Update: New wave of ‘Hum’ reports overnight; CalPortland response

October 22, 2012 at 9:15 am | In West Seattle news | 63 Comments

ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:15 AM: After starting the day with an inbox full of reports regarding the recurring noise that’s come to be known as “The Hum,” we’ve been checking around. You’ll recall that the last time this happened, the distinctive sound was traced to vacuum-type equipment from an offloading operation at the CalPortland terminal on the Duwamish River, and as reported here last week, they have been working on figuring out ways to muffle it. Is this the same sound? Hard to tell. Our early watch headed in that direction and couldn’t determine conclusively. We checked with Highland Park Action Committee leadership, which has been in frequent contact with CalPortland; they say management e-mailed them over the weekend to say said they have placed more noise blankets around the machine while awaiting a new muffler, and they are working on more interim measures. We have an inquiry out to them too to see if there’s even an offloading operation currently under way. So no conclusions, but wanted to let you know we’re checking on it. The city remains your official contact for noise concerns – find info on that here.

1:08 PM UPDATE: From Pete Stoltz at CalPortland, one of the people we met with at the facility last week along with HPAC leadership:

We are in the process of offloading a vessel that arrived at our Cement Terminal on Saturday Morning October 20th. The schedule for offloading is weather dependent because we cannot offload when it is raining. This ship requires about 84 more hours of offloading operations. We currently predict offloading will be complete on October 25th, weather permitting.

We have been monitoring the posts on the West Seattle blog and read the latest posts from your readers regarding the noise this morning. We recognize their concerns and take them seriously. We also understand that recent noise measurements showing that the equipment technically complies with noise code requirements does not resolve those concerns. That is why we have continued our effort to muffle the noise from the machine since we first learned it might be the source of the “hum” on September 26th.

As you reported in your recent update we replaced one of the two silencers on the machine and ordered a replacement for the second silencer. Unfortunately, the new silencer has to be custom made for the machine, but it is on order and scheduled to arrive and be installed before the next ship arrives for offloading during the first week of December. Due to the physical properties of noise, our noise consultant expects that installation of the second silencer should result in a more substantial reduction in noise than can be achieved with replacement of only one silencer.

In addition to the installation of the new silencer, we fashioned an additional baffle and attached it to the air discharge port and wrapped the old silencer in sound blankets. We also installed additional sound proofing material on other parts of the machine. On Saturday, the crew constructed and installed additional panels around the silencers made of plywood and foam insulation (photo attached), and are continuing to construct and install additional panels in an effort to enclose that area of the machine in an effort to improve the situation.

We appreciate our neighbors’ patience and recognize and understand the frustration expressed in the comments on the blog. We are continuing to take steps to reduce the noise from the machine, both short- and long-term, and will continue to provide additional updates on the status of our progress on this effort.

63 Comments

  1. I can hear the him loud and clear at 34th and Trenton. Really wish this would stop!

    Comment by Laura — 9:26 am October 22, 2012 #

  2. I am in the 5900 block of California Ave SW and until last night I had yet to hear the infamous hum, but I sure heard it all last night and this morning.

    Comment by nanookfan — 9:35 am October 22, 2012 #

  3. We heard it at Lincoln park all last night and this morning. Fauntleroy and Othello cross streets.

    Comment by Elizagrace — 9:42 am October 22, 2012 #

  4. I heard it intermittently between 1 and 2 am quite clearly at 39tth and Morgan And I was indoors.

    Comment by JoanE — 9:43 am October 22, 2012 #

  5. I’ve been hearing the hum on and off since Labor Day weekend but last night was the first night it’s been loud enough to keep me from sleeping. It’s also the first time I’ve heard it since I shut all my windows, so I wonder if that makes a difference. It was super loud last night and this morning.

    Comment by Anny — 9:45 am October 22, 2012 #

  6. We live in the Morgan Junction. Turned on the TV while getting while getting ready for work and could still hear it loud and clear.

    Comment by Annoyed — 9:48 am October 22, 2012 #

  7. That “hum” was so loud it kept me up for most of the night. Still seems to be going strong this morning too. Hope the cause is found and stopped soon.

    Comment by Megan — 9:50 am October 22, 2012 #

  8. same block as nanookfan (and we’ve never heard the Hum before last night too) but it was a constant last night and this morning.

    Comment by Colleen — 9:58 am October 22, 2012 #

  9. I heard it at Lincoln Park as well, between 11:00pm and 2:00am.

    Comment by Lisa — 10:03 am October 22, 2012 #

  10. I heard it this morning at 5:45 am at 35th & Austin. I’ve only noticed it once before and it seemed much louder this time around!

    Comment by CMP — 10:22 am October 22, 2012 #

  11. I could hear it this morning down on 50th & Alaska at 5:30 am when I took my husband to work.

    Comment by Lola — 10:27 am October 22, 2012 #

  12. We’re near Mt. St. Vincent’s on the west of 35th and could hear than damned hum SO LOUDLY, for hours….even with the window closed! ANNOYING to say the least……signed, Grouchy.

    Comment by Vanessa — 10:47 am October 22, 2012 #

  13. It kept me up last night, and I live close to the water tower in the Belvedere neighborhood. Sounds like their “interim measure” isn’t very effective.

    Comment by Alex — 10:54 am October 22, 2012 #

  14. It seemed to be louder than before last night. It didn’t keep me or anyone in my family up though.

    Comment by KM — 11:16 am October 22, 2012 #

  15. 38th/Dakota – woken up around 5am by the hum, but a different hum than the oscillating noise I have heard before. Also – did anyone notice a lot of ship horns around that time? Seemed like 10 minutes of back and forth – long ones, short ones, etc. until they all stopped at once. I usually can hear one or two at a time, but this was constant horn honking! It was more annoying than the hum.

    Comment by AJG — 11:27 am October 22, 2012 #

  16. We are at 13th & Henderson in Highland Park. I had not heard it before, but noticed it for the first time last night.

    Comment by BlairJ — 11:42 am October 22, 2012 #

  17. I heard it last night around 10:30pm while I was laying in bed – I live right near the intersection of Fauntleroy Way SW and SW Juneau St. I also heard it loud and clear around 4:20am this morning when I left for work.

    Comment by David — 11:52 am October 22, 2012 #

  18. 35th and Webster, loud enough that I thought maybe my furnace motor had gone awry.

    Comment by MAS — 11:53 am October 22, 2012 #

  19. 35th and Othello, all night very loud. It is definitely the same hum that we have heard for months.

    Comment by JenF — 11:59 am October 22, 2012 #

  20. So glad you reported this again! We heard it last night for the first time, near Madison Middle. Very loud in the middle of the night all the way through early morning.

    Comment by KS in WS — 12:05 pm October 22, 2012 #

  21. More of a roar than a hum last night on Charlestown and Belvidere

    Comment by SrslySharon — 12:13 pm October 22, 2012 #

  22. +1. Heard it last night around 10:30PM near 41st/SW Kenyon St. Wasn’t very loud though. The sharper sound of the train/ship horns has been far worse than this hum.

    Comment by TS — 12:23 pm October 22, 2012 #

  23. 35th & Charlestown, first time hearing it. This is clearly affecting a huge area.

    Comment by Common — 12:41 pm October 22, 2012 #

  24. Is everyone who is posting here also calling the city to report this? I hope so as this is the only way that they will be clued in to the number of residents that are effected.

    Comment by AIDM — 12:45 pm October 22, 2012 #

  25. I’m at 34th and Webster and while I have heard the mythical hum previously, I didn’t hear a thing yesterday or this morning. The only time I have heard it was late at night about 3 weeks ago and I had to go outside and listen closely to hear it. Maybe my house is sound proof or I’m just in a cone of silence.

    Comment by Brian — 12:48 pm October 22, 2012 #

  26. Othello and 35th. Woke me at 3:30 am. Put ear plugs in, but it was so loud I could still hear it clearly. Kept me up all morning and exhausted today.

    Comment by Barbara — 12:49 pm October 22, 2012 #

  27. I heard it last night on Pigeon Point, starting about 10:15 pm. I mentioned the noise to my spousal unit at 10:15 pm. Through the night, I found myself awake and noticing the hum; not saying the hum woke me up. I noticed it this morning before going to work. I, too, was thinking it might be our furnace. It wasn’t a steady hum; more like on for a block of time and then off… then on… then off.

    Comment by Kerry — 12:53 pm October 22, 2012 #

  28. It was terrible last night here on 46th and Brandon! It came right through closed windows and the pillow I clamped on my head. I just wrote to the sound guys at the city. Whatever the shipyard people are doing, it didn’t work last night.

    Comment by Seaview Gal — 12:56 pm October 22, 2012 #

  29. I just got some new info from CalPortland responding to my inquiry this morning – reading and then adding to the story shortly. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:01 pm October 22, 2012 #

  30. Everyone who comments here to the blog, please also report it to the city!! See TR’s link at the end of the story.

    Comment by Nitro — 1:07 pm October 22, 2012 #

  31. I believe that it is louder when there is a low ceiling. On clear starlit nights (remember those?) it was not audible to me. It seems to be louder during these low-cloud nights.
    I’m not convinced that it is CalPortland alone which is the culprit.

    Comment by flowerpetal — 1:10 pm October 22, 2012 #

  32. Thank you for being so responsive, Mr. Stoltz.

    Comment by Chris W — 1:15 pm October 22, 2012 #

  33. Tge him was louder than ever last nigh for us. When I wasn’t awake because of it, I was dreaming about reporting it. We are on the hillside overlooking the Fauntleroy ferry terminal at California and Roxbury.

    Comment by Holly — 1:41 pm October 22, 2012 #

  34. Heard it last night for the first time. In the 7500 block of California. Aware of the “hum” about 10:30 until I finally got to sleep around 4:00 AM. Got up about 8:00AM and sound was still around until about 10:00AM. Wind was out of the ENE at only 2-3 MPH for the duration of the noise. Whatever they are doing doesn’t seem to have much effect!

    Comment by flynlo — 1:45 pm October 22, 2012 #

  35. I’m baffled by why their hours of operation just can’t be curtailed to daytime hours since they have to stop for rain anyway? It is clearly a difficult low frequency sound to effectively muffle. I get that, so just turn it off so we can sleep!

    Comment by BP — 1:50 pm October 22, 2012 #

  36. I heard something last night around midnight, but it was a higher pitch than the previous noise.
    I am amazed at the efforts that CalPortland is going thru to eliminate what might not even be their noise.
    Did they have an operation/procedure/work going on at their plant last night into this morning that could relate to the stories above?
    Thanks WSB, you have amazing energy!

    Comment by old timer — 1:51 pm October 22, 2012 #

  37. I finally heard the infamous hum last night I think around 2-3am. It was only slightly annoying and it didn’t really keep me awake (there were other noises in the house that were doing that). I’m by 45th and Raymond.

    Comment by Dylan — 1:56 pm October 22, 2012 #

  38. Yes, I heard the “hum” but it was more of a low engine sound to me…now I know why.

    Comment by elaine — 2:07 pm October 22, 2012 #

  39. The hum was the loudest I’d ever heard it in Gatewood last night. Started around 11pm, and could be heard every time I woke up during the night. Between that and all the trains (seemed like there were a *lot* of trains last night!), it was not the best night’s sleep!

    I do appreciate that the CalPortland folks are trying to fix things. I hope their insulation attempts make a difference as they’re waiting for the second silencer replacement.

    Comment by Cristie — 2:09 pm October 22, 2012 #

  40. Noise was particularly loud the last few nights. Can hear it loud and clear even with all windows closed. I agree whatever CalPortland is doing is obviously not working..

    Comment by kw — 2:26 pm October 22, 2012 #

  41. AJG – those horns woke me up around 4:30 this morning but I thought it was trains. I then heard the Hum. I’m at 37th and Dakota.

    Comment by West Seattle Wanderer — 2:27 pm October 22, 2012 #

  42. Thanks to CalPortland for being responsive abd troubleshooting this.

    I understand and appreciate the efforts thus far, however, I am wondering if moving the discharge hose so it shoots straight up skyward in an enclosed and vented silo/column (like a jet engine test building) would be a solution.

    I suggest this contingent upon whether the current Google Sattelite picture of your loading dock reflects an accurate current picture of the rather long discharge hose. As it currently appears, the white hose ends just south of the four silos with the Glacier logo. The sound, when first reported, left from the discharge hose to bounce off the silos to the southwest. I think it is fair to say that the outdoor workers south of that were in considerable discomfort at that point and it might make sense for CalP to outreach to that neighboring company for feedback as well.

    Perhaps also worth mentioning is the jet -engine testing facility built on the east campus of South Seattle Community College. They have been successfully using a vented concrete bunker-like structure for jet engine testing for many years without complaint from the Riverview neighbors who received the worst of the noise pollution. When I first heard some of these unusually loud noises myself, I checked with the instructor of that department after Labor Day to eliminate or include all possible sources. Their testing schedule for the engines did not match the reports of “The Hum”. Ironically though, their bunker is located right above the cement plants at the edge of the West Duwamish Greenbelt.

    Is it possible/desirable to deflect the sound waves straight up?

    Comment by westseattledood — 2:35 pm October 22, 2012 #

  43. It seems to me that if the sound is within acceptable limits set by the city, then there is something wrong with the limits. It’s not allowable to stand at a neighbor’s fence with a speaker sending noise at just below the acceptable limit for hours on end, is it?

    Comment by Bill — 2:50 pm October 22, 2012 #

  44. I live at 35th/Avalon, and I didn’t hear (or at least didn’t notice) the hum, but I did hear an airplane taking off from Boeing Field very early in the morning and a few trains throughout the night, neither of which I hear consistently (but I’ve heard both before).

    I have some background in acoustics, and weather has a huge part to play in how sound carries. Temperature and humidity both have significant influence on how noise travels through the air, which might explain the widespread noise complaints from last night. The weather conditions assisted in allowing the noise to seem louder and carry much farther than on other occasions of “the hum.”

    Comment by N — 3:13 pm October 22, 2012 #

  45. I heard it on 35th and Othello and it was louder last night. Did we make someone mad? It never bothered me until I started thinking about it. Now it bothers me. Haha.. I’m wondering though if anyone likes the sound of trains? I know the trains are much louder but for some reason I just love that sound. It’s comforting. I even recorded it to listen to, with my iPhone..So, plug in your ear buds and override the Humm. Did anyone hear about it on the radio? It was kind of exciting when they mentioned it on national radio on coasttocoast. 97.3 with Gerge noory.

    Comment by Coast-ee — 3:25 pm October 22, 2012 #

  46. Even with double pane modern windows, the hum in Gatewood was enough for me to get up in the middle of the night and see if something nearby was happening… like heavy engineering. Nothing but a hum that seemed to be ambient, perhaps the noise bouncing off of the clouds, is that possible?

    Sometimes we can hear SODO trains in Gatewood, when the wind and atmospheric conditions are a certain way. Sound can travel in strange ways.

    Comment by gatewooder — 3:52 pm October 22, 2012 #

  47. We heard the hum for the first time this morning at 37th & Dakota, loud and clear with the windows closed, at 6am.

    Comment by Elizabeth — 4:40 pm October 22, 2012 #

  48. I wrote to David George of the City’s Noise Abatement and here is his response -

    I measured the noise at 46th Ave SW and SW Juneau St this morning. The noise I measured is within code by five dB (45 dBA). I didn’t take the ambient noise contribution out of the measurement. I could hear the noise and called Cal Portland regarding the unloading activity. The ship is in port and unloading, that is the noise you are hearing. Cal Portland has a muffler on order from Minnesota (being manufactured), should be here in a couple of weeks. Cal Portland has contacted the Blog with and update. DG

    Best Regards

    David George
    DPD Noise Abatement
    206-684-7843 Office
    206-615-0761 Fax
    david.george@seattle.gov

    ”Calling noise a nuisance is like
    calling smog an inconvenience”

    Comment by LStephens — 4:44 pm October 22, 2012 #

  49. That would be the update we posted a couple hours ago. But thanks for sharing the reply. I wasn’t planning to contact the city until tomorrow, to see how things play out again tonight (or don’t) … TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:47 pm October 22, 2012 #

  50. Ugh, I can’t believe there is noise coming from the Port!! I was just about to load my Labradoodles into my Prius when I realized my North Face vest was in the house. Then I heard that horrible noise!

    Comment by Guy — 5:04 pm October 22, 2012 #

  51. Guy,
    If that’s a lame shot at me, I’d appreciate your uninformed sarcasm somewhat if not for the fact that I investigate on behalf of my neighbors who seem to be hypersensitive, stressed out and claiming loss of sleep because of the unusual loudness. Such folks are no doubt a minority in our community, but WSB pursued this in response to their “many” emails of complaint. Aside from WSB’s motives, I am an enterprising, solution-seeking, compassionate type of person. A curious person if not merely annoyingly inquisitive. A truth-seeker, if I may say so. And besides all that self-promotion, I do not own a Prius. But nice try at gross sterotyping.

    Industry noises do not bother me. I have the capacity to adapt generally. Some people have a lower threshold to low frequency sounds and WSB decided that this was news.

    I have said from the very beginning that the sources of low-frequency industrial noises I have been casually investigating off and on for six months are numerous. CalP is hardly the only source. But I also think certain others of my neighbors need to have realistic expectations of what can be changed and what will remain status quo as an irritant for a certain small percentage of our population. Low frequency sounds are very difficult to eradicate in this modern world. If people who are being afflicted by it don’t step up and do the heavy lifting to change things nothing can change much. Heck, even small gestures to stop whining and proactively effect change would be good. If anybody here who heard it and complained here and did not call the city’s Noise Abatement number to file a report? Then you are kind of part of the problem.

    Comment by westseattledood — 5:46 pm October 22, 2012 #

  52. westseattledood, you clearly needed to get that out and good thing you did. As a passive observer, I did not interpret Guy’s posting the same way you did.

    Regardless, good for you for being community driven!! Serious props. This is a thing and you are standing up for it. Don’t get distracted. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by shed22 — 7:27 pm October 22, 2012 #

  53. @ Guy – don’t much appreciate your trolling. This isn’t a frivolous concern of so many people. If it was, CalPortland wouldn’t be taking it so seriously and working this diligently to address the issue.

    Comment by m — 9:49 pm October 22, 2012 #

  54. “guy” seriously?! Your mockery is worthy of a Portlandia episode and kinda assy. Never the less, the deal about a persistant anoying noise that is loud enough to keep someone from resting is a stresser, tempers will flair and people will start to go off. Its no joke. The irritation over the hum is exactly how I feel about mowers, leaf blowers and weed eaters. and its so disruptive I can’t even focus on work, then I start to get super pissed, then all I want to do is go throw rocks on their lawn and snatch that damn weed eater out of their hands and trhow it out into the middle of the street. Obviously I can’t do those things but that illustrates the level of anoyance. Plenty of studies have been done proving that these kinds of noises have a negative effect on health. I’ve taken great measures over the summer to block out anoying neighborhood noises with things like water features, wind chimes, and white noise machines that sound like ocean waves crashing. Its helped me not strangle someone which Im sure is how people feel about the hum. Just because you’re oblivious doesn’t mean other people are.

    Comment by sophista-tiki — 3:15 am October 23, 2012 #

  55. 31st & Thistle..can hear it with earplugs pushed in so far I have to dig them out..driving me nuts – have even taken to counting of the seconds it’s heard, then not, then back..getting OCD over this damn “hum” with precious sleep lost…*sigh

    Comment by cali — 4:10 am October 23, 2012 #

  56. Oh guy, what a humorous post! Making fun of priuses and labradoodles, and even north face vests? How original! You are truly an artist. How has Hollywood not come and snatched you from this horrible place that annoys you so? I’ve never heard such zingers. Please stay, we won’t be the same without your deep insights into what makes us so lame! And yes, you guessed it, I am writing this on an iPad from an independent coffee shop. Oh my, did I just make an ironic humor joke too??? Honey, load up the hummer stroller and dog sweaters, “guy” and I are moving to the big apple. Woody Allen is sure to scoop us up!

    Comment by Bill — 9:25 am October 23, 2012 #

  57. I live in Eastbourne which is a small town in the south of England, The Hum was just heard all over this town at about 00.00 GMT 24.10.12

    Comment by Richard Broadway — 5:54 pm October 23, 2012 #

  58. Bash Guy all you want for poking fun at the 1st world problems in this thread, it doesn’t change the fact that the reactions of some of the people here to this hum is over the top. If you let yourself be bothered by this noise so much that you’re stressed out, can’t sleep, and are about to “lose it”, you need some serious perspective in your life.

    Comment by grains of truth — 7:02 pm October 23, 2012 #

  59. Grains, the hum can be pretty bad depending upon where you live. The noise must not reach way up there on that horse, though.

    Comment by hmmm — 11:07 pm October 23, 2012 #

  60. @ sophista – seriously, the Hum, blowers, etc really aren’t your problem….

    I wish folks would stop using the WSB as their therapist. My OCD can’t handle it.

    Comment by TooMuch — 1:01 am October 24, 2012 #

  61. I live at sovereign harbour eastbourne england and I heard the hum yesterday 24th oct and today 25th oct 2012 both at just gone midnight its freaky and no one can tell what it is ?!? Any ideas

    Comment by dave chatfield — 4:46 pm October 24, 2012 #

  62. I live at California and Hudson. I have been hearing the hum for the last 30 minutes or so. I rarely hear it from my house but tonight it is loud enough to keep me awake.

    Comment by Al — 12:36 am October 26, 2012 #

  63. From 48th & Alaska, we’ve been awake for the past 30 minutes. The droning, surging, inescapable hum gives me pause to wonder: How do the operators of CalPortland sleep at night? I’d sure like to know.

    Comment by CollyerHavners — 4:32 am October 26, 2012 #

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