The noise generated by pumps diverting Soapstone Creek from one of the sewer project sites has generated noise complaints from neighboring residents.
— Diane (@DianeKrauthamer) June 29, 2022
Diane Krauthamer also raised the issue during the July 19th meeting of ANC 3F, saying she had measured noise in excess of 80 decibels from inside of her apartment. She also said the noise was constant, from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Krauthamer and her neighbors in Park Van Ness and Park Connecticut live by Site 1 in the DC Water Soapstone Sewer Rehabilitation Project area, where, until July 28th, two pumps were at work.
The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is the responding agency for construction noise complaints. Daniel Weaver, the chief of Staff to the DCRA director, told Forest Hills Connection the agency does not have jurisdiction over federal property such as Rock Creek Park, of which Soapstone Creek is a branch. “[H]owever,” he wrote in an email, “we understand the impact on residents when noise levels are high and want to provide information.”
“In the DC Municipal Regulations, 20 DCMR § 2802.1 states that noise levels resulting from construction or demolition (excluding pile driver devices) shall not exceed 80 decibels during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on any weekday, unless granted a variance. Additionally, the DC Water project in Soapstone Valley is exempt from normal hours restrictions, pursuant to 20 DCMR § 2803.3(b) as it is performed by a public utility.”
Even so, DC Water indicated at the July ANC meeting and in subsequent emails to Forest Hills Connection that it has been complying with DCRA requirements regarding noise measurements, and has been taking readings at various times of day and at the six work sites in the Soapstone Valley. Project manager Peter Tinubu reported that two pumps were in operation until July 28th, when one pump was to be moved to another work site. The remaining pump, referred to as “Pump #1” operates continually. Pump #2 operated for 10 minutes at a time, one to five times per hour.
IPR, DC Water’s contractor on the Soapstone project, has workers taking ten noise readings each day, spending 30 minutes at each work site. Based on readings over 11 days in July, the average noise level was 65.8 decibels, and never exceeded 80dB.
Once Pump #2 was moved, Tinubu said he expected that the noise level would be reduced for residents of Park Van Ness and Park Connecticut. However, on August 3rd, Krauthamer and fellow Park Van Ness resident Mitch Baer told us that it remained as loud as ever, and sent us these videos:
We asked DC Water for additional readings. Tinubu provided readings over four days, from August 1st-4th, during which the highest level measured was 66.9dB, and the average was 45dB.
Perhaps complicating the issue is the presence of another pump, on Park Connecticut property, which we spotted last Sunday. It smelled like it was pumping sewage. We have asked Park Connecticut owner Equity Residential to explain the purpose of that pump and how long it has been there. The management company has not yet responded to our call and email.
Pump #1 will continue operating through the completion of stream restoration work at Site 1, and will also be used for work on outfall F-117, the large cement pipe that emerges from the west side of Connecticut Avenue near the Albemarle Street entrance, and discharges stormwater into Soapstone Creek. The pipe will be cut back and a larger pool created to slow down the stormwater surges. This work is expected to begin in November, but is not certain.
Pump #2 will be used for the stream restoration work at Site 4, near where Linnean Avenue and Audubon Terrace dead end.