Residents are fed up with persistent noise pollution – Westin hotel runs generators around the clock since 2011

POSTED: 07/27/12 12:45 PM

St. Maarten – That the Westin Hotel in Dawn Beach and its neighbors do not get along is an understatement. Ever since the Babit Bay Beach Development Corporation set up shop in St. Maarten in 2006 there has been controversy. In 2010 the Court in First Instance ruled against the company in a dispute over noise pollution from its generators and air conditioning system. The Westin took measures at the court’s order to bring the noise pollution under control, but the problems did not go away. These days the hotel runs its generators around the clock. Dawn Beach residents living across from the hotel have had enough of the constant hum that ruins quiet evenings on their balconies.
The Westin’s neighbors have a right to be irritated, because running generators around the clock is not allowed. The concession utilities company Gebe has stipulates that consumers must take their power from the grid when it is available. The use of generators is allowed during power failures.
Sources at Gebe said that there is not a lot the company is able to do against Westin’s violation, other than disconnecting the hotel from the grid. Action against this violation of the law ought to come from the government, but that action has so far not been undertaken.
Today visited the area yesterday to get a handle on the noise levels. Ever since the court case in 2010, the Westin has taken some measures: it enclosed its generators and it also put an enclosure around the air conditioning units. Sadly, this has not solved the problem.
Neighborhood residents say that they are unable to be on their balconies for more than a quarter of an hour in the evening, because of the constant hum of the generators. On street level there does not seem to be a problem, but the noise travels upwards and the higher you get on the hill the more invading the noise becomes.
The legal battle with the Westin started in 2008. In March of that year the court appointed Ing. Vincent Huizer, a senior acoustics advisor of the Dutch Consultancy Oranjewoud environment and safety, as an expert to investigate the nature and the intensity of the noise the air-conditioning units and the generators produce.
In November 19, 2009 Huizer submitted his report to the court with the conclusion that the Westin violates all standards for noise pollution and a recommendation to place the generators in a soundproof structure and to equip the ducts for air and exhaust fumes with a silencer. For good measure the consultant noted that there are noiseless ventilators and silencers on the market for the cooling towers.
The unsatisfied neighborhood residents filed another lawsuit after the measures the Westin took proved to be unsatisfactory. In October 2010, Judge Mr. Diederik Thierry ruled against the Westin and ordered it to pay the residents close to $35, 000 in damages.
The Westin argued in 2010 that the residents have to put up with the noise pollution based on ponderous grounds – like local employment.
“The Westin cannot operate without air-conditioning or without an emergency facility for power outages,” the hotel argued, but the court dismissed this.
But these days, Gebe seems to have become the Westin’s emergency facility in case their generators give out.
And there is more: the Westin did not comply with the 2010 court ruling. Last year, the residents summoned the hotel to pay them $55, 000 in penalties. Now they demand that the hotel stops using its generators, except when there is a power cut, under threat of a $25, 000 penalty for every day it does not comply. They also ask the court to double the penalty from the October 2010 court ruling to $10, 000 per day.
In a separate procedure the residents demand copies of the Westin’s energy bills from the first four months of 2011 and for the same period over the preceding three years to establish the difference between its electricity consumption from the grid since it began to use its generators non-stop. The court will probably deal with the lawsuits in August.

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