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Seeking Clarity in Noise

Environmental noise regulation can be frustrating. The noise limits, applicable measurement metrics, assessment methods and level of enforcement vary a lot by region and jurisdiction and rarely do they all align. 

Seeking Clarity in Noise

Environmental noise regulation can be frustrating. The noise limits, applicable measurement metrics, assessment methods and level of enforcement vary a lot by region and jurisdiction and rarely do they all align.

Historically, noise emitters and sensitive receivers could afford to use distance to separate themselves. Consequently, environmental noise laws were first developed in regions with high populations and industrial concentrations. This led to a silo effect where noise laws evolved in different ways in response to local needs.

In the United States, the EPA tackled environmental noise between 1972 and 1982. Many communities adopted their Model Community Noise Control Ordinance, published in 1975. Other noise laws in the US were developed independently at the municipal, county, state and federal level. Some of these noise laws still refer to octave band frequency limits which are no longer used by modern sound level meters.

In Canada, environmental noise limits for industrial sources were developed first in Ontario and Alberta. However, the resulting Ontario NPC-300 and Alberta Directive 038/Rule 12 regulations are very different. To complicate matters, other provinces tend to determine which of these regulations to apply based on their proximity to one or the other - except for Quebec. Municipal noise by-laws also apply to industry but tend to be less stringent.

Other parts of the world have the same pattern of analogous noise regulations. Many regions with recently published laws use standards such as the ANSI S12.9 series Quantities and Procedures for Description and Measurement of Environmental Sound or the WHO Guidelines for Community Noise as a basis for developing their limits. Others have developed ordinances to tackle specific noise problems with the help of acoustics experts.

Jurisdictional differences between noise laws can sometimes cause confusion – particularly when a project is close to, or crosses, a boundary between two authorities. Here are some of the key things to consider:

  • Where does the noise limit apply? Most commonly this is a property boundary, but it can also be at a residence or a fixed distance from the source.
  • Does the limit apply to every unique source, or is it a cumulative limit for the area? The existing noise level may significantly influence planning for new projects.
  • What sound level metric is used or applicable? – i.e. L10 (dBA) or Ldn (dBA) There can be a big difference between measurement outcomes and to measure in one then convert to the other can make compliance challenging.
  • Are there exceptions or penalties for annoying qualities? Some noise regulations have specific limits for tones, low-frequency noise, impulsive noise. Others have specific procedures for the type of source.

 Often, more than one regulation applies, and clearly defined limits are usually better than non-specific “nuisance” clauses. Innova helps customers cut through the bureaucratic jargon to understand the regulatory limits and how they will be applied to their project.

Innova Global has accumulated a library of noise regulations from around the world. However, noise laws change periodically, so we always do additional research when working in a new jurisdiction and advise our clients on the intent of a regulation and how it will be applied in relation to a project.

About Innova Global

Innova is a full-service engineering, manufacturing, procurement, and installation company that develops and utilizes innovative technologies to provide solutions for air and noise emissions control, heat recovery, and equipment and infrastructure primarily for oil and gas and power generation customers. Innova’s equipment designs focus on bringing the environment and cost-efficiency into balance, with technical expertise and a performance guarantee; making them the best choice for new or retrofit projects. Innova has 170 engineers and support staff and over 200 production workers at fabrication facilities in Monterrey, Mexico, with offices in nine locations across North America including Calgary, Alberta; Cambridge, Ontario; Albany, New York; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Plymouth, Minnesota; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Scottsdale, Arizona; and, an office in Brisbane, Australia. For more information, call us at 1-888-833-3939.