It's not good for you. It's a real health concern that is widely recognized. —Eric Peterson, Salt Lake Valley Health Department
SALT LAKE CITY — Living next to a noisy construction zone might not be the same as having the occasional rambunctious, partying neighbors, but the Salt Lake Valley Health Department is proposing action to deal with the noise levels of both.
Officials are looking to overhaul current regulations, making them more "scientific," according to Eric Peterson, enforcement coordinator for the department's Division of Environmental Health.
"We have a resource here and that is a fair amount of quiet during the nighttime hours. That is not the case in many other cities and we're trying our best to preserve that," he said.
Noise pollution can not only cause long-term hearing loss, but can prompt cardiovascular disturbances, mental illness, interruption of sleep and communication issues, Peterson said. Ongoing low frequency sounds can also cause joint damage and, as new studies suggest, even hair loss.
"It's not good for you," he said. "It's a real health concern that is widely recognized."
The health department is responsible for protecting the well-being of the public and within the city, noise pollution plays a big part.
Trouble is, the department has a hard time enforcing noise ordinances because measuring noise has become more tricky over the years, with the advancement of technology.
Existing regulations analyze sound readings taken during a one-second period of time, which is highly subjective. Proposed amendments to the rule would provide a time-weighted average of the impact a sound might be having.
"We're trying to fall back to a more measurable, objective standard that applies across the country," Peterson said. The Community Noise Pollution Control Regulation moderates sounds commonly found within residential, commercial and industrial areas.
Restrictions will stay in place for garbage collection, construction work, fireworks and explosives, as well as for loading and unloading operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Instead of issuing tickets for violations, the department anticipates using technology to analyze the source of noise, to see what kind of an impact it is having on human health.
"It's our job to investigate and see if there is any harm being done," Peterson said. "Under old regulations, someone could close a garbage can too hard in the middle of the night and they'd be in violation. That's just not reasonable."
The department is holding an informational meeting Wednesday, Feb. 29, to answer questions on the proposed changes. An extended comment period will be followed by a public hearing on April 11. For more information on the proposed changes to Regulation 21, visit www.slvhealth.org.
Peterson said that he helped to analyze noise originated by a KISS concert held in Sandy years ago. He said that just blocks away from the concert venue, the ambient sound of wind in the trees was louder than noise coming from the well-known and sometimes loud-sounding rock band.
While the health department cannot enforce noise regulations dealing with interstate highways, air space, railroads or military installations, it can make a difference in the everyday life of the community.
"There aren't too many circumstances where we deal with people being exposed to really dangerous levels of noise," Peterson said. "For the most part, we're trying to preserve the level of quiet that we have so that as the city expands and the valley grows, we don't create new sources that are harmful."
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