February 1, 2019
For immediate release
Chapel Hill: Generac Power Systems has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for producing dangerous, low-frequency, unregulated noise at its facility in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Todd Schelfhout, a long-term resident of Oshkosh, lives next to the Generac facility. He states that in August 2015, on a weekday evening around 10:30, he was woken up by a “blaring, humming noise. Since that day, Generac has been harming our quality of life and the value of our home in our once-quiet rural neighborhood.”
Generac manufactures commercial/industrial generators, which are 8’ tall x 8’ wide x 10-20’ long. When Generac tests these units, they are connected to exhaust stacks on the residential side of their facility. These testing periods can go as long as four hours and occur at all hours of the day and night,
To address the severe noise problem, Schelfhout first contacted the plant manager, who directed him to the corporate office in Waukesha; many e-mails and phone conversations with their public relations office provided no resolution: “I then contacted the Oshkosh Police Department over 200 times. I then twice went to the Oshkosh city council meeting with my noise complaints. I then brought my complaints to the township I live in; my concerns fell on deaf ears. I then got two letters to the editor published in the local newspaper.”
With no success with local municipalities, Schelfhout then contacted the Health and Human Services of Winnebago County: “They came into my home and heard the noise; however, they stated that it wasn’t their jurisdiction. I then contacted the state assemblyman, the state senator, the governor, and the two United States Senators from Wisconsin. I also contacted the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services, OSHA, the EPA and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. All of these organizations told me to go back to the local government.”
After receiving no assistance from government agencies, Schelfhout then went to his doctor and had him read his letters to the editor: “I asked him what I could do about all the anxiety, stress, sickness, lack of sleep, and complete frustration. He recommended meeting a psychologist, who recommended medication for depression and something to assist in my sleep. I declined, as taking medication would not get rid of the reality of this horrible noise.”
Schelfhout then “went to a lawyer and decided to file a lawsuit. However, my health was of a concern, so I thought I should move and reluctantly decided to sell my home in 2017. Due to the noise across the street and the possibility of being sued by whoever would purchase my home, I had to disclose the noise nuisance from across the street in my real estate contact. Over 20 people went through my house in a month. In the end, I decided to take my house off the market and fight for my right to peace and quiet. It was the perfect rural home until Generac moved in.”
His next move was to write “a non-aggressive letter to CEO of Generac explaining our situation; in response, his legal team threatened me. He stated that Generac put in a sound barrier; however, that sound barrier is for DB’s, not HZ, and that sound barrier is located on the west side of the exhaust stacks–and our homes are located on the east side. They then offered to do testing in my home. I agreed–if I could get the results. However, after they did their seven frequency tests in my home, they said I could only have the results if I signed a non-disclosure agreement.”
Schelfhout then did some soundproofing on his own, “by adding a $8500 mudroom on the southwest side of my home and then insulating the walls of two unused vacant bedrooms on the west side of my house due to the noise. The insulating process. though, didn’t stop the unregulated low frequency, infrasound, humming noise from vibrating into our home.”
Regrettably, notes Schelfhout, “Not once has the city of Oshkosh come into my home. Not once has anyone from Generac come into my home. Generac is a billion dollar, Fortune 100 company, which has received multiple state government grants. In the past two years, Generac has expanded the west side of their facility. Generac has received multiple million dollar grants from the Wisconsin taxpayer. Money, marketing, and taxes for the city of Oshkosh is apparently more important than the quality of life of the taxpayer.”
Gail Donaldson lives across the street from the Generac manufacturing facility. She comments that that the noise pollution from Generac can happen anytime during the day or night and “causes extreme disturbances. I have had guests outside on my property and in the house comment on the noise they were hearing and where it was coming from. The noise pollution coming from Generac has caused frequent sleep loss. It also makes it very difficult to hold an outdoor conversation. The noise truly is a quality of living concern.”
Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, stated that “Generac’s indifference to its excessive noise is very typical. Unfortunately, the indifference displayed by local, state, and federal officials to noise pollution is also very typical. Generac should take action to reduce its production of noise and governmental officials at all levels should take action to protect its citizens from the health effects of noise pollution.”
To contact Generac to complain about this noise situation, please use this form: https://www.generac.com/service-support/contact-us/online-form
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Appleton, Wisconsin; the Wisconsin state legislature; and St. Paul’s Lutheran church in Kenosha, Wisconsin.