What to do when environmental noise disrupts the comfort of your home
If it seems like we have been making a lot of noise in our blog lately about noise, you’re right. It is a timely issue. Across the country, municipalities and ministries are repeatedly called to intervene when residents complain about noise disrupting their peace and quiet. Aside from being a nuisance, there are countless studies that discuss the impact of environmental noise on sleep and how prolonged exposure or excessive noise can cause health problems.
Loud music occasionally from your neighbour is annoying but usually manageable. It’s a different situation when the noise is being generated by factories or commercial facilities in your backyard. While it’s not as easy as asking them to turn the volume down, there are steps to have the issue addressed.
While there are some neighbours who find all noise intrusive, generally most complaints are legitimate and must be investigated. Each municipality has its own noise bylaws. For example, the City of Toronto says that if a noise is clearly audible and distinctive, it might exceed its bylaws.
If you are having environmental noise issues with your industry neighbours, here is how you can manage the issue:
Determine the source and type of noise
If there are multiple facilities nearby, identify the one making the noise. Keep detailed notes of the type of noise –humming, rumbling, beeping, or banging – so you can describe it when asked.
Note the time of day
Is the noise consistent throughout the day and night or just during specific periods? Record the type of noise and when you hear it. The more information you have will help officials determine the source and whether it is operating within the guidelines.
Contact the company
Reach out to management at the factory with your concerns. They should be good neighbours and work to resolve the issue without involving the municipality or province.
Check with bylaw officials
If you don’t get a response, contact your local municipality. They manage noise bylaws. They may send an official to do an assessment and see if there is an issue to pursue.
Escalate it to the Ministry
If the municipality is unhelpful, you can contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks district office. They will open a file and make an environmental noise assessment. If there is a problem, they will require the company to investigate and retain the services of an acoustical consultant to have a noise study conducted. The study determines whether the noise is excessive or not. If it is, the document would also provide recommendations which the company will be required to implement.
Noise limits for industry in Ontario are quite stringent. Every industry that emits air or noise pollution needs a permit to operate – either an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) or an Environmental Activity Sector Registry (EASR). We recently published a blog post explaining the difference between the two permits. They both require air and noise studies to be conducted before any permit application can happen.
The study results must show that a company is meeting the noise requirements or that mitigation is in place to control noise to meet provincial sound limits. This sounds like a simple system but it relies on user compliance. While we are required to have a driver’s licence to drive, the reality is that many people drive without one. In the same regard, there could be industries operating without the appropriate permits so they may not be adhering to noise limits.
Residents have the right to enjoy their property without excessive environmental noise so companies need to be good neighbours and keep noise levels in check. If there are concerns, they should take steps to address any issues directly with residents without the need to escalate.
For more information about the Noise Audit process and industry requirements, feel free to contact us online, via email: [email protected] or call 416-249-3361.