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 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 effort 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 the facilities we operate, 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.
This facility was measured at peak decibels of 140, which is higher than the OSHA ratings. 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 these hazardous conditions. The answer was to install heavy-duty insulation throughout the entire building and seal off several openings in the walls and ceiling. The facility was measured at 79.5 DB after installation resulting in a 42% noise reduction. 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.
Customer Mary Ann Ermatinger had terrific things to say about Utility Manager Kenny Blackstun, “We live in Rio Vista Estates, which is due west of the above-captioned plant. For over two years, we have dealt with an enormous, enormous, enormous amount of noise coming from that plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s stentorian. Kenny has taken on our concerns, and today he nailed it. It is quiet!”