What is noise and why is it important?
Sound is any pressure variation detectable by the human ear. Whether it is considered noise is based on the reception and perception of that sound. Therefore, noise is often described as a nuisance factor, but in extreme cases it can become a stressor on humans (e.g. inability to sleep soundly) and other animals (e.g. inability to communicate or hear predators).
Sound is commonly measured by its sound pressure level expressed in decibels (dB). 0 dB is the threshold of hearing, while 130 dB is considered the threshold of pain. An increase of 8–10 dB is required for sound to subjectively be perceived as significantly louder.
How is noise measured in the community?
PRPA monitors noise at multiple permanent noise monitoring terminals located in Prince Rupert and Port Edward. These stations are sited based on several criteria, with the main goal of providing accurate measurements of noise within the community where there is potential impact from current or future port or non-port related activity. Each terminal measures noise and transmits the data real-time to a dedicated portal. This system is also configured to capture audio recordings when certain thresholds are exceeded which helps identify noise sources such as train movements, planes, vessels, or wildlife. Noise measurement data, operational information, and public feedback form the tools that PRPA uses to understand the state of noise in the community and address any concerns raised.
How much noise is acceptable?
The regulation of noise is mostly limited to industry-specific guidelines (e.g. oil and gas), occupational standards, and consumer products. In its assessment of noise related to port activities, PRPA generally references the 55 dB daytime and 45 dB night time average value guidance provided by Health Canada. However, it is important to note that each area of interest is unique in terms of environmental characteristics, surrounding activity, and baseline conditions, and those attributes need to be considered when setting noise objectives and evaluating noise exceedances.