Noisy Neighbor

Marjana Clark and Ann Forsyth aren't tired of fighting Emory University, they're just tired. The two women say the campus's unusually noisy machines have been depriving them of sleep for years.

In the 1950s, Forsyth and her family moved to Luckie Lane. For years, the street remained insulated by the dense woods off Clifton Road, quiet but for a chorus of chirping crickets. More recently, though, Forsyth has found herself at RadioShack shopping for a sound machine. Ironically, "cricket" is one of the soothing settings Forsyth has used to cover up the incessant, high-pitched hum coming from the campus.

In the past, she tried special police-issued earplugs given to her by a sympathetic cop, as well as sound protection earmuffs made for heavy drilling. Clark, Forsyth's neighbor, says she regularly sleeps in her hallway because the noise can be unbearable in her bedroom.

Residents of Luckie Lane say they think they know why little has been done to quiet the noise. Since 1997, Emory has purchased six of the 10 houses on Luckie Lane and is trying to buy the rest. Forsyth and Clark say they've been contacted numerous times about selling their houses to the university, which wants to expand.

It took three years of noise complaints from neighbors for Emory to hire a sound consultant to trace the noise's source. The survey found Children's Healthcare of Atlanta responsible. Children's immediately hired an independent sound specialist to conduct a variety of tests. The tests identified three sources of noise with a tone. (According to the sound specialist, a noise with a tone is generally irritating to people.)

A few weeks later, the specialist determined that two of the three sounds weren't coming from Children's, and it was highly unlikely the third came from there, either. Using satellite imaging, the specialist detected several possible culprits: large roof-mounted equipment, including air conditioning units and compressors, for Emory's research facilities. Other research facilities in residential areas have internal units or silencers to muffle the noise.

"I thought it was embarrassing to Emory how well Egleston handled the situation," Forsyth says. "Emory dragged their heels and was trying to pass the buck."

The university has pledged to give the sound specialist access to their buildings to run more tests. Emory spokeswoman Nancy Seideman says she was shocked to learn about the frustrations on Luckie Lane. "We take neighbor concerns very seriously," Seideman says. "I wouldn't work for anybody who treated people like that."

Other neighbors claim Emory ignored their noise complaints, too. "Emory is like an 800-pound gorilla," says Houston Mill resident Jay Rickets, who raised concerns about shrieking monkeys at the university's Yerkes National Primate Research Center. "They're so big, they act first and worry about smoothing it out later."??

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