AFTER months of untangling red tape, the Cargill grain terminal will soon start work on a project to reduce noise for its neighbours on the North Vancouver waterfront.
Cargill first announced plans to turn down the volume for nearby residents last summer, after general manager Gerry Dickie heard about the problem from neighbours during a meeting on Port Metro Vancouver's Low Level Road project.
Most of the noise is caused by dust filters and fans installed on the grain elevators. Some of those fans are aimed directly across the street at the neighbours, Dickie acknowledged, and "the closest house is about 400 feet away."
While some of that equipment was replaced about a decade ago, many fans and filters have been in place on the relatively small grain handling site since it was built by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in the 1960s, said Dickie.
"Back then they didn't give a hoot about the neighbourhood or anything else," he said. "They just did it."
Cargill took over the grain-handling operation from the wheat pool six years ago. After neighbours brought noise complaints to Dickie's attention, he worked with Alberta-based Atco Emissions Management to isolate the source of the problem. "We shut the entire terminal down at 3 a.m.," he said, then selectively turned on equipment and measured the noise.
The results showed the dust-control systems clocked in at about 65 decibels for nearby houses. That sound is like "you and I talking constantly, 24 hours a day," he said.
The first phase of the project - which should have the biggest impact - will include installing silencers on filters, fans and blowers and building a 25-foot sound barrier between that equipment and the street. While some older sound barriers are already in place at the site, "They're insufficient," said Dickie.
The cost of the first phase of the project will be about $1.5 million, with a second phase expected to cost a similar amount.
The company had hoped to complete the work last year, but ran into engineering and building code requirements that hadn't been anticipated with the aging structure. "It took a lot longer than expected," said Dickie. Now all the permits are in place, the company hopes to have the first phase of the project finished by the fall.
The second phase of the project will involve similar mitigation measures on a second set of filters and fans located higher up and farther away from the road.
Cargill has also been looking into new dust collector technology that will take more of the dust away at its source, potentially reducing the need for filters.
Once the first phase of the project is done, Dickie said the company plans to have Atco test the results "to see if we achieve the results we said we would. We just want to make sure we get it right."
Rod Clark, a City of North Vancouver councillor who lives in the neighbourhood and chairs the municipal waterfront industrial noise control committee, said neighbours are pleased the company is taking action. "It's responsible community activism as far as I'm concerned," he said. "It's really good corporate leadership."
Clark said when the terminal was under its previous ownership "We tried repeatedly over many years to get noise mitigation and dust mitigation addressed" - to no avail.