Industrial Noise and Community Impacts

Are you confident your facility is compliant with Minnesota's noise requirements?
Does your facility have noises issues or concerns?
Are you minimizing your risk of a future noise complaint?

Below is some helpful information to point environmental managers in the right direction.

The importance of managing and minimizing noise impacts to neighboring properties cannot be understated.  As environmental leaders and mangers, it's important for you to consider your facility noise sources and off-property impacts:  noise is one of the major environmental "pollutants" frequently complained about and reported to agencies.  It's best to remain off community and regulatory radar with proactive management approaches.

Simply put, noise impacts are acute and noticeable.  At home in our everyday lives, we've all experienced the annoyance of a barking dog or unruly car alarm, but what happens when the bothersome sound is coming from an industrial facility?

In Minnesota, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) gathers noise complaints through its online citizen complaints form and by phone.  Noise complaints may also be collected by local governments.  Noise generating sources at industrial facilities include equipment such as fans, baghouses, rotating machinery, reciprocating engines, pressure drops in piping systems, outdoor vehicle traffic, and many others.

Industrial noises can be intermittent (e.g., banging from hammers) or steady-state (e.g., continuous fan operation).  The pitch or "frequency" of a given noise is just as important to understand its total sound volume or "amplitude".  Such impacts can efficiently be measured with sound-level meters (SLMs).

The MPCA regulates noise pollution through Minnesota Administrative Rules Chapter 7030.  While MPCA focuses on enforcing these noise standards at facilities with air permits, these standards apply to any facility.  The standards vary by land use, categorized by Noise Area Classifications (NACs), and time of day.  The most restrictive regulations are for impacts at residential areas during night-time periods.  It's not surprising that noise criteria can sometimes pose challenges for facilities having 24-hour operation.

Fortunately, the mitigation of noise pollution is well understood and many vendors can provide cost-effective solutions for mitigating noise impacts.  Examples of noise mitigation include physical equipment such as silencers, acoustic enclosures, noise barrier walls, berms, baffles, and many other physical controls.  We have also seen examples where regular equipment maintenance practices and strategic operating procedures have effectively minimized noise without the need of further control.

To help answer the questions posed at the beginning of this article, Trinity would be pleased to visit your facility to provide a better understanding of where your facility sits in terms of noise.  A simple noise "check-up" can go a long way in helping environmental managers be informed of nuisance impacts and in showing due diligence towards their responsibilities.

For more information about Trinity's noise solutions, and applicable noise regulations in Minnesota, please contact Alex Odom by email or by phone at (651) 275-9900 x7.  Also, consider registering for Trinity's new course "Managing Environmental Nuisances:  Odor and Noise".