Strange sound causes sleepless nights, health concerns

(WXYZ) - Imagine a noise taking over your peaceful neighborhood, a nighttime nuisance so irritating that it keeps you and your family from sleeping.

When you call the police, they are helpless to stop it because it is not the boom box or house party next door. The noise is coming from another country!  The people in Canadian communities near Detroit call it "The Windsor Hum", and the noise that is driving the complaints is being heard in the capitols of both countries.

On Facebook, you will find more than 1,200 members of the Windsor-Essex Hum site. They say their lives have been disrupted for more than two years by a strange sound that is causing sleepless nights, and worry about how their health has been affected by "the hum."

"It's really, really irritating," says one Hum Facebook friend.

"It's relentless, it doesn't seem to let up," says another.

Windsor attorney David Robbins once noticed the windows on his porch rattling.

"It sounded like there was a deep resonating bass," says Robbins.

And then there is Al Maghnieh, the Windsor Ward 10 Councilor. He has taken on the hum based on countless constituent complaints. His experience with the sound?  "You think there's a truck idling outside your window," Maghnieh says.

It is difficult to record the hum. But it sounds like a low, consistent rumbling, a pulsating sound that is deeper than distant thunder. And it is disturbing.

"I don't hear the rumbles until the bed upstairs literally vibrates," Face Book member Mike Provost tells us.

Michele Puzzuoli says "I think the nausea is probably caused by stress from not being able to fall back asleep."

Karen says, "No nausea, but I do have earaches."  

Sonya Skillings was holding her two-year old son Sam when she talked about her experiences.

"It was late night feedings that I would hear it, because I would be rocking him and hearing the rumble," says Sonya. She is worried about potential harm to little ones like Sam, the youngest of her two children.

"It's very alarming because we don't know how it's affecting our life, and I guess that's why we want some answers because we'd like to know if there is going to be long-term effects from it," says Sonya.

They are not alone. In fact, when Windsor Councilman Maghnieh arranged for a region-wide conference call, more than 22,400 people were on the line looking for answers. It was enough attention to get the Canadian government to set up four seismographs to determine the source. 7 Action News has the results of the two month test. It concluded the sound was likely coming from industry, on or near Zug Island, River Rouge Michigan.

River Rouge Mayor Michael Bowdler spoke about the issue while visiting a park located on the Detroit River waterfront, just a few yards from the south end of Zug Island.

"You know, we're here, right here on my waterfront, right here between our corporate, and I'm not feeling nothing," says Bowdler. He is skeptical and questions whether Zug Island companies US Steel or DTE energy are causing the hum.

Bowdler says he is sympathetic to the plight of our Canadian neighbors. But he insists his city, years into a deficit elimination plan, cannot afford to help pay for more testing to determine what industries may be responsible for the hum.

"I listened to their concerns," he says, "but the next step is money."

But how is industrial noise from the US heard by so many people in Canada?

"Wind is carrying the sound," says 7 First Alert Meteorologist Dave Rexroth.

"And our prevailing wind is certainly from the west. Whether it goes down to the southwest, you notice it still blowing to that same area even if it swings back to the northwest. It's still blowing into that area across the river of Windsor and LaSalle."

But what if the Canadian governments report identified only one of many potential locations, industries, where the hum could be coming from. Could it be coming from a little south of Zug Island?

A man in Wyandotte believes he has found the real source of the hum. He says it is just beyond the cemetery.

"I've come through here many times cause we helped restore the cemetery", says Alex Leskiw, an auto worker who has lived in Wyandotte for decades.

He says only after BASF started producing in a new facility a few years ago just beyond the 150 year old cemetery off Jefferson did Alex notice the noise.  

Looking at twin stacks towering just beyond the old cemetery, Leskiw says, "They're just like someone standing there, Gabriel standing there with a trumpet blowing out in all directions. But every time I hear it, and all the recordings, this to me, is the sound."

Gary Grosse is an Information Technology expert and father of three who created the Facebook site. 

"I basically created the group to see who else was affected," says Grosse.

He adds that the sound has touched the lives of tens of thousands of Canadians, and many people downriver. So he wants the mystery solved. There is growing evidence the Canadian government also wants a solution, but it does

not want to be left to pay the entire cost of more testing to identify the U.S. companies are  responsible for the hum.

Roy Norton is the Canadian Consul General in Detroit.

"If there was an issue of this sort emanating from the other side of the River, we think that folks here would expect us to step up and do something about it," says  Norton .

Officials from the US and Canada have met hoping to work toward a solution and to identify the source of the hum before tensions between the two powerful allies grow. So far, only BASF has responded to our questions saying in a telephone interview,  "We have nothing to indicate the sound is coming from our site." US Steel and DTE promised a statement on the Windsor Hum issue but so far, they've been as quiet as the people of Windsor would like their nights to be.

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