Questions surrounding project construction and operation noise are on the rise because of increased public involvement and the availability of information on the internet — whether true or false.
Q: What can plant and environmental managers do to mitigate public noise concerns prior to construction?
A: For plant and environmental managers who are responsible for complying with noise specifications, getting in front of the noise concerns during the preconstruction analysis stage, or even in the design, can do more than satisfy local requirements — it’ll also keep them in good standing with neighbors.
Initially, most large construction projects go through some sort of siting process, which requires a noise analysis of expected operations and impacts during construction. Most states have a siting certification process through their respective public utilities commission that grants a certificate allowing construction to proceed. There typically are no actual noise permits, but siting certificates usually will include a noise limit.
To mitigate pre- and post-construction noise, a good starting point is the list of most commonly examined considerations for a particular facility type. Incorporating certain design elements can start any project off in a better position. For example, potential issues can be avoided by making sure that the vendor insulated a boiler feed pump enclosure sufficiently.
An often overlooked but relatively easy way to cut back on noise output from the start is equipment selection. Generally, each piece of proposed equipment should be considered. Instead of the actual construction noise from a large power plant, it might be the gas compressor at the edge of the property that potentially can cause an issue. For large engineer-procure-construct projects such as Dominion’s Warren County combined cycle facility, Burns & McDonnell helps design engineers mitigate noise by choosing cost-effective equipment and facility configurations.
Facility types that fall under special regulation will have guidelines and recommendations from the governing body. However, a noise professional can provide more direction on how to analyze a specific project. Wind farms typically follow local regulations, but sometimes they fall under special regulations borne from heightened awareness in recent years. For instance, Wisconsin is one state that has differing noise rules on wind farms versus other forms of power generation.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a preconstruction noise analysis, as regulations can vary by state, county and city. However, noise should be a topic of conversation before the start of any project — for the benefit and comfort of all.