Rumblings reminiscent of the ‘Kokomo Hum’

By Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star

When dozens of residents in Kokomo, Ind., started voicing complaints of unsettling vibrations and noise causing them to fall ill or lose sleep, it led city officials on an investigation that remains inconclusive nearly a decade later.

The noise, often in the middle of the night, was compared to train idling and led to complaints of nausea, fatigue, and headaches.

In this heavily industrialized Midwestern U.S. city of 45,000 no definitive conclusions were ever reached. And a majority of residents heard nothing. But the troubling rumblings were pervasive enough to gain folklore status as the “Kokomo Hum,” which was first reported in 1999.

The mystery surrounding the Kokomo Hum may sound similar to frustrated residents in Windsor and Essex County, where there have been dozens of reports of mysterious rumblings, noise and vibrations.

In Kokomo, the issue died a few years ago after one consultant’s study concluded it originated from fans in massive cooling towers at the local Chrysler casting plant or from another large plant’s air compressor intake.

Officials in Kokomo at the mayor’s office, city attorney’s office and local newspaper appeared weary when contacted by The Star recently with yet another inquiry about the Kokomo Hum.

“It was a long time ago and before our administration,” said a spokeswoman with the mayor’s office.

In Windsor and Essex County, another 20 complaints from frustrated Windsor and Essex County residents were called into The Star last week.

Ontario’s Ministry of Environment is continuing to log complaints in a bid to narrow possible sources of the rumblings reported by homeowners in a wide swath of Windsor and Essex County.

One Amherstburg resident met this week with officials from a Quebec-based company which installed nearly fourdozen wind turbines in the Windsor and Chatham areas.

Although a supporter of alternative energy, Lynne Bradac believes six recently installed turbines about two kilometres from her South Side Road home have caused the vibrations she and her husband have felt.

“The neighbours feel it, too,” she said. “As soon as they powered up all of Essex County with these windmills, that’s when all this started. I know that’s what all this is. With Zug Island and the salt mines, nothing was ever being felt before.

“This has got to be what’s causing all this rumbling with the power going into the earth.”

But an official with Boralex disputed those claims.

About half of the company’s 45 wind turbines in the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent area only sink to a depth of about 2.6 metres, said Patricia Lemaire, director of public affairs for Boralex. The other half, because of less stable ground, go down between 15 metres and 35 metres.

When it comes to vibrations, her company has not received any official complaints and there are no scientific studies showing evidence that it’s a problem, Lemaire said.

“We’ve been operating wind turbines for a long time (10 years) and never heard about that.”

Brad Austen, who lives on Spring Garden Road, said the rumbling could be caused by rail cars in the salt mines operating at all hours.

“It doesn’t happen every night and that’s heavy duty stuff,” he said. “It could be that and their (tunnels) are way out there now.”

Canadian Salt company officials were not available to comment on the issue.

“I used to think it was a boom box,” Austen said. “It just rattles the windows, then stops. Then I would look and there would be nobody there. It just feels like a train rumbling.”

The California-based host of a weekly science podcast called Skeptoid has studied the “mystery hum” phenomenon in several cities, including Kokomo.

There are usually three possible causes, said Brian Dunning. “One is it can be actual noise -motors, engines, industrial fans,” he said. Some industrial equipment also produces low-frequency harmonics that some can hear and others can’t, he said.

The other two factors are related to an individual’s hearing. Muscles can tighten in the eardrum and spasm, creating a rumble “similar to what people there are reporting” or it can be tinnitus, a common ear problem in which sufferers hear high-pitched whining, buzzing, ringing or humming.

Those who believe rumblings are being caused by wind turbines or cellphone tower frequencies should probably forget it, Dunning said.

“That’s just people grasping at straws,” he said. “All those have been investigated and none have shown to have such causes.”

13 thoughts on “Rumblings reminiscent of the ‘Kokomo Hum’

  1. During offshore moratorium, MNR and MOE should determine IWT transmission of vibration and infrasound to water and bedrock in all conditions, including ice, as well as aquatic organisms’ sensitivity and reactions to vibration and infrasound.

    I’ve been wondering the degree to which vibration and infrasound will be transferred from offshore IWT towers to bedrock and water. Many offshore IWTs are proposed for shoals that previously served only as fish feeding, spawning, and migration habitat.

    Some threatened/endangered aquatic animals are sensitive to infrasound, e.g., American Eel, snakes (Lake Erie Water Snake?). A group of fishes (including cyprinid minnows) with small bones connecting the inner ear and swim bladder, are also said to be sensitive to infrasound. Sensitivity is not limited to vertebrates–scientists recently learned that marine coral larvae “hear” the shoals they eventually colonize. The science is new, with more on marine organisms and on engineering solutions to deflect fish, than on freshwater organisms.

  2. It is too costly to do offshore.
    I think Mcguinty used this as a trump card to look good prior to elections.

  3. Can you provide link to doc from Italian seismic institute? I’m missing it somehow.

  4. I don’t know whether or not I would like to be working in a salt mine below a field of throbbing IWTs. I assume these people know what they are doing … or not.

  5. The other two factors are related to an individual’s hearing. “Muscles can tighten in the eardrum and spasm, creating a rumble similar to what people there are reporting” .

    Those who believe rumblings are being caused by wind turbines or cellphone tower frequencies should probably forget it, Dunning said.

    “That’s just people grasping at straws,” he said. “All those have been investigated and……………

    How on earth can Brian Dunning say with one breath that “Muscles can tighten in the eardrum and spasm, creating a rumble “ and then in the very NEXT breath say

    “Those who believe rumblings are being caused by wind turbines or cellphone tower frequencies should probably forget it”

    The absernce of logic in those who enjoy spouting off on a subject about which they have very little experience is mind boggling.

    “A LITTLE knowledge is a DANGEROUS thing!”

  6. Have never heard of anyone complaining about salt mine noise in the Deteroit – Windsor area. The mine shafts run under the river.

    Heavy equipment is used in the shafts & elevators, but the salt is not blasted out that I know of.

    The equipment used is the same as used in road construction and would not make any more noise than if used on roads. Drills are also used.

    The salt mine company might tell you the kinds of equipment they use in the mines. Then go from there with the noise issue. Do they still have tours? That way you could see for yourself. Find someone who works in the salt mines?

    Coal mining areas sometimes have mine noise but that is due to natural air holes that lead from the mine to the surface. Miners sometimes heard talking down in the mines.

  7. The rail cars used in the salt mines are smaller than the ones used to make up surface trains. Think the salt mine train engines are electric?

  8. It isn’t the salt mine. I’ve heard the blasting in the past and it does not compare to the rumble as reported. It isn’t the equipment used in the salt mine as it would be more commonly heard. Again the truth is hidden and buried or brushed off. Yes we the citizens living near IWT’s must ALL be phsyco and shytzo and maybe we should all be on disability because of our hallucinations. I sure hope ALL loser MPP’s get voted out in October and our new government has respect for the people rather than money and greed

  9. Yes Windhater but the type of equipment and any blasting in the salt mines needs written confiramtion or you get into a “he says-she says” situation.

    Don’t know if the salt mines operate 3 shifts or even operate on weekends unless market shortages occur as in winter demand for road salt.

    If these rumblings occur when the mines are not even operating then great doubts can be raised about the noise issues from the mines.

    Local people ask around to learn if the salt mines still blast or is it an all drilling operation.

    You will need to eliminate the salt mines as a cause for the noise that is now occuring.

  10. Google The Detroit Salt Mines for inforamtion and videos. There have been complaints by residents in the immediate are of the mines about blasting damage to Detroit homes. There are also maps of the salt mine areas which show their location and extent. But surface noise? The mines are ~1200 feet deep.

  11. You must also research The Windsor Salt mine as they are under Windsor , Lasalle and towards Amherstburg. I know they go miles out from the main shaft on Morton Drive. I could talk to a couple friends who work there the next time I see them.

  12. Thanks wind hater,

    This is what needs to be done. Nice to know when the blasting is done and if they work 3 shifts and on weekends.

    Have complaints about blasting been filed with local councils? Complaints have been filed in Detroit according to internet information.

  13. “Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment is continuing to log complaints…”, you say. This is very interesting as John Wilkinson, the Minister of the Enviroment, stated in an interview a short while ago on Dale Goldhawk’s Am740 Fight Back program that “there were no complaints regarding wind turbines being received by the MOE.” It seems that there are two possibilities here. 1)John Wilkinson is lying or 2)The MOE staff do not inform the Minister of the thousands of complaints being recieved on this matter. If #1 is true, then make sure he is not re-elected in October. If #2 is true fire the lot of them for gross negligence and incompetence.

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