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Noise from Yukon Energy diesel generators in Riverdale exceeded guidelines, study finds

The noise levels at the Nisutlin Drive substation exceeded both BC OGC and Health Canada guidelines
Diesel generators at Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on June 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The noise created by Yukon Energy’s diesel generators in Whitehorse exceeded volume guidelines set out by the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission (BC OGC) and Health Canada, a monitoring project found.

Yukon Energy released the research results of an independent consultant on June 11.

The utility hired the consultant after Riverdale residents complained of excessive noise coming from the nearby diesel generators in April.

Yukon Energy had to run the generators due to low water levels that resulted in less hydroelectricity being generated.

Noise monitors were placed at a substation along Nisutlin Drive as well as in the yard of a residence on nearby Bell Crescent near the fenceline of the Whitehorse Rapids Generating Station between late April and early May. They measured noise levels both on days when the generators were off and when between one to four of them were running.

While the noise on Bell Crescent was found to be within an acceptable range, the noise at the Nisutlin Drive location was found to exceed both BC OGC and Health Canada standards.

(The Yukon doesn’t have its own noise standards; the report notes that the BC OGC’s guidelines “are widely accepted in Western Canada and commonly used in the Yukon”).

The BC OGC’s guidelines set a maximum daytime noise level for operations near residences at 61 decibels.

The noise at the Nisutlin Drive substation was measured at 66.4 decibels when the generators were running, while Bell Crescent measured in at 52.5 decibels.

The Health Canada guidelines, meanwhile, set out a maximum allowable difference between non-operating and non-operating noise levels, with the acceptable change capped at 6.5 per cent.

There was an 11.4 per cent difference detected at the substation, while the noise level actually decreased by 1.5 per cent on Bell Crescent.

“Installing noise attenuating louvers on the existing vents may be sufficient to mitigate the noise to below critical levels,” the report suggests.

Yukon Energy president and CEO Andrew Hall said in an interview June 16 that the results of the noise study weren’t “necessarily a surprise.”

The utility had received multiple complaints from Riverdale residents about the issue, he said, but needed collect data in order to quantify the problem.

“It’s interesting because we do run those diesel engines during the middle of winter, you know, January in particular… and we typically don’t receive complaints,” he said, adding that he couldn’t recall Yukon Energy ever having to do a noise study before.

“It’s a bit of a mystery what’s different this time around, but regardless, we’ve got the data now, you know, I think we feel it’s time we need to … make some plans to put some noise-dampening on our diesels in the blue building going forward.”

Hall said Yukon Energy will be purchasing and installing a permanent noise monitoring device at the Nutsutlin Drive substation later this summer so “we’re ready to go for the winter,” when the generators and typically run. It will also begin design work on “noise-mitigation options,” although he said it was too early to say what options are being looked at.

Contact Jackie Hong at