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Noise Disturbance

Image of Noise Disturbance

 

Just as litter degrades the landscape of the community, noise degrades the soundscape. The U.S. Census Bureau's "Surveys of Neighborhood Problems," conducted over the past three decades, has consistently placed noise among the top four issues of concern.

Noise can interfere with normal residential and business activities. Persistent exposure can result in psychological stress and at high enough levels it can damage hearing. 

 

 

What Constitutes a Noise Disturbance?

Noise events may occur at random, on occasions when a code enforcement officer with a sound level meter is not available.  For those occasions, the ordinance has a provision establishing a noise disturbance violation. The noise disturbance criteria are more subjective, and dependent upon the observations and testimony of witnesses and/or a code enforcement officer.

A noise disturbance, as defined by the Montgomery County Noise Ordinance, is any sound that is:

  • Unpleasant, annoying, offensive, loud, or obnoxious

  • Unusual for the time of day or location where it is produced or heard

  • Detrimental to the health, comfort, or safety of any individual or to the reasonable enjoyment of property or the lawful conduct of business because of the loudness

Under the ordinance, it is unlawful to create a noise disturbance anywhere during quiet hours, including multi-family buildings and townhouses. The nuisance provision prohibits some noise disturbances anywhere at any time.

*Noises associated with motorized vehicles (automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, dirt bikes and ATV’s) are regulated under the State Motor Vehicle Code by the Police, and not subject to enforcement under the Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance.

 
Maximum Allowable Noise Levels in Montgomery County

 

Daytime:  7am-9pm Weekdays; 9am-9pm Weekends and Holidays

Nighttime:  9pm-7am Weekdays; 9pm-9am Weekends and Holidays

Non-Residential Areas

 

67 dBA

 

62 dBA

Residential Areas

 

65 dBA

 

55 dBA

 

 

Resolving Noise Control Issues

The following Montgomery County services are available to help you resolve noise issues:

  • To report noise violations during regular business hours, or for more information about the Noise Control Ordinance, call the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection at 311, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays.

  • To report noise disturbances outside regular business hours, call the police non-emergency line at 301.279.8000.

  • To report noise disturbances from trash collection during quiet hours, call the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services at 311, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., weekdays.

  • To report noise disturbances from animals, call the Animal Services Division at 311, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., weekdays.

Because many noise disturbances are not witnessed by an enforcement officer, the ordinance has a unique provision allowing residents to file a two-party noise complaint with DEP.

Image of Noise

More Things You Can Do to Reduce Noise Problems

Whether you live in a single-family home, a multi-family building, or a townhouse or condo, you can help maintain a quiet environment by following a few common-sense guidelines:

  • Monitor the volume of TVs, stereos, radios, and other sound-producing electronics in and around your home, especially during quiet hours. Pay particular attention to bass controls.

  • Use power tools in your home, garage, or outdoors only during daytime hours.

  • Limit outdoor activities that might generate undue noise to daytime hours.

  • Check central and window air-conditioning units periodically to make sure they're operating as quietly as possible.

  • Take good care of your pets. A healthy dog receiving regular food, exercise, and proper shelter won't bark incessantly.

  • Make sure your family and guests are aware of, and comply with, quiet hours.

  • "Buy quiet" when selecting equipment and appliances.

  • Share the DEP pamphlet "Noise Control: A Sound Solution" in English (PDF, 1.28MB) and Spanish (PDF, 1.57MB).

 

Businesses can also be good neighbors and comply with the ordinance by limiting the following activities to daytime hours:

  • Construction activities

  • Loading and unloading of goods and materials

  • Use of electronic sound and public address equipment

  • Use of power equipment mounted on motor vehicles

Also, keep noise control in mind when building or renovating and be sure to follow all the applicable regulations within the Noise Control Ordinance.

It is also helpful to be mindful of noise throughout the day.  Our community is changing because smart growth and land use planning is clustering development into multiple-use areas. Traditional residential areas now share space with a variety of commercial uses. There is a greater opportunity for business noise to be a disturbance to those living nearby.  Further, an increasing number of people now run businesses from their homes or telecommute - a midweek afternoon lawn service might now interrupt an at-home teleconference.

 

Learn More

 

How Is Noise Measured?

The standard unit by which sound is measured is the decibel (dB), a relative measure of sound intensity. Decibels are calculated on a logarithmic scale (meaning that a measure of 40 dB is 10 times greater than one of 30 dB). Some examples of typical situations and their corresponding decibel levels are:

 

Typical Decibel Levels of Common Situations
Situation Level of Intensity (dBA*)
Whispering in an indoor location 20 dBA
Average office environment 50 dBA
Typical conversation speech 50 - 70 dBA
Car horn (at 10 feet) 100 dBA
Hard rock band (indoors) 120 dBA
Physical pain threshold 130 dBA
Jet engine 140 dBA

 

* Note: The ordinance uses an A-weighted scale, measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA). A-weighting is an electronic approximation.


Image of Jackhammer NoiseIntensity vs. Loudness

Decibels are a measure of sound intensity—the pressure of sound waves on the human ear. They provide a standardized, objective unit of measure and differ from a measure of the perceived "loudness" of a sound. 

Loudness is a subjective measure because different people have different levels of hearing and don't experience sound in the same way.  Someone who is hard of hearing, for example, might not perceive a jackhammer as loud while someone with excellent hearing could be disturbed by the same noise. Both people, however, would experience the same level of sound intensity.

 

Be Aware! When continuous exposure to sound reaches 85 dBA (as in a factory), there is a great risk of permanent hearing loss.

 

Procedures Governing the Measurement of Noise Levels by Montgomery County

During business hours, Code Enforcement personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection investigate complaints by using sound level meters to measure dBA levels at property lines.  After regular business hours the ordinance allows police officers to issue citations for noise disturbances on their own judgment and with the testimony of witnesses. 

  • Regulations in Chapter 31B of Code of Montgomery County Regulations (COMCOR)

  • Noise measurements are taken with a sound level meter meeting Type II specifications.  The meter shall be certified annually with equipment traceable to  NIST and ANSI specification S1.4 (American National Standard Specification for Sound Level Meters)

  • Measurements are taken at the property line of the alleged violator as to determine the maximum A-weighted (dBA) sound level, which can include upper floors of nearby habited structures.  (One exception is where the law specifies otherwise – e.g., at least 50 feet from construction equipment.)

  • Measurements shall not be conducted in the presence of wind speeds greater than 12 miles per hour, nor in the presence of precipitation or fog.  No measurement shall be made closer than 3 feet to any large reflecting surface.  

  • Before citing a violation of a noise limit the regulation allows a 2.5 dBA grace to account for all possible inaccuracies.

  • The measurement of noise produced by motor vehicles in transit is prescribed by State and Federal Laws.  Enforcement by police officers is provided for by State Law.