New Rules Pressure Large Facilities to Keep it Down

Noise abatement action plans to comply with NPC-300

In Ontario, environmental noise pollution has been regulated since the 1970s and is currently controlled under the Environmental Protection Act by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). Before the mid 2000s, however, noise pollution was simply not a major consideration for operating a commercial or light-industrial facility in Ontario, and many facilities still in operation today have existed since before that time. In addition, many facilities have also experienced significant encroachment of residential development in their vicinity since the date of their construction. As a result, many facilities that at one time had no need to consider their noise impact on the surrounding environment, are now finding themselves out of compliance with MOECC noise regulations: (NPC-300); or the cause of ongoing noise complaints, and are under pressure to remediate their operations.

Even if a facility gets their Acoustic Assessment Report (AAR), to the noise control engineer tasked with developing a noise abatement action plan (NAAP) to remediate a facility in this situation, this can present a particularly interesting challenge for two reasons:

  1. Many of these facilities are vast in scale and will require considerable renovations to fully mitigate. Take for example the Sanofi Pasteur facility located in Toronto; and
  2. Many of these facilities have very dynamic operations with constantly changing and/or expanding equipment needs.

Both these points bear special consideration, but the second point is of particular importance because it is often overlooked, and can have very expensive implications for future operations or expansion of the facility.

To design a NAAP for a facility, it is relatively simple for a noise control engineer to provide a list of the facility noise sources and associated sound level reductions required to achieve compliance with MOECC requirements, and can be found in some AARs. However, to ensure the NAAP is both successful and cost effective for a large scale facility requiring many renovations, a skilled noise control engineer must also have comprehensive knowledge of what noise control measures are appropriate for each different noise source. Furthermore, the engineer should know what degree of noise reduction is actually feasible and the relative cost implications given the particular equipment under consideration and its operational requirements. Critical to ensuring the cost efficiency of a large scale NAAP, the noise control engineer must have a good understanding of any cost trade-offs which may be possible through increasing the level of noise mitigation on one source in order to reduce the mitigation requirement on another. Careful attention to these considerations will help a facility to control costs as well as ensure a smooth and effective NAAP implementation, to ultimately reduce noise complaints and achieve MOECC compliance.

In order to maintain as well as modify its operations, it is common for large facilities to require frequent changes or expansion of the equipment and noise sources installed at the site. When designing a NAAP for one of these facilities, it is especially important for a noise control engineer to not only mitigate the current noise impact of the facility, but to also bear special consideration and make it possible to effectively mitigate the potential future noise impact of the facility. This aspect of a NAAP for a large facility can frequently be overlooked, and as a result the facility can be faced with having to re-mitigate already installed or mitigated noise sources, or having to install prohibitively expensive or impractical noise controls on new equipment the next time a change or expansion to the facility occurs. At best, this could mean wasted money on additional costly noise controls; or at worst, this may result in the facility remaining out of compliance with noise regulations and faced with action by the MOECC. Either case is clearly undesirable, and can be avoided by careful consideration and tight collaboration between the facility owner and an experienced noise control engineer.

Many large scale industrial or commercial facilities that did not previously need to consider environmental noise emissions of their facility may now find themselves required to mitigate their noise impact on the surrounding environment, following NPC-300. Although development of a noise abatement action plan for a large facility can present unique challenges, comprehensive knowledge of the equipment and operations as well as special consideration for future development will ensure successful and effective mitigation of facility noise while keeping costs down.

If you would like to learn more about this complex, but workable process, please contact us at [email protected].