The Capital Regional District’s hospitals and housing committee heard an earful from vexed Hillside-Quadra residents Oct. 6 before voting to further look into the high-pitched humming caused by a long-term care facility’s rooftop chiller unit.
More than a dozen residents turned up virtually to speak to the issue, citing an incessant and unbearable tonal hum they say they’ve been experiencing since The Summit long-term care home on Hillside Avenue was first occupied in summer 2020.
The issue, according to both residents and the CRD, is a chiller unit mounted on the building’s roof that becomes particularly noisy when temperatures exceed 18 C.
Last January, the CRD agreed to finance a sound reduction system that was subsequently installed in July, but many Summit neighbours say it has done next to nothing to lessen the hum.
“It’s a penetrating, droning noise … akin to your neighbour running a Shop-Vac all the time,” resident Byron Plant said at the meeting.
Many residents said they’ve been unable to open their windows during the summer or enjoy their balconies or backyards, and several said they’ve even been unable to sleep.
“I have to wear headphones now when I’m outside, and I know I’m not the only person doing that,” resident Laurence Coogan said.
In the most extreme case, one previous resident said the stress created by the constant humming caused her to lose close to 20 pounds and move away.
Testing conducted by acoustical engineers shows decibel readings in the neighbourhood have gone up on average from the 30s during pre-Summit times, to the 30s and 40s last summer. However, they remain under the city’s noise bylaw limit.
Not only that, as a long-term care home, The Summit is exempt from the noise bylaw, pointed out Michael Barnes, CRD senior manager of health and capital planning strategies. In his report to the committee Oct. 6, he recommended no further remediation work be undertaken.
“The Summit rooftop equipment includes the quietest, most efficient ir-handling units available,” he said during the meeting, noting that the sound reduction system manufacturer said there are no more reasonable options available.
Residents tuning in were infuriated that CRD staff were relying solely on bylaw technicalities and decibel readings, and pointed out one manufacturer’s opinion may not represent all possibilities.
They also argued that the post-sound reduction readings were taken on a windy day and aren’t an accurate representation of what they’re dealing with.
Discussing the matter amongst themselves, several CRD directors agreed expertise should be sought outside the manufacturer and that, despite decibel readings, the hum is clearly having a negative impact on residents.
Ultimately, the committee unanimously voted to commit up to $50,000 to further investigate the issue.