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This page includes the most recent Urban/Rural Issues archives.
To peruse older items: September 2002-September 2005 [GO THERE]

Canadian Wind Farm Lowers Property Values Nearby; Now Rated Same as "Industrial Areas" - In one of the first tests of wind advocates' repeated claims that wind farms do not lower property values, a couple on Prince Edward Island asked for a reassessment, and found that their property had lost 10% of its value, solely due to the presence of wind turbines nearby. A spokesperson with the tax department said a handful of other residents living next to wind farms in West Prince also received lower assessments. Although the criteria for assessing property values doesn't specify turbines, the department felt the properties near windmills should be treated the same as properties near industrial areas. Beverly Howard says there are now five new turbines within sight of their home, the closest about 500 meters away. "If you're sitting out on your deck, they're noisy, if you're out gardening they're noisy," she said. "We can't hear the surf anymore in the summertime; all we hear is windmills." Source: CBC Canada, 12/23/08 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise]

Wind Turbine Noise Spurs Health Complaints, Force Residents to Move - The spread of wind turbines into quiet rural areas is leading to increasing complaints that they make more noise than residents were led to believe. While simple annoyance and sleep disturbance are the most common effects, in some cases, nearby residents are reporting health problems that they associate with the presence of the turbines, leading some to move from their homes. Not long after wind turbines began to spin in March near Gerry Meyer's home in Wisconsin, his son Robert, 13, and wife, Cheryl, complained of headaches. Cheryl also sometimes feels a fluttering in her chest, while Gerry is sometimes nauseated and hears crackling. The nearest turbine is 1,560 feet from Meyer's house. His dismay over an energy source he once thought was benign has made the retired mailman, 59, an activist. He travels the state warning communities considering wind farms to be wary. "I don't think anyone should have to put up with this," says Meyer, who compares the sound to a helicopter or a jet taking off. In Canada, Helen and Bill Fraser initially supported the nearby wind farm in Melancthon, Ont. One turbine sat close to the Fraser's kitchen window. "We thought, more green energy, this is great," Helen told CTV News. However, Helen says she developed headaches, body aches and she had trouble sleeping. The dog began wetting the floor at night. "There were nights I was lying in bed and my heart would beat to the pulse of the turbine. It was an uneasy feeling," Helen said. Ernie Marshall at first supported the wind farm that was placed near his home near Goderich, Ont. However, he also says that once the turbines got rolling, his health began to suffer. "I had problems with my heart, with my eyes, my digestive system," Marshall told CTV News. "It traumatizes your whole body." Some affected residents can only sell their homes and move away. The Frasers left their home of 32 years and moved to nearby Shelburne, Ont. They say their symptoms have, for the most part, vanished. Ernie Marshall moved to the town of Seaforth, Ont., which is several kilometers away from the turbines near his former home. "I had to get out or I wouldn't be standing here talking to you," Marshall said.

wisconsin wind farm
Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project, Wisconsin
Photo: WE Energies [IMAGE SOURCE]

Dr. Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician in upstate New York, has interviewed dozens of people who live near windmills in Canada, the United States and Europe. Her soon-to-be released book, Wind Turbine Syndrome, documents the litany of health problems experienced by some people who have wind farms near their homes. Some early findings suggest that wind turbines create a high intensity, low frequency sound that may have an effect on the body. Not only can the sound potentially cause debilitating illness. Some researchers believe that the vibrations the sound causes in the inner ear may lead to vibro-acoustic disease, which can cause dizziness, nausea and sleep disturbances. However, officials with the Canadian Wind Energy Association point to a handful of studies they say prove that windmills lead to few, if any, adverse health effects. "We know there have been complaints about health impacts of wind turbines," Sean Whittaker of the Canadian Wind Energy Association told CTV News. "On the other hand, we know there are some 10,000 turbines installed across North America and complaints have been relatively few." The issue has not just put experts at odds. Communities across North America are divided between residents who say local windmills have made them sick and their neighbors who don't believe them. "Everyone was calling me a liar," Ernie Marshall said. "It don't matter who you talk to. You bring 'em out here and they'll say that noise don't bother us. Sit there for a week under that and listen to it and see what it does to your body." The inconsistencies in the early research, coupled with the fact that some residents who live near wind turbines complain of such a wide array of symptoms, are evidence that further study is needed to determine if Wind Turbine Syndrome is a problem, how big of one and what should be done, experts say. "Depending on your distance you'll have 30, 40, 50 per cent of people who are troubled, but not 100 per cent," Dr. Robert McMurtry of the University of Western Ontario told CTV News. "That's why it's important to do these studies to see just how many are troubled and how real it is." Sources: Sympatico/MSN Canada, 10/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] USA Today, 11/4/08 [READ ARTICLE] Daily Tech, 8/13/08 [READ ARTICLE] See also Wind Turbine Syndrome website [WEBSITE]

Wind Turbine Setback Requirements Vary Widely: From 300m to 1.5km - Underlying the spreading controversy about noise and health effects of wind turbines is the "million dollar question" for wind farm developers: how large a buffer must they leave between turbine towers and homes? In the US, pressure is on local and state authorities who are scrambling to write regulations to govern wind farm development, and many areas have taken the industry's reassurances to heart, allowing towers as close as 300 meters (1000 feet) from homes. By contrast, Shear Wind, a Canadian wind developer, recently agreed to re-design an proposed wind farm to assure no turbines are any closer than 1.4km (1400m) from a residence. Ian Tillard, chief operating officer for Shear Wind Inc., says the company pored over the letters submitted in response to the assessment and is working to address them. "We've taken every single concern to heart," Tillard said. "We've pulled out every concern from those letters and engaged folks to look at the issues." In Illinois, ten wind towers were removed from the controversial White Oak Energy Center after a settlement between homeowners and the Invenergy Wind, opening the door to construction of the 100-tower project; while part of the agreement was to not disclose the details, we can assume that the developer was responding to concerns about the proximity of towers to homes, and does not want to be held to similar setbacks on a routine basis.

Novia Scotia windfarm
Pubnico Point Windfarm, Nova Scotia; d'Entremont family home, now abandoned
Photo courtesy DangerWind.org (web site by the d'Entremont family, advocating 1-mile setbacks)

The turbines at the Wisconsin wind farm noted above are required to be 440 feet from property lines and at least 1,000 feet (300m) from homes. Provincial governments in Canada generally call for a 400 meter setback from buildings. On the other end of the spectrum, the National Academy of Medicine in France, suggests much larger setbacks, between 1.5 and two kilometers away from homes and schools. Eric Rosenbloom of National Wind Watch, an information clearinghouse, says noise and health concerns are the top issues in communities considering them. The group recommends 1-mile setbacks from homes. Rick James, an acoustical engineer from Okemos, MI, who has consulted for several municipalities, suggests keeping turbines 1.25 miles from homes. That makes sense to Larry Wunch, a firefighter who lives a few miles from the Meyers in Wisconsin. Turbines encircle his property, and when the wind tops 15 mph, he says, they "just scream." The closest is 1,100 feet from his house. Wunch says the wind farm has created tension between opponents and those who have them on their property in exchange for annual payments that Dennison says are about $5,000 a year. "It's really turned our township upside down," he says. Meanwhile, some localities are aiming for a happy medium that they hope will minimize complaints: a half-mile (800 meter) setback from property boundaries or a slightly less strict half-mile from homes. Surprisingly, even this relatively modest proposal has wind companies complaining that it will drive them away. In Union, Wisconsin, such an ordinance was passed recently, under the assumption that it would prevent the construction of three proposed turbines. Sources: New Glasgow News, 11/2/08 [READ ARTICLE] USA Today, 11/4/08 [READ ARTICLE] (Wisconsin) Daily Reporter, 11/3/08 [READ ARTICLE] Sympatico/MSN Canada, 10/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] (Bloomington) Pantagraph, 10/28/08 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

Local Councils Struggle With Noise Measurement for Wind Farms - Local authorities are struggling to make sense of conflicting advice about how best to prepare realistic and useful regulations to govern wind farm developments in their rural areas. In both Clayton and Cape Vincent, New York, town councils are working to balance input from noise engineers with different approaches to the issue. In Clayton, a noise analysis from the developer's acoustical engineers was critiqued by a firm contracted by the town, but its report was deemed "too complicated" for public release. Indeed, even the town Board members only received a 2-page Executive Summary. The same engineering firm, Cavanaugh Tocci Associates (CTA), also critiqued a noise study commissioned by the developers of the Cape Vincent Wind Farm. A key issue is that New York state guidelines suggest noise emissions be held to no more than 6dB over the current ambient background level; CTA has, among other things, questioned the developers' assessments of the current ambient sound levels and urged consideration of low frequency sound. CTA stresses that even if wind farms meet absolute standards such as 50dB (proposed in Clayton), there will be many times when they exceed the 6dB limit and cause impacts on residents. Sources: Watertown Daily Times, 11/1/08 [READ ARTICLE] Watertown Daily Times, 8/25/08 [READ ARTICLE] WindAction, 10/8/08 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

Noise-Dampening System Being Developed for Wind Turbines - Researchers are developing an active noise-canceling system designed to be installed on wind turbines. “These systems react autonomously to any change in frequency and damp the noise – regardless of how fast the wind generator is turning,” says André Illgen of the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden. The key components of this system are piezo actuators. These devices convert electric current into mechanical motion and generate “negative vibrations”, or a kind of anti-noise that precisely counteracts the vibrations of the wind turbine and cancels them out. The piezo actuators are mounted on the gearbox bearings that connect the gearbox to the pylon. Source: Science Daily, 8/13/08 [READ ARTICLE]

UK Couple Receive Tax Reduction After House Value Drops Due to Wind Farm Noise - Julian and Jill Davis of Deeping St. Nicholas, England, some of the better-known neighbors of wind farms with noise issues, have had their property tax reduced after being forced to move from their home, and more recently having a real estate agent decline to list the property, saying that it was un-sellable due to the noise issues. Mrs Davis said: "We are absolutely delighted. At last, there is recognition of what we have always known that wind farms inappropriately sited can materially affect the value of your property. "This opens the doors for others in a similar position to apply for a similar rebranding of their property. "Not every wind farm causes problems, but at the moment, the science is not good enough." She added that they didn't want to sell their home and would like to return. But they are forced to live "in exile" because the noise leaves them unable to get to sleep on many nights when the wind triggers a phenomenon known as "amplitude modulation" that creates a low-frequency pulsing sound. Mrs. Davis noted that the wind industry's aggressive siting procedures and denial of potential noise issues is creating a barrier for the greater use of green power. A local organization, Fenland Against Rural Turbines, has called for a complete cessation of turbine construction on land. Source: Evening Telegraph, 7/29/08 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

UK Wind Farm Plan Abandoned; Developer Cites Responsibility to Avoid Noise Problems for Neighbors - Plans for a modest-sized wind farm in rural Wales have been abandoned after one of the developers decided that it would have to be cut in half to meet local noise standards. While energy company E.On had hoped to build a 10 megawatt, 8-turbine wind farm, their analysis showed that only a 5 megawatt project would avoid causing a "noise nuisance" to nearby homes, and they could not justify investing in the smaller project. E.On's head of new business Danny Shaw said: "We certainly didn't take this decision lightly but, as a responsible developer, we simply wouldn't be willing to build a scheme that we thought had the potential to exceed acceptable noise limits." E.On's planned partner, Arts Factory, hopes to proceed with the smaller project. Arts Factory chief executive Elwyn James said, "We're disappointed obviously, although we would be just as cautious as E.On about the possibility of causing noise disturbance." Source: BBC News. 7/2/08 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

Towns Seek Setbacks for Wind Turbines to Protect Residents from Noise, Companies Concerned - Across the eastern and central United States and Canada, small towns are writing ordinances to govern wind farm development, grappling with uncertainty about reasonable buffer zones to assure that residents will not be disturbed by turbine noise. In recent months, stories about several specific wind farms that have caused noise complaints have circulated more widely, raising local concerns elsewhere about the common practice of using 1000- to 1500-foot setbacks (with Mars Hill in Maine and Allegheny Ridge in Pennsylvania being the most commonly cited). The research and testimony of two doctors, one in New York and one in Italy, and several acoustics consultants, all of whom advocate for much larger buffers between large turbines and residences, are beginning to influence local towns to adopt more stringent ordinances, which energy companies say will severely limit their abilty to find suitable sites for wind farms. The Lyme (NY) Town Counil recently required that turbines remain 4500 feet from Lake Ontario, a local river and two villages. The Logan Township (PA) Board of Supervisors tabled a scheduled vote on a new ordinance that would establish a 2500 setback from neighboring property lines, deciding they need to gather more information, especially about noise impacts. "You guys aren't going to pick up [the wind turbines] and move them," Supervisor Ed Frontino said. Supervisors Chairman Frank Meloy said he visited Todd and Jill Stull in Juniata Township, who recently sued the company that built turbines that created much more noise than promised. He and other township officials toured that farm last week with Gamesa representatives. "I would not want to live with that noise day in and day out," Meloy said. Meanwhile, the Chatham-Kent (Ontario) Council discussed proposals from Councilor Jim Brown to establish mandatory setbacks of up to 1.5km based on commercial or residential nature of the location. "I don't believe we have formal enough zoning in place - we have to have something firm," said Brown. "We should have these setbacks in place before we go any further." Establishing a clear scientific, and thus legally defensible, basis for any given setback is very difficult, leading Brown's fellow councilors to call for more information. And in West Providence (PA), the Township instituted an ordinance that requires a 2500 foot setback from any neighboring residence, and 2000 feet from property lines. The accompanying noise limits are relatively modest, at 45dB; Calumet County (WI) recently adopted a much more stringent noise limit [SEE RELATED STORY] Sources: Watertown Daily Times, 5/7/08 [READ ARTICLE] Altoona Mirror, 5/9/08 [READ ARTICLE] Chatham Daily News, 5/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] West Providence Wind Ordinance, 4/7/08 [READ EXCERPT]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

The City Where You Can't Hear Yourself Scream - Noise levels in Cairo are likely higher than in any other city in the world, thanks to incredible density of people and social habits that include incessant horn-honking in the streets. Scientists with the National Research Center spent five years studying noise levels across the city and concluded in a report issued this year that the average noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train 15 feet away, said Mustafa el Sayyid, an engineer who helped carry out the study. But that 85 decibels, while "clearly unacceptable," is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer. "The noise bothers me and I know it bothers people," said Abdel Khaleq, driver of a battered black and white taxi, as he paused from honking his horn to stop for passengers. Asked why he kept honking, he replied, "Well, to tell you I'm here. There is no such thing as logic in this country." And then he drove off, honking. Source: International Herald Tribune, 4/14/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Pennsylvania Couple Sues to Stop Noise from Wind Farm - Todd and Jill Stull of Portage, Pennsylvania have sued the operators of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, alleging that the turbines near their homes create noise in excess of local regulatory limits. Attorney Bradley Tupi, representing the Stulls, alleges in the lawsuit that Gamesa Energy misrepresented to local officials the noise levels from the turbines to get approvals for construction of the wind farm. "They assured the officials in the township in question that the turbines would be quiet. The turbines are quite loud. They wake Dr. Stull up and he must go to the basement to sleep," Tupi said Thursday. In April, Stull told Portage Township officials the excess noise does not occur all of the time, but is determined by operating speed, wind velocity and direction and other conditions. Neighbors living nearby have complained for months that - during some weather and wind conditions - the turbines operate more loudly than the 45 decibels spelled out in local laws, a sound level that is compared to the sound of a residential refrigerator. Stull calls that comparison laughable. "This must be Paul Bunyan's refrigerator sitting on my hill. That's ridiculous," he said at a recent Portage Township supervisors meeting at which plans to hire outside sound consultants to measure noise levels. Gamesa and Allegheny Ridge have filed petitions seeking court dismissal of the lawsuit, denying that the wind farm is noisy and stating that the company has governmental approval to operate the farm. No date has been set for a hearing, but the companies are asking Blair County President Judge Jolene Kopriva to dismiss the lawsuit as unfounded. In papers filed on behalf of Allegheny Ridge, the company contends that the noise level from the farm amounts to 70 decibels, which "equates to the noise of an average radio or normal street noise." Sources: Tribune-Democrat, 5/4/08 [READ ARTICLE] [ARCHIVED SOURCE] Altoona Mirror, 6/19/08 [READ ARTICLE] Tribune-Democrat, 4/28/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Wisconsin Country Implements Strict Noise Regulations on Wind Turbines; Company Declares "War to End All Wars" - Calumet County, in eastern Wisonsin, recently faced a dilemma that is increasingly common in rural America: an outside company had appeared in their region, planning to build wind farms and seeking permits. Many local governmental bodies have taken a cursory look at complex reports submitted by companies, taken assurances of "no noise" at face value, and later regretted not learning more. The Calument County Board of Supervisors took two years to consider the issue, and in March instituted a carefully considered ordinance to govern wind farm development that is exceedingly (perhaps even excessively) weighted toward protection of local residents from noise impacts. Two requirements are especially striking: a requirement that turbine noise not exceed 5dB over the current background sound levels during the quietest part of the day (night) will assure that turbines will not make any dramatic changes the overall sonic ambience of the rural landscape, and a related requirement that excessive low-frequency noise at any nearby residence will require shut-down of the offending turbine. In addition, when the turbine noise is repetitive (as can occur due to blades passing the tower), or contains pure tones (occasionally caused by mechanical issues), the 5dB requirement is futher reduced to 0dB. Both of these requirements likely far exceed the protections that would be imposed by the setback standard, which is 1800 feet. Midwest Wind Energy, the company planning the wind farm, responded two days later by announcing that these requirements would preclude the development, and that it would expand its plans (combining turbines proposed for several towns and adding a few turbines), so that the project is large enough to become subject to state regulation, superceding the local ordinance. Despite the delays (18 months plus litigation time) and cost ($2 to 4 million dollars), the company said that it is "fully committed to this effort as we now see this as "the war to end all wars" regarding wind power in Wisconsin." Indeed, even local officials concur that the company likely has the guns to win this war: "It's just a matter of time," said Peter Dorn, a member of the county's Planning, Zoning and Farmland Preservation Committee. "Any time the state government steps in and recognizes its dealing with a big industry, local control is going to end." Still, there is a sense that local ordinances such as this, and another county which imposed a one-mile setback, could influence state regulators and legislators to give due consideration to local concerns about noise impacts. Sources: Calument County Press Release, 3/20/08 [READ PRESS RELEASE] [CALUMENT COUNTY ORDINANCE] Tri-County News, 3/26/08 [READ ARTICLE] Daily Reporter, 3/18/08 [READ ARTICLE] Midwest Wind Energy Memorandum, 3/20/08 [READ MEMO] Post-Crescent, 3/15/08 [READ ARTICLE]
Ed. note: This is perhaps a prelude of similar debates that are likely to occur as experiences of those closest to wind farms spread to other rural communities; while the specifics of the Calumet County regulations are extreme (though not necessarily inappropriate), it is clear that the laissez-faire attitudes of the past have led to real problems for many people living within a half mile or mile of turbines. [See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

Wind Turbine Syndrome: Can Wind Farm Noise Make People Sick? - While reports of nearby industrial wind farms causing annoyance with their noise are becoming fairly common, a physician who has been looking at the most severe complaints has coined a phrase: “wind turbine syndrome.” Nina Pierpont, a New York pediatrician who has taught at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, has found a consistent cluster of symptoms associated with people living under wind turbines, including sleep problems, headaches that increase in severity, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, anger and irritability. “A setback of 1.5 miles from homes, schools, hospitals and similar institutes will probably be adequate … to protect people from the adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines,” she recommended to the New York legislature. In UK, MD Amanda Harry’s research documented 39 people living from 1,000 feet to about 1.5 miles from turbines whose health was clearly being affected. She found that the sounds fluctuated, depending on the wind strength and direction. But she wrote that she thought the cases she found were only “the tip of the iceberg.” At the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, professor Mariana Alves-Pereira has found that sounds occurring at or below the frequency band 500 Hz could cause a similar set of symptoms that she has termed “vibro-acoustic” disease. Last year her research team obtained detailed acoustical measurements of a home near four turbines, and Pereira concluded that the sounds were high enough to be associated with vibro-acoustic disease. Kenneth Smith, a Kansas City area audiologist, says such low-frequency sounds can cause health disorders — but cautions that much more study needs to be done on turbines. “This has to make you nervous as a scientist,” said Smith, a founder of Hearing Associates and a fellow with the American Academy of Audiology. “It’s risky to draw conclusions.” Source: Kansas City Star, 4/12/08 [READ ARTICLE] [NINA PIERPONT WEBSITE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

Urban Noise Threatens Dawn Chorus and Bird Populations - European researchers are increasingly concerned about accumulating evidence that urban and suburban noise is having dramatic effects on bird populations. Some birds may be adapting by developing new behaviors, perhaps changing dramatically enough to be considered new species: nightengales sing up to 14dB more loudly in the city (some at 95dB, enough to cause discomfort to human ears), great tits are singing at a higher pitch, and robins have abandoned their noisy dawn (i.e. rush hour) chorus and now sing at night, when it is quieter. Birds must hear each other in order to mate and warn each other of predators. Declining populations of house sparrows (down by two-thirds over the past couple of decades) and overall bird populations (down 20% in the past four years) could be due to difficulty in finding mates, or abandonment of urban and suburban habitat. Source: Daily Mail, 3/26/08 [READ ARTICLE]

New Mexico Town Resists Air Force Training Noise - Residents of Socorro, New Mexico, are raising their voices to question Air Force plans to move low-altitude training missions to a 40-square mile "field laboratory" outside town, run by New Mexico Tech. Notice of the proposal was largely absent, with neither local newspaper reporting on the plan. A local resident discovered the plan just a week before public comment closed on an environmental assessment released in December. He and other residents learned that each operation (dropping supply packs and 1.5-ton pallets) would involve 15 passes over the zone, at ground-skimming altitudes of between 150-300 feet. C-130s hit the noise meter somewhere between a lawnmower and a table saw, at perhaps 15 to 20 decibels beneath the pain threshold. The Air Force said it wanted to move to Socorro because increasing civilian air traffic limited use of drop zones near Albuquerque. An alternate zone at an air base near Roswell also costs too much, it added -- about $122,000 per year. Among the concerns is that the drop zone is just the beginning. The Energetic Materials Testing Center will soon seek a “special-use airspace” designation for its entire 40-square-mile area. According to the environmental assessment, this will enable it “to conduct … air-to-ground gunnery” and blow up things that might project debris thousands of feet into the air. Source: High Country News, 2/11/08 [READ ARTICLE]

New San Diego Commuter Train Quieter Than Many Expected - The new Sprinter commuter train has begun test runs along lines that closely abut many residential areas in North County, CA, near San Diego. First impressions seem positive, with many residents noting the much quieter horns being used as the train approaches the many road crossings: the car-like horn sounds at just 85dB, as compared to standard freight and commuter train horns at 107dB. Tom Kelleher, a spokesman for the transit district, said he always expected the public to find the Sprinter much easier to live with than other passenger trains that traverse North County. "I think people really thought it was going to be like a Coaster type of engine," he said. "We're glad they're starting to realize that it's not." In Oceanside, Brett Albright, whose home is near College and Oceanside boulevards, said the Sprinter's warning horn does not make him cringe. "College (Boulevard) is more noisy than the train. It's not an issue for me. I don't really notice it," Albright said, as a semi-tractor-trailer released its cacophonous brake in the background, filling the neighborhood with a pulsing roar. Plans to create Quiet Zones, where barriers would allow trains to pass without blowing their horn at all, are in flux as municipalities monitor the new trains. In Vista, the city will see whether the full schedule of trains spurs more complaints, while in San Marcos, city Engineer Mike Edwards said, "It's quiet enough that we no longer feel it's necessary." Source: North County Times, 1/5/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Long Island Helicopters Cause a Ruckus - Increasing helicopter and small plane traffic ferrying wealthy weekenders to and from eastern Long Island is raising concerns about impacts on wildlife and residents. At the East Hampton airport, overall traffic has risen 42 percent in the past two years, due largely to frustration at increasingly congested roads. While ninety percent of local residents have never used the airport, low-flying helicopters that eschew the voluntary flight paths and requirement to stay above 2000 feet are causing the most complaints: "We’ve had enough,” said Bill Reilly of Noyac. From Thursday through Tuesday there are between 70 and 100 flights per day below 2,000 feet, he said. When the helicopters fly over, conversations must cease, lightbulbs flicker, and glasses crack, he said. According to sound engineer Jerome Goodman, the noise from low frequency emissions is more than a nuisance; he stated that studies have shown that regular exposure to such noise actually promotes physiological changes in the body, specifically, a rise in blood pressure. Resident Laura Auerbach believes him. As she clocks up to 20 pass-overs an hour, she says she can "feel her blood boil." Protected woods and wetlands in eastern Long Island are home to diverse wildlife, including Piping Plovers, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Terns, Red-Tailed Hawks, and Great Horned Owls. East Hampton cancelled its fourth of July fireworks display in deference to the nesting Piping Plovers, though local nature reserves continue to bear the brunt of increasing air traffic. Planning underway to modernize the airport, which is currently unregulated (ie, pilots sort out traffic among themselves) does not include any environmental assessment. Sources: New York Times, 8/3/07 [READ ARTICLE] East Hampton Star, 7/28/07 [READ ARTICLE] Great Neck Record, 8/10/07 [READ ARTICLE] East Hampton Press, 8/1/07 [NOT ONLINE]

Cicada Cacophony Nears Dangerous Levels - An extremely large annual cicada brood is driving Illinois residents to distraction with its noise. "I was hoping they were on the wane, but good God," said Mary Coen. "It's dreadful. I don't mind cicadas. I have no problem with them. They're friendly. But it's the noise. By midday, I get a headache. So I'm ready for it to be over." In northern Illinois, the insects have emerged by the billions, shed their skins and now are ready to mate. That means they're letting loose with a mating call so loud that it can be heard in speeding cars over the engine, tire and wind noise. "You can't hear yourself talk," said Coen, 62, of Downers Grove. In an area dense with cicadas, the noise can exceed 90 decibels, about as loud as a bulldozer. Exposure to 91 decibels of sound for two hours, or 94 decibels for one hour, could begin to cause some permanent hearing damage, according to Billy Martin, a hearing scientist at Oregon Health & Science University. John Fitzloff, 67, heard it this week in Lombard as he mowed the lawn of a home he's lived in for 35 years. Cicadas clung to his shoulder and the leg of his jeans. Countless shells from cicada nymphs ringed the base of his American basswood tree. The stench of rotting cicada corpses hung in the air. "This is definitely the worst of the three [emergences since] I've been living here," Fitzloff said. "The kids in the neighborhood thought it was great, the ones who'd never seen them before, but after a week that wore off." Source: Chicago Tribune, 6/8/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Ontario Hearing Focuses on Wind Turbine Noise - The appellants of the Enbridge Ontario Wind Power project in Kincardine wrapped up their portion of the turbine noise arguments at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing last week. The hearing reconvened after the holiday weekend on May 23, with testimony by meteorological and atmospheric specialist Dr. Jim Young, who sat for part of Thursday as well. He was followed by acoustic engineer John Coulter later that day, with Enbridge and the Municipality cross-examining him on Friday. Both were arguing that there will be unwanted noise impacts to local residents, if the turbines remain in their current proximity to homes; the closest of which is 450 metres. A key argument was that wind can be stronger and louder at 80 and 100 metres off the ground, while being calmer and quieter closer to ground level at 10 and 30 metres, where measurements have been taken. These conditions or ‘barometric layering’, which Young argues are more pronounced within the Municipality of Kincardine, make for louder and more audible turbine noises at quieter times in the evening and in the fall and winter months. Possible solutions to address the problem would be to site the turbines further away from homes, install technology to dampen the sound, or slow the turbine if it exceeds the noise regulations. Source: Kincardine News/WindEnergy Action, 5/29/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Noisy Cities Spur Birds to Sing at Night - A recent study in the UK has linked increases in night-time bird calls with daytime noise levels in cities. "You generally only seem to hear nocturnal singing in cities," explained Richard Fuller, one of the study's co-authors. While such urban night-time birdcalls had longed been assumed to be caused by lighting "tricking" birds into thinking it was daytime, the cause and effect had never been investigated. The study found that while there was a small effect associated with light levels, a far larger factor was noise levels. "The birds appear to be singing at night to avoid competition with high noise levels caused by our cities during the day," Dr Fuller suggested. "Noise levels were 10 times higher in places where birds were singing at night." Source: BBC, 4/25/07 [READ ARTICLE] The Guardian, 4/25/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Wind Turbines Too Noisy, Say Mainers, Texans - Two small communities, very different landscapes, one issue: the whooshing of wind turbines. While proponents have long claimed that the sound of the blades is inadudible, or nearly so, above the sound of the wind that drives them, communities near small wind farms are finding that "insignificant noise" is in the ears of the beholder. In Shallowater, Texas, the local school district installed a small wind farm that is saving $75,000 per year in electricity costs. But Chad Dugger, whose house is 225 feet from the nearest turbine, “I can hear them when they turn off and turn back on. It’s extremely loud in the house I can hear it at night even with the TV on in the living room,” says Dugger. Another area resident, who want to remain anonymous, says, “It’s a pulsating sound just a ‘whooooo’, that’s the part that bothers you.” To some living nearby the sound is not a problem. “Most of the time sort of harmonic you know, just kinda ‘swish, swish’ every once in a while,” says Shallowater resident Dawayne Pounds. Resident Amy Garland adds, “It’s just a humming sound, not a bad sound." Meanwhile, the Freedom, Maine Board of Appeals overturned earlier approval of three turbines, saying that earlier faulty background ambient noise data had been used, and that the turbines would exceed the town's noise standards. Source: KCBD Lubbock 3/3/07 [READ ARTICLE] Maine Today, 3/9/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Maine Windfarm Surprises Neighbors With Noise - A new windfarm in Mars Hill, Maine began powering up in recent weeks, and neighbors were surprised to find that the noise was loud enough to hear on the phone and keep them awake. A little digging found that the permit for the windfarm, approved with minimal oversight, predicted noise levels at nearby houses could exceed state standards. The 28-turbine windfarm is New England's largest; with 16 currently in operation, six formal noise complaints have been filed. “One night, I kept wondering why the furnace wouldn’t shut off and then I realized it wasn’t that, it was the windmills outside,” Merle Cowperthwaite said. He feels particularly pessimistic about the wind turbines. “The only thing we’ve got going for us is we’re getting older and that means we’re getting deafer,” he said. State, local, and windfarm officials are investigating. Source: Bangor Daily News/WindAction, 1/27/07 [READ ARTICLE] Followup: Town Council fields citizen complaints: "We were told from day one that the noise was not an issue," council Chairman Todd Grass told the crowd. "As far as us trying to railroad you into having to live with these ... there’s no way we ever would have done that." Mersereau said the DEP’s findings in the permit state that "the applicants’ project will not have an unreasonable adverse impact on protected locations..." The real human impact, one resident pointed out, is that he can’t sleep at night without a fan blowing in his room to drown out the sound of the wind turbines. Source: Bangor Daily News, 1/31/07 [READ ARTICLE]
Related: Amplitude Modulation of Low Frequency Noise investigated as source of disruptive wind turbine noise - A couple in Lincolnshire, England have been driven from their home by nightytime noise from a windfarm over a half mile away. "It sounds like a train coming towards you that never arrives," said Jane Davis. The noise is a whooshing pulse that is triggered in certain wind conditions; the phenomenon, known as Amplitude Modulation, is being studied by a government panel, the Wind Turbine Noise Working Group. Source: Farmer's Weekly, 1/12/07 [READ ARTICLE(pdf)]
[SEE WIND ACTION ARCHIVE OF NOISE-RELATED NEWS ITEMS]

Study Confirms Birds' Changing Songs in Cities - Field studies in ten European cities, including London, Paris, and Prague, have confirmed that great tits adapt their songs to be better heard above a variety of noise conditions. The city-dwelling birds, a species that has adapted well to urban settings, were compared to forest-dwelling birds nearby. In songs important for mate attractions and territory defense, the urban songs were shorter and sung faster than the forest songs. The urban songs also showed an upshift in frequency that is consistent with the need to compete with low-frequency environmental noise, such as traffic noise. The capacity of great tits to sing within a relatively wide frequency range, and the ability to adjust songs by leaving out lower frequencies, seems critical to the bird's ability to thrive despite urban noise. Species without these capacities may have no other choice than to escape city life. An earlier study by the same researchers had identified frequency differences in great tit songs in one urban area, reflecting the amoung of low-frequency noise they had to be heard above; this study expands the findings to include many populations of tits, and compares urban to rural populations. Source: ScienceDaily, 12/5/06 [READ ARTICLE] [HEAR AND SEE AUDIO FILES OF URBAN AND RURAL SONGS]

New Airplane Design Aims for Near-silent Jets - A research consortium from Cambridge and MIT charged with reducing the noise of jet aircraft has designed a wedge-shaped plane that they claim would be quiet enough to be barely perceptible to neighbors during take-off. By mounting the engines above the plane, providing some sonic shadowing, and reducing flaps and other noise-producing elements, the plane will also be much quieter for passengers. Because of the need to expand airports in ever-more-populous suburban areas, noise reduction is becoming a key element in airplane design. This prototype has yet to pass through a phalynx of commercial, passenger comfort, and other design challenges and is not expected to be built for 25 years; until then, more efficient and quieter jet engines promise to make incremental reductions in airliner noise. Source: Wired News, 11/15/06 [READ ARTICLE] BBC News, 11/6/06 [READ ARTICLE]
Cambridge/MIT project website [WEBSITE]

Low Flying Copters Disrupt Nesting Birds, Lambing Sheep - Low-flying helicopter training missions in the UK have suddenly become louder, after the shift to a new 'copter. National Park authorities claim that the Ministry of Defence has ignored an agreements to work together on the timing of flights, leading to disruption of nesting birds and triggering anxious calls from sheep farmers whos ewes are being startled during lambing; a Parks spokesman called the Ministry's lack of concern "disturbing and arrogant." An Army spokesman responded that "We are very sympathetic of other peoples needs, but we have needs too. The Ministry of Defence is committed to ensuring that low-flying training across the UK is spread as widely as is practically possible so that no single area is too burdened." Source: Guardian, 6/19/06 [READ ARTICLE]

Modern Train Horns Raise Ire of Rural Residents - Across rural England, complaints are pouring in about the sound of new train horns. Sheila Kolstoe, 57, lives near a crossing. "I've lived here since 1987 and it wasn't until the new trains were introduced that horns became a problem," she said. "It used to be a dull noise the body could absorb, but now it's two-tone and causes stress and sleep deprivation. It's like a form of torture. Imagine every time you go to sleep you get woken up every 20 minutes by a noise louder than a pneumatic drill." Residents in Leicestershire have the same problem. Janet Barkby lives a quarter of a mile from a foot crossing in Barrow-on-Soar. "It's got louder, the length of the noise has got longer and it's a more piercing sound than it used to be. Safety is paramount but when you consider it's only a foot level crossing and it's not very busy, it seems a little over-the-top." The Noise Abatement Society says it has received 17,000 complaints in the last couple of years, from across the UK, and describes train horns as the worst noise pollution facing the country. Peter Ainsworth, MP for East Surrey, has proposed a motion in Parliament, backed by 70 MPs, which calls for train companies to install the broadband horns used in the US, at a cost of £700 each, or revert to the old horns. Guidance on horns is issued by the Rail Standards Safety Board which revised the rules in 2003 in response to complaints, lowering the minimum decibel level from 120 to 112. Source: BBC, 1/30/06 [READ ARTICLE]

Rap Signs Spur Skateboarders to Quiet Down - Skateboarders passing through Parkgate Community Center in North Vancouver, a condo development with quaint brick pathways, were created a racket. So, the local park department created signs, painted on old skateboards, that let them know that their noise was a problem:
Yo.....skater, Seriously speakin’, We like your kick flips, But your trucks are squeakin’
The noise is loud, And the old folks are freakin’, They can’t take a nap, The blood pressure’s peakin’
Laughin’ and talkin’, While you’re WALKIN’, When you do that, Then nobody’s squawkin’
Though the signs were soon stolen, boarders have continued to walk since their posting. Source: District of North Vancouver website [WEBSITE]

Hospital Noise Hampers Healing - A review of 20 years of studies of hospital noise indicates that not one facility has met World Health Organization noise standards. A team from John Hopkins University Hospital, considered America's top hospital, began close to home; they discovered that even the newest wings, designed with acoustics in mind, routinely exceed standards. WHO standards for hospitals are undeniablty stringent: 35 dB during the day, 30dB at night, about the sound level of a loud whisper. However, since the establishment of the standards, noise levels have been rising, from around 40dB in the 1960s, to about 60dB today, the level of a person talkking loudly. Low frequency noise from air conditioning, the beeping of machines, and the reverabations caused by hard walls (best for sanitation), all contribute to the problem. Intensive care units are, ironically, especially noisy. "People have been complaining about hospital noise for years, but little has been done about the problem," says Johns Hopkins acoustic engineer James West. It seems the complaints have actually been going on for centuries. Florence Nightingale wrote in 1859: "Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care which can be inflicted either on sick or well." It isn't just a matter of disturbing the patients' peace, the researchers say. Noise contributes to stress in hospital staff, and some studies have suggested that their memory and other mental functions can be impaired by it. And high sound levels have been found to slow down wound healing. Source: Nature News, 12/20/05 [READ ARTICLE]

Japanese Court Orders Payments to Compensate for US Air Base Noise - A Tokyo appeals court ordered the Japanese government Wednesday to pay more than $27 million in compensation to residents affected by noise from a U.S. air base, raising the amount awarded by a lower court. The Tokyo High Court, however, rejected the plaintiffs' demands for state compensation for future damage and the suspension of early morning and late night flights from Yokota Air Base in Tokyo's western suburbs, saying that was beyond the jurisdiction of the Japanese government. "In order to live like a human being and recover the nights we can sleep through, we will continue our effort to eradicate the noise pollution," plaintiff Yoichi Toyama said. Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/30/05 [READ ARTICLE]

Boeing Project Aims to Quiet Jets - Boeing and several industry partners are designing new technologies to reduce the noise levels of jet engines. The Quiet Technology Demonstrator 2 used Boeing 777-300ER with GE90-115B engines, already the quietest airplane in its class; it was fitted with eight different noise-reduction engine inle and exhaust combinations on the right wing, and the baseline production engine on the left wing. The most striking improvements came from a sound-absorbing liner on the engine intake, which reduced fan tones heard in the front of the aircraft by up to 15 decibels. Source: Azom.com, 11/15/05 [READ ARTICLE] GE News Release, 11/05 [READ PRESS RELEASE]

Moderate Noise Exposure Increases Heart Attack Risk - A major new study of heart attack risk looked at the effect of chronic exposure to moderate environmental (traffic) and workplace noise. After controlling for other more classic risk factors, researchers found a significant increase in heart attacks in men (doubled risk) and women (tripled risk) exposed to environmental noise, and in men exposed to workplace noise. The risk seemed to increase as sound increased, up to about 60-65dB, after which risk leveled out. Current workplace noise standards range from 90dB in the US to 85 in most of Europe; 60dB is a typical noise level in a busy large office while 85dB is equivalent to road construction equipment, according to the scientists. One explanation was that noise might increase psychological stress and anger, causing physical changes such as increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones linked to increased blood pressure. Especially interesting was that annoyance about noise was not related to risk, while the actual exposure level was. These findings may also raise questions about risks to animals exposed to human noise, where stress may also be triggered, especially if annoyance (as evidenced in animals by avoidance of noise) is not a reliable measure of impact. Sources: MedPageToday, 11/23/05 [READ ARTICLE] Reuters/Alternet, 11/24/05 [READ ARTICLE] The Australian, 11/25/05 [READ ARTICLE]

Suburbanites Feel the CBM Pressure - While ranchers throughout the west have been dealing for years with the increasing development of subsurface mineral rights on their land for years, most recently with the skyrocketing of coalbed methane wells and noisy pumping stations, a subdivision 35 miles from Jackson, Wyoming is now bringing suburbanites the spector of traffic, noise, aquifer depletion, and air quality degredation that accompanies oil and gas development. "To kind of plunk this thing down on a subdivision that has 140 homes without any notice is shocking," said a homeowner spokeswoman, "Most of us can understand development on the Anticline or on the Jonah Field, but on this level, near homes, some people that's their only home, and everything they have is tied up in there." Source: Casper Star-Tribune, 11/9/05 [READ ARTICLE]

Aural Historian Receives MacArthur Grant - Emily Thompson, author of the book Soundscape of Modernity, has received a MacArthur "genius" grant. In her book, The Soundscape of Modernity, she integrates the histories of the United States, technology, science, sound production, and acoustics to examine the transformation of the American soundscape from the turn of the century to the opening of Radio City Music Hall in 1933. Thompson organizes her work around developments in twentieth-century architecture, such as new concert halls and new building materials, and explores innovations in the science of acoustics, the emergence of excessive noise, and the efforts of scientists and designers to create new spaces and a new, “modern” sound. Source: MacArthur press release, 10/3/05 [READ PRESS RELEASE] [HEAR NPR STORY]

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