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Tracking The Mystery Hum At Windsor, Ontario

By James Donahue

The International Joint Commission has announced plans to try to find the source of the noise that has been bothering residents in the West End of Windsor, Ontario, and the nearby suburb of LaSalle.

Dubbed the Windsor Hum, the residents on the Canadian side of the Detroit River say it is a low-frequency rumbling sound that rattles windows and even knocks objects from shelves. They say it sounds like a large diesel truck idling.

Some people complain the noise, which began about two years ago, is causing them to become ill, it is bothering household pets and making their lives miserable. They want it stopped. Some people say they have been running window or furnace fans in an attempt to drown out the noise.

Theories as to its origin have ranged from earthquakes, underground salt mining operations, wind turbines and even the movement of an unknown underground river.

People living and working in the Detroit area, across the river from Windsor, do not appear to be hearing this hum, even though Canadian researchers now believe the noise is coming from the American side of the river. Thus it has become an international issue. The Americans say they don't agree.

Researchers for the Canadian natural resources department say they believe the noise originates from Zug Island, a 600-acre mad-made formation on the Michigan side of the river. The island is the site of U. S. Steel Corporation steel mills and blast furnaces. The island is protected by steel fences and guards and U. S. Steel has not been cooperating with Canadian authorities in the investigation.

Michael Bowdler, the mayor of River Rouge, the municipality linked to Zug Island, says his city doesn't have the resources to investigate on behalf of Windsor. But the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality checked on the possibility of new machinery that began operating on Zug Island at the time the hum was first noticed. The department said they found nothing had changed.

Now that the International Joint Commission is getting involved the origin of the troublesome noise may be found out, if it indeed comes from the Zug Island mills. The commission is a bilateral organization that monitors environmental agreements on the border of Canada and the United States.