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Calistoga Officials Complain About Noise, Diesel Smell From PG&E Generators

CALISTOGA (KPIX 5) -- In an effort to protect people from wildfires, PG&E has become a nuisance to neighbors of its substation in Calistoga.

The utility trucked in 14 generators and since Monday has been running them for more than 24 hours. The town of Calistoga sent an angry letter to the utility complaining the noise started without advance notice to the community.

PG&E is now apologizing. "We apologize for the inconvenience, we know how difficult it is to be near the generators," Deanna Contreras, spokesperson for PG&E said.

"The generators are there to keep the power on for our customers while important safety work is being done. This work needs to be done, so the generators will need to be used throughout the month of May," Contreras said.

As part of it's ongoing Wildfire Safety Program the utility is working on at risk power lines in Calistoga, St. Helena and other high risk areas around the state. Calistoga is a tier three region meaning its at extreme risk for wildfires. PG&E will perform so called 'hardening' tasks like cutting back vegetation and improving its infrastructure. Neighbors say they support this work but felt blindsided by all the noise.

"Outside our building you can't even speak to each other when the humming is going on," Laura Swanton, the owner of Laura Michael wines said.

Swanton bought this winery 20 years ago after quitting her high tech job and never looked back.

"I'm just a tiny business, we produce 1,600 cases, we're doing it the old-fashioned way and we cannot afford to have business impacted by an industrial center being put online without anyone being notified," Swanton said.

She and her husband live on the property and say the humming coupled with the diesel fumes made it uncomfortable to be outside which has already driven away some customers.

"It was hard to breathe," said Swanton. "We have a small tasting room and I had a couple here for a tasting that opted out, they didn't want to stay with all the noise."

PG&E says the generators will go back on Wednesday morning at 6:00 AM and will be turned off by 10:00 PM each night.

The utility said it will reach out to customers directly through reverse robo calls to alert them of the schedule of the generators, but people in Calistoga should prepare to hear them humming all month long.



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