West Seattle ‘hum’ update: CalPortland ‘committed to finding a solution,’ says HPAC

September 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm | In Highland Park, West Seattle news | 46 Comments

With community advocates tracing the source of “The Hum” to a ship-unloading operation at CalPortland on the Duwamish River edge of West Seattle – as first reported here yesterday – the question became: So now what? We have an update from Carolyn and Billy Stauffer, co-chairs of Highland Park Action Committee, who had helped sleuth “The Hum” and led the discussion at last night’s HPAC meeting. They went back to CalPortland today/tonight and have just shared this update with WSB:

Here are the steps CalPortland is taking:

*They can’t just shut it down right now after learning about the problem, as the ship is on an international schedule and they’ve committed to having it unloaded by a certain date.

*They shut the vacuum pumps off for 6 hours today to change the direction of the discharge hoping that might help in the interim.

*They are adding soundproofing to the unit as we speak

*They have hired an outside noise consultant to help them find a solution

*Tomorrow afternoon the current shipment should be done, and they plan on dissambling the vacuums so they can inspect the mufflers and

*Noise abatement equipment within the unit

*Most importantly though- they are committed to finding a solution

We still have an inquiry out with the city to see where their investigation stands with the new discovery, but didn’t hear back before day’s end.

46 Comments

  1. Nice.
    Nice.
    Very nice!

    Sleep well all!
    Yay!

    Comment by westseattledood — 7:37 pm September 27, 2012 #

  2. That noise really sucks!

    Comment by Guy — 7:41 pm September 27, 2012 #

  3. Great reporting, WSB. Thanks for staying on top of this. Much appreciation for the Stauffer’s following up too. ~z

    Comment by zephyr — 7:53 pm September 27, 2012 #

  4. The Hum is as loud as ever tonight. CalPortland will most likeley do nothing. If you complain about the large amount of dust they create, they tell you it is just water spray.

    Comment by Mercury — 8:13 pm September 27, 2012 #

  5. Funny. When our neighbors brand new heat pump was installed and exceeded noise levels it was moved ASAP. While inspecting it they decided that our furnace vent of 30 years was also above the noise level and threatened to fine us ASAP. The City had no tolerance and we had numerous emails and face visits from a very nasty city employee. Our furnace company was baffled about what the problem was. Yet, how long has this hum been going on? They should measure the decibals and fix.

    Comment by Genessee neighbor — 8:14 pm September 27, 2012 #

  6. Many thanks and kudos to the community and WSB for such thorough follow up! I commend both LaFarge and CalPortland for dedicating significant resources to work with the community too. They all have schedules and budgets to meet and taking the time to work with the community on this issue and committing to finding and creating a solution is not cheap and I absolutely appreciate their management for taking the right steps and being a considerate neighbor.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 8:33 pm September 27, 2012 #

  7. Well, they ain’t all THAT concerned – it’s humming away right now.

    Comment by AE — 8:35 pm September 27, 2012 #

  8. As I have mentioned and Jim and others have concurred with is that the irritating quality of the hum is linked to the beat frequency…wa…wah…waah..ah….
    -
    They should sound proof the source which may lower he sound. But synchronizing the motors making the noise would make the resultant “hum” more of a “white noise”. In any case the noise in High Point should not be above standards for residential communities.

    Comment by JayDee — 8:43 pm September 27, 2012 #

  9. Has anyone gone ahead and filed a formal complaint with DPD?

    Comment by raincity — 8:58 pm September 27, 2012 #

  10. Thanks LaFarge and CalPortland for working with the community. And thanks, as always, WSB.

    Comment by Chris W — 9:11 pm September 27, 2012 #

  11. Thank you to WSB and all the people who have researched and reported on this. As I listen to it through my closed windows while I think about going to bed, I am glad that maybe someday this will stop. Or be done only during normal working hours, 8-5. Not Labor Day, nights or weekends.

    Comment by K — 9:12 pm September 27, 2012 #

  12. Although I appreciate the effort that has gone into determining the source of the humm and identification of a solution but at the moment the noise is louder than ever! This is terrible.

    Comment by Sue — 9:22 pm September 27, 2012 #

  13. People, how fast do you think it takes to do an adequate job of soundproofing and hiring a consultant, etc etc. They said the ship is on a schedule and they have a commitment to get it unloaded by a certain date. They can’t just stop it right this minute and wait a couple of weeks till they get it all figured out. That would cost them business, and business brings jobs. They’ve committed to finding a solution. What more could you want in two days’ time?

    Comment by AJP — 9:29 pm September 27, 2012 #

  14. So I think I read the ship has only been there a few weeks. What is the explanation for the “Hum” for the last two years.

    Comment by E — 9:43 pm September 27, 2012 #

  15. AJP, I’ll gladly steal your sleep and health for your profit. Deal with it and just get over it!

    Comment by Rick — 9:46 pm September 27, 2012 #

  16. E – regarding the timetable: This doesn’t necessarily speak to everyone’s experience, but from our standpoint, there was a sudden outbreak of widespread reports around Labor Day weekend, then nothing until suddenly on Monday night, they came in from all over. Research indicates a similar ship was undergoing a similar offloading operation right around Labor Day weekend. And this particular ship arrived, according to an online log, literally hours before the reports started coming in Monday. It would require an extensive amount of research to try to cross-reference flurries of posts in our Forum, or any other anecdotal evidence, with past operations like this. All I think everyone is speaking for now is: This is what’s been heard the past few nights. And its source has been traced. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:49 pm September 27, 2012 #

  17. AJP has got it right. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It usually takes a few days to even start the process (think about your last auto repair: The mechanic didn’t magically start working that night and you car was ready by the time you left for work). CalPortland has even started working on a problem that isn’t totally confirmed yet.
    .
    I appreciate Lafarge and CalPortland for being as good a neighbor as an industrial company can be. I am sure this barge has been coming to unload periodically for years and they probably always made that noise but perhaps something has recently made it louder (equipment wear, insulation fell off, etc…) and nobody at the plant really noticed the change until now.

    Comment by Eric1 — 9:57 pm September 27, 2012 #

  18. How long have people heard the hum? Have there been some new machinery updates in the past few months that are different from the past few years when nobody heard the hum? I’m curious since it would only make sense there had been some change in what is being used if that hum is caused by a pump transferring grains and such. Have there been any buildings removed that at one point acted as a baffle for the sounds? Seems fishy to me <– ;)

    Comment by Mike — 9:59 pm September 27, 2012 #

  19. Carolyn mentioned that the city came out today and got lower levels. Julie, meantime, has had recordings in the 60 dBs the past few nights. Carolyn believes CP’s commitment is sincere regardless of whether “illegal” noise is determined, so let’s see what happens … TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:17 pm September 27, 2012 #

  20. Great job to WSB for reporting and the company for taking steps to improve this ASAP.

    Comment by Shane — 11:03 pm September 27, 2012 #

  21. the past few years when nobody heard the hum?”

    @Mike folks around West Seattle have been talking about (or complaining/being kept awake by) the hum for several years here! 2009, 2010, 2010.

    Comment by mookie — 2:15 am September 28, 2012 #

  22. I live in Cottage Grove, between Highland Park and High Point and finally got to hear the hum tonight. Never noticed it before, behind the police sirens and train whistles. Doesn’t bother me, I actually find it soothing, like white noise.

    Comment by QQman — 2:44 am September 28, 2012 #

  23. yep, This week the noise has been noticibly louder. and Im clear over in Westwood. This is the kind of stuff that puts people on edge. A perpetual anoying noise that’s “part of living in the city” then some day,,,,, snap. If they really are doing something about it like they say they will, then I fully expect NOT to ever hear this noise agian after the current shipment is offloaded. If we do hear it again maybe we need to march our butts down there and protest. Put a little interuption in THEIR routines for a change. When our complaining affects their profits what you want to bet THATS when the problem will really be solved.

    Comment by sophista-tiki — 7:40 am September 28, 2012 #

  24. I did hear it last night for the first time. 11pm, California and Dakota. Not loud enough to notice while indoors, though.

    Comment by Chris W — 7:54 am September 28, 2012 #

  25. 8am Friday 9/28 – Have they changed something? I hear it loud and clear at our house (down the other side of the hill around 50th and Edmonds). This is the first time I’ve heard it, or maybe I’m only just now recognizing it.

    Comment by tj — 8:18 am September 28, 2012 #

  26. Nearly blasted my eardrums out a few minutes ago. Whatever they’re doing… it’s NOT helping. (Fauntleroy & Findlay).

    Comment by Lola P — 9:10 am September 28, 2012 #

  27. I heard it last night for the first time & it was so loud it woke me up @ 5:30 am. Genessee near the Junction. Also heard it a few minutes ago. I’m glad people are seeking a solution!

    Comment by JB — 9:13 am September 28, 2012 #

  28. Genessee neighbor, your problem was that your furnace noise was occurring when the city inspectors are at work. If a noise is after hours, they can’t do anything about it. Unless of course, it might be mating fish and then no resource will be spared to record it. The next time my neighbors are loud, I will call and say “THE MATING FISH ARE GOING CRAZY NEXT DOOR!”

    Comment by Bill — 9:18 am September 28, 2012 #

  29. Bill – If I remember correctly it wasn’t city sound inspectors that investigated the noise possibly being from fish but instead a couple of UW researchers.

    Comment by west seattle newbie — 9:43 am September 28, 2012 #

  30. Yes, and they ruled it out:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/2012/09/west-seattles-now-famous-hum-apparently-not-a-fishs-fault

    Comment by WSB — 9:57 am September 28, 2012 #

  31. Heard the “HUM” again this morning at 7:30 AM 34th and Holden. It is apparently getting worse, if it can be heard over the daily noises of trains, police and fire sirens…………

    Comment by Lillie family — 11:05 am September 28, 2012 #

  32. I also heard it for the first time last night. How awful! (Pigeon Point)

    Comment by Lemondog — 11:27 am September 28, 2012 #

  33. west seattle newbie, you are correct about the UW researchers, but that totally ruins my joke I’ve been holding in for three days.

    Comment by Bill — 12:59 pm September 28, 2012 #

  34. It’s curious to hear that people in some locations were hearing this for the first time last night or this morning. From our place, two blocks down the hill west of Riverview Playfield, it had been loud for the past three nights but then suddenly last night it was so quiet when I was awake about 2:15 that I thought the unloading of this ship must have ended. I couldn’t hear it at all when I got up at 5:25 this morning either. It sounds like some object (another ship?) must be moving in between CalPortland and our part of West Seattle and deflecting the sound to new areas. Maybe they can find something big enough to keep the noise out of West Seattle entirely?

    Comment by HungryKids — 3:07 pm September 28, 2012 #

  35. Just got word that the vessel has been offloaded and the big vacuum is off! CalPortland will be working to fix the problem before the next ship comes in. sleep well!

    Comment by cs in hp — 3:32 pm September 28, 2012 #

  36. I’m one of the ones who has heard the “hum” since at least 2009 (from various neighborhoods in ws) and I agree that it was extra loud last night (I’m in Sunrise Heights).

    Comment by MB — 3:50 pm September 28, 2012 #

  37. Thank you WSB/TR for addressing my question/statement. I still have several concerns about the “Hum” when I first started to hear it a few years ago when we bought our house in the “Sunrise Heights” neighborhood I would only notice the sound would start around midnight and last a few hours. The first couple time I heard it it almost sounded like a helicopter off in the distance circling because the sound would gradually come stay a short amount of time and then gradually leave. I didn’t think much of it until I read something from my neighbor of facebook and how the “Hum” kept her up all night. Then recently when the WSB and King 5 started with the story I was telling my mom about it and she said that it sounded like a power serge of some sort and maybe it was the Myrtle Street water tanks filling up or powering on. The “Hum” that I have been hearing lately that is the ship is different than the “Hum” I have heard in the past. I do appreciate the WSB for trying so hard to tack it down and get the wheels going on how to “fix” it. I am wondering if anyone else has thought about the water towers around the city. Or anything else that would need to power up like that. I just don’t think it is the “industrial shop vac” because from my house it sound like a shop vac not a gradual hum.

    Comment by E — 1:00 am September 29, 2012 #

  38. sophista-tiki makes a good point about noise pollution. This problem doesn’t get nearly enough study or attention for the dramatic, subliminal, detrimental effect it has on humans and other organisms. It should not be dismissed as just part of life in the big city.

    Comment by anonyme — 7:51 am September 29, 2012 #

  39. Talk about noise pollution. My neighbor’s barking dog is much worse than the hum. All I can say is that it’s a good thing for him that murder is against the law!

    Comment by phil dirt — 2:34 pm September 29, 2012 #

  40. I definitely appreciate all the sleuthing and reporting. The frequency has changed, however, since Friday night and has NOT gone away with the conclusion of the ship offloading. It now sounds like airplane engines perpetually ramping up. It is also harder to drown out with white noise while trying to sleep. At this point, I can barely stand to be home during the day (Arbor Heights).

    Comment by No laughing matter — 9:29 am September 30, 2012 #

  41. where in AH are you (nearest intersection)?

    Comment by WSB — 9:49 am September 30, 2012 #

  42. 41st and 100th. Engine roar sound all day today.

    Comment by No laughing matter — 9:34 pm September 30, 2012 #

  43. I had wondered before if the sound in AH is from the kilns firing at the pottery place on 100th and 42nd??

    Comment by AH Noise? — 9:39 am October 1, 2012 #

  44. I was home all weekend (SW Avalon and SW Genesee by the golf course) and there was a definite airplane engine sound both Saturday and Sunday nights starting arond 11:00 p.m. and going all night both nights. Thought there were helicopters going on but it went on too long.

    Comment by BWD — 11:55 am October 1, 2012 #

  45. I live in Kitsap County and have been hearing a hum the last few years all over Puget Sound and in Mason and Jefferson Counties. I hear it in the woods if the wind isn’t blowing. I don’t remember exactly when it was that I first heard it, but I thought it was a loud and / or faulty power transformer. Soon I realized it was everywhere when other noise doesn’t drown it out.

    Comment by Dave — 6:16 pm October 1, 2012 #

  46. I can hear the hum again tonight. High point area.

    Comment by Josh — 10:40 pm October 17, 2012 #

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