Mérida, Yucatán — It sounds like jets getting ready to take off, but it’s actually the sound of flour being processed on Calle 52. The flour mill’s roar can be heard almost to the Paseo de Montejo, three blocks away, and after more than two years neighbors have had enough.
Harinas del Sureste unveiled its new mill in 2017, about a year before a competing plant opened on the Mérida-Progreso highway.
The US$20 million plant, whose silos and 30-meter-tall tower loom over homes, businesses and at least one school, was built to more than double production to 400,000 bags every month, a news story written at the time indicates.
“It is the newest thing on the market,” a company spokesman boasted. “if we made a comparison of what we are installing today, you would have bought a Ferrari car from the wheat mills, this Italian-designed machine allows us to grind with greater capacity.”
Since then, the resulting constant, high-pitched whrrrrr has been nonstop, 24 hours a day and six days a week — Sundays are a day off starting mid-morning. Even residents blocks away are often forced to close their doors and windows just to minimize the sound. Three blocks away, the sound at times penetrates walls and double-paned glass.
Neighbors say that neither Mérida’s municipal authorities nor the company, Grupo CMG, have responded to pleas for help.
The group Todos Somos Mérida, which formed in part to protest nightclub noise, joined neighbors as describing the affront as a kind of “criminal buzz” that causes discomfort and ear damage, La Jornada Maya reported.
Residents have had to close their windows and doors while others have moved, the newspaper said. Fewer cars on the street have only made the flour plant noise seem louder, they said.
Trucks and trailers that park along the plant block roads and have even caused accidents, neighbors told La Jornada Maya.
La Jornada Maya first reported on the problem in June 2019, after the issue was already 10 months old. At the time, the Secretary of Citizen Participation of the City Council, Julio Sauma Castillo, admitted not being familiar with the incident but assured a reporter that a complaint had been filed.
Nightclubs are subject to decibel measurements and their live-music hours are restricted. Sound must be contained within acoustic panels to absorb the noise. No such concessions have apparently been made by CMG.
Unlike music or party noise, which comes and goes, this type of noise pollution is more insidious.
“It’s a buzz that you don’t perceive, but when you analyze it and you realize where it comes from, you can’t take it out of your head,” said a neighbor named Hugo Michel.
A member of Todos Somos Mérida, who preferred anonymity, commented that she has tried to communicate with the company, which affirms that it is going to address the issue. But so far, nothing has happened.
“The noise continues and is worse, now it hurts more, the more acute it is, the more it hurts,” she said.
In addition, the plant emits dust that has coated homes and contaminated air conditioning systems, she added.
The contant droning has caused tinnitus — a ringing in the ears — for Diana Castillo, director of the La Cúpula Cultural Center, which is at least two blocks away from the source of the noise.
“It’s quite annoying, it’s continuous,” Castillo lamented.
Ana Martínez Castro, 64, who has lived in the area for about 40 years, indicated that the noise is worse at night.
“For about a year it has been heard louder and every day it increases more,” said Martínez. “I don’t know if they have something broken.”
She said she called the company was put on hold, and then disconnected. When she called back, no one answered, La Jornada reported.