Our roles as maintenance & operations managers often require us to not only consider the “nuts & bolts” of a system or facility but to consider the impact all the machinery, processes, and general operations have on the environment and surrounding communities. We ultimately serve these communities, so we must put forth our very best efforts to not just provide clean drinking water and treat the waste materials, but we must do so with minimal impact on our neighbors.
One of our facilities, Rainbow Springs Wastewater Treatment Facility, had received several complaints about excessive noise. An investigation into the possible source of the noise quickly revealed it was the blower room that was responsible. Blowers are large, motor-driven machines that force air into the treatment bays at wastewater facilities. They are a critical component in the treatment process, however, anyone that has been around a running blower knows they can be very loud. They are traditionally housed in heavy-duty structures that are well-sealed and insulated to contain the noise associated with their operation. OSHA sets limits on exposure to loud noises. It is well documented that prolonged exposure to excessive sound (measured in decibels) can cause severe hearing damage and even loss of hearing.
Hearing protection is required when noise levels exceeded the following guidelines set forth by OSHA’s section 1910.95: (decibels/hour) (90/8) (92/6) (95/4) (97/3) (100/2) (102/1.5) (105/1) (110/.5) (115/.25 or less).
This facility was measured at peak decibels of 120! As there are plans to convert this site into a lift station (thus eliminating blowers) soon, we had to develop a short-term yet effective solution to this immediate and severe problem. The answer was to install heavy-duty insulation throughout the entire building and seal off several openings in the walls and ceiling. We are confident this will contain the noise, and we will monitor the site continuously to confirm. Our number one priority is to keep the residents safe and happy, and we believe we found the best option to solve the problem at hand.