be conducting the steam blows. He said the Entergy crews need to run and check the gas lines, including a 20-inch line from San Jacinto County, to ensure it is stable before live gas runs through the line.
“It’s just part of opening that thing up,” Meador said. “There’s no danger, there is no immediate concern for anybody. That is what they told me, that is what we are preparing for and it shouldn’t last long.”
Regarding McDaniel’s concern about sound and property values, he said the county has few restrictions on sound, but over the years the county has responded with law enforcement, such as for loud music. But he does not expect the plant’s rumbling to be a long-term issue.
“This plant is going to be a lot quieter than the old one, and it has been there for 40-50 years,” Meador said. “It has not damaged any property values, everything is fine with it, and this one is a more obviously high-tech, environmentally friendly plant than the old one was, so there shouldn’t be any issues with that. And, if there is, we will deal with it, but I don’t think there is going to be an issue at all.”
For more information, visit https://www.entergy.com/entergypowerstexas/.