Friday, October 2, 2009

Annoying Buzz Plaguing Neighbourhood

Researchers are trying to pinpoint what goes hum in the night for red-eyed residents in the northwest Calgary neighbourhood of Ranchlands left sleep-starved from noise pollution. Since last year, the neighbourhood has been plagued by an irritating -- and mysterious -- sound which Ranchlands Community Association president Terry Avramenko likens to "a diesel engine on low idle." "I haven't had a good night's sleep since March," added the 28-year Ranchlands resident, referring to when his home started playing host to the annoying hum. "It never increases in volume and it never decreases in volume ... in my house, it's just enough that during the day you don't notice it but when the house is quiet at night and I go to bed, I can pick it up." The low-decibel dilemma first sounded its arrival in July 2008 at one residence, then was quickly noticed by other homeowners -- with Avramenko estimating about 20 homes have been affected.The city disconnected all utilities from the first home to isolate the source, but the incessant drone stubbornly remained. A volunteer research team led by U of C professor Marcia Epstein and noise engineer Richard Patching has since lent its expert ears to the conundrum and updated residents last night (WED) at the community association's annual general meeting. Theories abound about the irritation's origins, said Patching. "It's a bit of a detective story and part of the trick is getting the measurements and finding out when it's happening and finding out what we can tie it in with," he said. "There are a number of possibilities ... the utilities that are distributed, it could be waterworks, it could be telephone, it could be building ventilation systems, it could be electromagnetic." Researchers hope more people beyond the handful who have signed up will allow acoustic testing at their homes -- even those not driven to sleepless distraction.