Bird banger talks continue

 Noise variance sought for seagull dispersal at Casella 


Observer staff 

Williston Town Manager Erik Wells is planning a decibel test as part of the selectboard’s decision whether to allow the Burlington International Airport to set off fireworks at the Casella Waste Management facility off Industrial Avenue to disperse nuisance seagulls attracted by food scraps. 

Parents of children attending the nearby E.J.’s Kids Klub preschool voiced concerns about the proposal at the board’s July 13 meeting. Jacob Borgeson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture biologist working with Casella and the airport to mitigate the seagull problem, first proposed the pyrotechnic techniques in May. The “screamers” and “bangers” emit up to 120 decibels. The town’s noise ordinance caps sound at 90 decibels in the industrial zoning district. 

Seagulls’ attraction to the Casella facility creates a hazard at the airport as the birds cross the airfield on their way from Lake Champlain to search for food at the Casella facility. The activity is most pronounced each spring. That’s when the fireworks would be most needed, Borgeson said. 

He estimates they would be discharged up to 20 times per day in April and May. 

“In spring, everyone is first getting outside and the kids can really be spending a lot of time outdoors,” said E.J.’s Kids Klub parent Christina Gustie. “Then, if these things are going off up to 20 times a day, I have concerns about the safety of the kids.” 

There is another preschool within a half-mile of Casella, as well as a dog daycare and boarding business. Wells’ initial modeling suggests the noise effect at that distance would be 60 decibels, and that 90-plus decibels would only be experienced within 100 feet of the discharge. Wells’ upcoming testing is an attempt to verify those assumptions. 

The Williston Conservation Commission recommends the selectboard grant the noise ordinance waiver on a trial basis. However, commission member Terry Marron urged Casella to try bird netting, which is in use at Green Mountain Compost on Redmond Road in Williston, before resorting to fireworks. 

She also questioned the wisdom of locating a trash transfer station so close to an international airport. 

“Maybe this is just the wrong spot for Casella. (They) should have realized that having food scraps right next to an airport would create a hazard for air traffic,” she said.