PEOPLE living near North Vancouver’s industrial waterfront have complained about noise from shunting trains and whining fans for decades. Now one company is trying to turn down the volume on its grain handling operation on Low Level Road.
Gerry Dickie, general manager at Cargill Limited, said he became aware of the long-running issue when he attended a community meeting for the Low Level Road Project in November 2011. At the meeting he heard first-hand from residents about the noise problem.
“We took over the facility in July of 2007 and in that time we had only had one or two specific noise complaints from individuals, which we dealt with on an individual basis,” said Dickie. “We weren’t aware of the neighbourhood concerns.”
Cargill worked with Alberta-based company Atco to study the noise problem and find ways to make the facility quieter. Much of the noise comes from the fans and filters the terminal uses to control dust. To measure the sound, the company shut the entire terminal down and started up each section of filters one at a time.
“The impact on the nearest…house was about 64 decibels and that was definitely coming from our different dust control filters,” said Dickie. Cargill is hoping to lower the noise to 53 decibels. (Sixty decibels is as loud as normal conversation; 50 decibels is as loud as a dishwasher running in the next room.)
Starting in June, the company will put mufflers on fans and redirect six fans towards the water and away from houses. Cargill will then use computer modeling to check that the noise control is actually working.
The next stage of the project, which should be done in September, involves putting mufflers on dust filters and setting up sound barriers on the roof and outside the facility.
The company plans to spend about $1.5 million on the project.
“We want to address the items with the largest impacts on the residents first so we get the biggest help for the residents right up front,” said Dickie.
Residents are also bothered by loud train whistles and the clanging of train cars being shunted. Dickie said Port Metro Vancouver’s proposed changes to Low Level Road, which include moving the road further north and building an overpass to carry traffic over rail lines, should reduce the number of times trains need to be moved and blow their whistles.
Rod Clark, a City of North Vancouver councillor who lives across from the grain-handling terminal, said he is impressed with Cargill’s efforts to make their operations quieter. He hopes other waterfront companies will follow Cargill’s lead.
“Cargill is great and I applaud (Dickie) 100 per cent for bringing forward a program without any arm-twisting,” said Clark, who also chairs the Waterfront Industrial Noise Control Committee. “I would suggest there might be a little arm-twisting on the rest of them.”
Clark said the proposed Low Level Road project presents a good opportunity to get all the waterfront companies to change their noisy ways.
“Obviously we have their attention now,” said Clark. “They’re spending capital dollars. Now’s the time to get these things addressed.”
The next open house for the Low Level Road project is May 16. Clark said his committee will meet on May 17 to decide how they will respond to the port’s presentation.
“If Port Metro says they’re going to attenuate the noise in the fashion that Cargill has demonstrated is possible, then they may get our support,” said Clark.