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Glavel Neighbors Complain about Noise and Odor

by Irene Wrenner

March 22, 2022

Essex’s newest manufacturer, Glavel, Inc., produces lightweight aggregate, and now generates complaints from residents living nearby. 


Neighbors’ concerns are mounting as Glavel begins round-the-clock production. Nearly a dozen members of the public spoke up at the start of the March 21st Selectboard Meeting to register objections. 


Saxon Hill Road residents have been complaining of strong odors and nighttime noise since manufacturing began last week. 


Other members of the public noted the fragility of the forest nearby and the factory’s lack of “harmony with natural surroundings.” Peaceful co-existence is an aim of the Town’s unique zoning for that area, known as Resource Preservation District-Industrial (RPD-I). 


But neighbors on the opposite side of the Saxon Hill Industrial Park have seen clearcutting of buffer zones and reported recurrent pre-dawn construction noise in recent years. Gina Barrett, Sand Hill Road resident, was among the public members who, recalling that trauma, voiced concern at this new development.


Michael Peterson, who lives closest to the Glavel facility, also wondered about possible well water contamination.


“I just want to be a good neighbor. That’s all I want people to be to me … respect me,” said Peterson. “They say high fences make good neighbors. There’s not a fence high enough right now for this situation.”


For Peterson this is a quality of living issue. He wondered aloud how much his property’s assessed value has decreased in the past two weeks. 

Regarding an anticipated conversation with the head of Glavel, Peterson said, “I want it to be civil. I want it to be easy. I just want it to be fair … I want to be able to go outside and play with my [8-year-old son] and not smell plastic and not worry about, God forbid, developing something because he’s out playing in his yard. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Town Manager Greg Duggan, a former Town Planner, said he spoke to Glavel’s CEO that morning. The firm is operating 24/7 with the state’s approval and an Act 250 permit.


He indicated that Glavel is environmentally conscious and expects they would take the public’s feedback seriously. It would be “brand-destroying if they were found out to be polluting the environment.” They are open to having conversations with neighbors and making it work for everybody.


Michael Peterson shares his story:

Video by Ken Signorello

When approached by the Retorter on the day after the Selectboard Meeting, Glavel CEO Rob Conboy confirmed, “I’ve reached out to them to have a conversation about our operations. I’m following up with Mike [Peterson] and Greg [Duggan] again this morning to coordinate a meeting.” 


Unlike the Village, the Town has no Noise Ordinance. Selectboard member Tracey Delphia reminded her peers that a draft Public Nuisance Ordinance for the Town is being reviewed by the Essex Police Department. Perhaps that would apply in this case, once enacted, she said.


The factory uses recycled glass as its main ingredient in making lightweight foam glass gravel used in construction for drainage and insulation purposes. But it also uses foaming agents, according to its website, which turn the glass into a pumice-like output after being heated to extremely high temperatures. Residents suspect this burning is creating noxious fumes carried by breezes.


The Saxon Hill Industrial Park is situated among pine forests, dotted with bodies of water, and features some higher elevations with scenic overlooks. Town water and sewer service allow for a variety of commercial uses, not just warehouses, along Sand Hill Road, Allen Martin Drive, Corporate Drive, Thompson Drive, and now Red Pine Circle. 


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