Eugene amends its industrial noise ordinance with one processing plant in mind
For years, residents in some north Eugene neighborhoods have complained about a disturbing buzzing noise coming from a wood laminating plant. On Monday, the City Council voted to amend the code for commercial and industrial noise to include low-frequency sounds.
Angelique Orman lives on Park Avenue near River Road, a couple miles from the Zip-O-Laminators plant. Nearly every weekday starting at 4 am, she is roused by a vibrating buzz. (The planer in operation can be heard.)
“It makes your heart flutter. It is an awful feeling,” Orman said. She’s spoken up at public hearings but worried nothing would be done. She even considered moving away. Instead, the area real estate agent started documenting noise pollution in her neighborhood. and researching its possible effects. (She shared one exhaustive research article, Low-Frequency Noise and Its Main Effects on Human Health.)
Dharmika Henshel lives near Four Corners and has also been agitated by the disruptive noise. She said she might as well had been earning a master’s degree in acoustic engineering over the last few years.
“The measurement for most sound- is Decibel A readings. And those drop off the measurement of low-frequency sound,” Henshel explained. “So—[the sound] it travels a long way, many people can hear it and it bothers us. It’s a peak at one frequency. On a graph, it kinda looks like a middle finger—with a peak at about 179 hertz.”
Last February, Hensehl said, the peak in frequency was verified by an outside acoustic engineer.
Henshel added about a hundred residents have joined in the complaints. “I think the first post on FaceBook is like March of 2020,” she said, “and that person said they’d been hearing it for a couple months.”
Now, nearly three years later, the Eugene City Council has voted to include low-frequency noise as a violation of the sound ordinance. Lyndsie Leech is the new city councilor in Ward 7 where Zip-O-Laminators is located. She says if the company violates the new noise code, they’ll be subject to a daily fine.
“So that’s going to be the question that everyone wants to know the answer to—whether the fine will be sufficient to get them to stop,” Leech said.
Once the council voted to revise the Eugene city noise ordinance, Leech put up the motion for an amendment of the 30-day implementation timeline. She said, the company “has had over two years of notice.” She repeated this has gone on long enough.
Leech said for the past year since she’s lived in her house on River Road, she’s awoke at 4 am many weekdays, not knowing why. Since hearing from Ward 7 residents like Orman and Henshel, the new city councilor said she now knows why. Leech said she feels for those residents whose health and wellbeing have been affected over the last three years.
The revised noise ordinance in Eugene is in immediate effect. Leech said the next step is to determine, with the help of a hired sound engineer, whether ZIP-O-Laminator is in violation.
Officials with Zip-O-Laminators were not available for comment.