‘The Hum’: Another noise-control update from CalPortland

(WSB photo from last Wednesday)
Last night, a couple more scattered reports of “The Hum” came in, though nothing like this past Sunday night (as reported here Monday). The shipping terminal on the Duwamish River that’s believed to be the source, CalPortland, has sent another update on how its noise-control work is going. From CP’s Pete Stoltz:

I am writing to provide an update regarding ship-offloading operations at CalPortland’s Seattle Cement Terminal and our on-going effort to control noise at the machine.

Ship-offloading operations have been delayed periodically during recent rainfall events. Our crew has used the time during these delays to install additional panels, blankets and insulation materials in an effort to reduce noise from the machine. We continue to monitor posts to the West Seattle Blog and are in regular communication with the City of Seattle’s Noise Abatement team. We know that, while noise from our operation technically complies with the noise regulations, people are still hearing, “the hum”, and are continuing with steps to reduce noise from our operation.

We are also checking regularly with the manufacturer on the status of the second silencer currently scheduled for completion and shipment on November 9th. We are assured by the experience and opinions of noise professionals from the City’s noise abatement team and independent consultant hired by the Company that installation of the second silencer will make a substantial difference in the noise from the machine.

Offloading operations are presently delayed because of rain. Crews estimate that it will take approximately 48 hours of continuous operation to finish offloading this ship. Based on that estimate, we hope offloading of this ship will be completed on October 26th. No ships are scheduled for offloading at the Seattle Cement Terminal in November, and we expect to have the new silencer delivered and installed before the next ship arrives in December.

CalPortland, and especially those of us who work at the Seattle Cement Terminal, appreciate the patience, understanding and support expressed by the West Seattle Community. We will provide additional updates if things change or new information becomes available.

We know CalPortland also has been staying in touch with the Highland Park Action Committee leadership; HPAC’s next meeting happens to be tonight, 7 pm, at HP Improvement Club (12th/Holden).

41 Replies to "'The Hum': Another noise-control update from CalPortland"

  • zephyr October 24, 2012 (3:55 pm)

    Thanks to WSB for keeping this on the front burner. And big thanks to CalPortland for working on resolving this issue. If other “hums” surface, may they be resolved as amicably as this one. ~z

  • m October 24, 2012 (3:55 pm)

    Gotta hand it to CP for being communicative and responsive.

  • smokeycretin9 October 24, 2012 (4:00 pm)

    A HUGE thank you to CalPortland for putting so much effort into this.

    21st ave Sw and Roxbury

  • SageK October 24, 2012 (6:39 pm)

    What an incredibly conscientious, responsive and polite company. Wish more companies were like CalPortland.

  • squirrelly October 24, 2012 (7:18 pm)

    Can they fit those blankets over trains and their incessant horns? That should be the next windmill to put in your sights. The noise from them at night is much worse and way more frequent than any hum.

  • karen October 24, 2012 (8:02 pm)

    Pete Stoltz is a great guy. I worked with him on a project once and was very impressed by him

  • m October 24, 2012 (9:50 pm)

    I’m pretty blown away by CalPortland’s commitment to addressing this issue.

  • dsa October 24, 2012 (11:35 pm)

    Those soft and fuzzy blankets look nice, but I seriously doubt they are doing much to block the low frequency sound. It takes mass to do that.
    The baffles or mufflers are another story and should work fine when they are installed if designed correctly.

  • Brandon October 25, 2012 (6:56 am)

    Props to CalPortland for going above and beyond what they are legally required to do. Not something you expect everyday.

  • KB October 25, 2012 (7:28 am)

    I agree with squirrelly – something needs to be done about the train horns all night long!

  • berge October 25, 2012 (9:13 am)

    I’m still shocked that the noise is under the legal limit – how can that be?

  • squirrelly October 25, 2012 (9:44 am)

    I’ve read that thread before (once at 3 in the morning listening to the honks) …. thanks for the coverage then and now.

    What I don’t see are any outcomes, though, from those meetings. What was determined? What actions were taken? Did it improve? Or did that just become the new normal?

  • JonF October 25, 2012 (10:41 am)

    Humming, trains, boat horns. Shocking!

    Reminds me of the folks who buy a house near the airport and start complaining that the planes are too loud.

    Personally I love the sounds in the city. If you don’t like it, move to the Eastside. Or add insulation to your house or upgrade to windows that don’t leak.

  • Anne October 25, 2012 (5:25 pm)

    To those complaining about train noise—really? We live in the city folks- trains , ferry boats, airplanes , even seals are all part of living here. Maybe earplugs would help..but city noises will always be part of city living.

  • Rockergirl5678 October 25, 2012 (6:10 pm)

    Walking the dog with the drone of the HUM & the trains blowing in the background. People are right we do live in the city but this Hum is pretty loud & continuous. It is rather bothersome & Noisy in comparison to the trains which I hear occasionallly. I hope they keep addressing the issue until the noise is at least reduced by half.

  • MS October 25, 2012 (8:39 pm)

    There is definitely a clear correlation between the hum noise reappearing after the rain stopped. Kudos to CalPortland for being so diligent.

  • Love the trains October 25, 2012 (10:00 pm)

    Personally, I love the noise of the trains. I love laying in bed and hearing the whistles at night. I wonder where the trains are going and where they’ve been. It’s very romantic.

  • Brian October 25, 2012 (11:14 pm)

    JohnF – that wont do, so we will fight for our right to live as nature intended. Without some ridiculous industrial noise. If you like it so much why don’t you give me your address and ill sit outside your house every night honking my horn off and on. That should be about right since you are not as sensitive as us. Bet that’ll get your attention.

  • Brian October 25, 2012 (11:20 pm)

    Anne – the ear plugs comment is cute but irresponsible. What if the person wearing the ear plugs were killed in a fire by not responding to a fire alarm in time? It’s fine to have craziness all day long but our bodies need peacefully rest to recharge. It’s likely that the train horns are not as loud at your place as others.

  • ws_suzanne October 25, 2012 (11:48 pm)

    The hum is really loud tonight — seems louder than I’ve heard it in a very long time. Hearing it just west of the Alaska Junction on 49th SW.

  • JL October 26, 2012 (12:06 am)

    The hum is very loud tonight near the 7-11 on 16th and Holden.

    To me it always sounds like a street cleaner that never seems to pass. The dissonance of the oscillations are pretty nauseating. Definitely not what could be considered “white noise” given the fluctuations in volume and tone.

  • wendyhj October 26, 2012 (12:25 am)

    We got home around 9 pm, having ridden our bikes from Salty’s down Delridge then walking up Snake Hill to High Point. I don’t know if a shift started at 9 or what but as soon as we walked in the door we could hear The Hum through the window frames in a 5 year old building. it has been up and down for the last three hours, and I would expect it to go all night again. We tried to call DPD last night at 12:30 am to leave a complaint but they’ve changed their system so you have to call during the day or call the police non-emergency number. Am sure they know they will get less complaints tht way.

  • Ted October 26, 2012 (12:36 am)

    I live near Myrtle Park and have heard it all evening. It is still going strong now. The way it fades in and out makes me wonder if harmonics play a role.

  • Katie October 26, 2012 (12:46 am)

    The hum is extremely loud tonight with my brand new windows closed tight in Arbor Heights! I appreciate the effort to decrease the noise but it is not helping me get any sleep tonight! This has to change or limit operations to day time hours.

  • Uhoh October 26, 2012 (12:57 am)

    The hum is louder than it has ever been here just north of Morgan junction.Sounds like a car running right by the house. Obnoxious noise. I love the train noise and do not mind most noises but this one is so relentless and windows do not stop it at all.

  • JBK October 26, 2012 (1:57 am)

    It’s unbelievably loud tonight in Seaview. It’s usually just a background noise, but tonight I could hear it over the TV. This is ridiculous.

  • Wild One October 26, 2012 (2:13 am)

    The Hum is louder tonight than it has ever been. It is constant and very annoying. I like the trains, planes, and do not necessarily mind the automobiles but seriously this is getting worse. It is a different noise. Constant. I live in West Seattle.. Just outside the main City.. Not inside the industrial district. Seriously.
    So far I have respect for CalPortland for ordering the second silencer. While they are apparently going above and beyond their requirements of noise ordinance, I hope this gets resolved by the 9th of November like they have said it will.
    Otherwise I will consider this an invasion on the tranquility and character of my community.

  • DonaLuisa October 26, 2012 (4:22 am)

    I am hearing the hum! Right now in Seaview. Because no one is idling their car engine outside my window. Although that is what it sounds like.

  • CollyerHavners October 26, 2012 (4:41 am)

    From 48 & Alaska, the droning is inescapable. JL (above) described it perfectly, “the dissonance of the oscillations are pretty nauseating.”

  • Eddie October 26, 2012 (4:56 am)

    Worst Hum-Night Ever Thursday/Friday 10/25-26 !!!

    Started out so loud around 1am that it woke us up, then again another wake point at around 3am, but constant, loud droning just west of Alaska Junction.

    Thought it was helicopters and something bad had happened. Checked the Blog but no joy.

  • JMHC October 26, 2012 (6:57 am)

    Not sure what “atmospheric conditions” were in play this morning, but….
    This was the LOUDEST I have heard this sound to date.
    Since 0400…
    Been Awake…
    The HUM…
    Oh The HUM…
    From the Ercolini Park neighborhood.

    – Sleepless in West Seattle

    PS- Here’s an idea:
    Don’t off-load between 0000 and 0600 ?!?
    You can perform some “vessel maintenance” while you wait.
    And I highly doubt that short of a time-frame will cause much, if any revenue loss.
    West Seattle can sleep.
    It’s bad enough WS is stuck with a ReDonkulous commute for the next several years, but we’d prefer to at least be AWAKE while driving.

  • Wetone October 26, 2012 (8:25 am)

    Heard it start at 11:15 pm 25th and still hear it. 50 th & Alaska . Hummmmm

  • Tracey October 26, 2012 (8:29 am)

    The sound kept my son and I half awake throughout the night — we live right by Camp Long and it sounded like it was coming from all over.

  • Lou October 26, 2012 (10:01 am)

    I heard it too – woke me up around 5. It’s enough to drive someone crazy!! I also live near Erolini Park and it is ridiculous that we can hear it all the way over there, it must be unbearable closer to the source although sound bounces off the landscape in funny ways. How can off-loading be this loud? This is a serious issue but I don’t know who to complain so I’m ranting on WSB (sorry). There are sound threshold for construction projects and I assume that there are sound thresholds for continued operations. I am glad CalPortland is trying to do something but from what I understand this “hum” of industrial noise has been going on for years (it’s no mystery what the hum is – people make it out to be the theme from the X-Files but it’s just noise.) The continuing nature of the sound indicate that there are many ships, facilities and maybe the Port itself contributing. Has any serious investigation ever been undertaken on its sources, effects on wildlife (and people)? I don’t know who would do it, unless it is the Port then noise pollution from Port operations would be their responsibility. The cement plant would be another responsible party, not sure how noise from vessels is regulated but I was in the Navy and you could not hear the ships miles away. Would love it if someone followed up in some official capacity!

    • WSB October 26, 2012 (10:49 am)

      Hi – we’ve had that information in numerous previous stories – official followups, unofficial followups, etc. Here’s who to call and talk to – always good to have it on record even though the company is working on it:
      Meantime, I asked CalPortland’s Pete Stoltz for an update on whether the offloading would be done today. He says they had to stop for rain and will have a timeframe update to us later today/tonight. Will publish as a separate story when that comes in.

  • Lou October 26, 2012 (11:02 am)

    Thank you! If we all file a complaint maybe something will get done…

  • miws October 26, 2012 (11:10 am)

    WSB, or anyone else with a better memory than I, wasn’t it determined that CalPortland was likely a source of a hum, but it’s not 100% certain that they are the only source of a hum?


    If that’s the case, thought I’d bring it up again, as it sounds like they are really trying to work with the community, and have taken it serious enough to attempt implementation of a temporary solution, until they are able to complete the permanent solution.


    Just don’t want them getting an unfair bad reputation.



    • WSB October 26, 2012 (11:18 am)

      There doesn’t seem to be much doubt this version is coming from there, but after this ship, they’ve got nothing for more than a month, so if anything turns up then … we’ll all just have to go sleuthing again.

  • dbs October 26, 2012 (11:43 am)

    I’m another Seaview resident negatively affected by the hum early this morning. Sometimes it sounds like ships chugging along in Puget Sound, but unfortunately, the hum never fades away as ship noises do. I was really glad to hear the rain start. it muffled the hum-a little.

  • ws_suzanne October 26, 2012 (12:22 pm)

    Did anyone within range of the hum notice their house vibrating last night? It felt like a very low level earthquake, or a huge truck passing by that didn’t stop until the hum did.

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