Prince William Co. protesters say noise from Amazon data center hurting quality of life

Activists in Prince William County, Virginia, who say they are subjected to constant noise from the Amazon Data Center in Manassas, plan to protest outside the facility Monday afternoon, amid concerns the “area is being overrun with data center development.”

At 2 p.m., outside the Amazon Web Services facility on Tanner Way in Manassas, organizers will discuss the tech giant’s plans to remediate noise, which has infringed upon the lives of neighbors in the Great Oak Subdivision.

Neighbors have described a constant buzz and whir, which is causing stress and hurting their quality of life.

Protest organizer Bill Wright tells WTOP that Amazon has already been in meetings with neighbors and has offered to help mitigate the noise issues.

“Their proposed fix is to add shrouding to rooftop chiller units. Nearby residents are skeptical of this remedy because most of the noise seems to be coming from ventilation louvers on the side of the buildings. The proposed fix is supposed to be installed in a few weeks,” said Wright.

However, Wright, head of the group Gainesville Citizens for Smart Growth, said the situation at the AWS facility in Manassas is just one instance in which data centers are detrimental. Amazon has plans to build another data center in Bristow.

“The focus of today’s demonstration is to insist that local government (in this case, Prince William County) do a better job of setting standards and writing ordinances that advocate for their citizens’ health and safety rather than leave it to their citizens to appeal to corporate benevolence,” Wright wrote in an email.

Amazon has maintained it is operating within county noise regulations. Ann Wheeler, chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors has asked staff to research the possibility of changing the noise ordinance, since the current one doesn’t differentiate between the allowable noise levels from residential air conditioners and the larger, louder data center cooling systems.

In a news release describing the Monday afternoon protest and news conference, the activists make clear noise isn’t their only concern: “Local government needs to slam the brakes on data center development until it can demonstrate the empathetic understanding of, and remediation for, the profound detrimental effects of what it has already approved.”

According to Wright: “This area is being overrun with data center development and government is too accommodating to corporate indifference.”

In a statement, an Amazon Web Services spokesman said: “Addressing our neighbor’s noise concerns in Prince William County is a priority for us. We started installing sound reducing acoustical shrouds at our data center in Manassas last Friday and this work will be completed in the coming weeks. This is just one of several sound reduction measures our team is evaluating. We are proud to call Virginia home, and remain committed to working with and listening to our neighbors to further improve the environment around our facilities.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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