Noises and Vibrations in Quarries and Sandpits: Regulatory Overview

13 August, 2020 | Blog

Patrice Choquette, P.Eng., BASc.

Engineer, Acoustics and Vibration Expert

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Sabine Butler

Sabine Butler, jr. Eng.

Junior Engineer

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Québec’s new Regulation respecting sand pits and quarries came into effect in April 2019. Since then, any quarry operating within 600 m or sand pit operating within 150 m of a dwelling or public facility must meet noise and vibration criteria prescribed by the new regulation.

But how can this be verified? What measurement and processing methods should be adopted to meet the criteria prescribed by the regulation?

In June 2020, Québec’s Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) produced a guide for assessing noise exposure from quarries and sand pits [French only] to support businesses.

Rigorous requirements

The MELCC can prohibit quarries or sand pits from operating if they do not comply with current regulations. As such, quarries and sand pits must apply the regulations and follow the guidelines included in the assessment guide.

However, doing so requires a strong knowledge of acoustic and vibration concepts. Note that section 6 of the regulation states that:

Every applicant for an authorization for an activity referred to in section 3 must submit to the Minister […] the following information and documents:

[…] (8) a predictive study of the sound levels, certified by a professional having the required qualifications in the field, […].

BBA’s team of experts can guide you through the assessment process prescribed by the MELCC to ensure your quarry or sand pit complies with the regulation.

Criteria

To give you an idea of what to assess, here are the noise and vibration criteria to meet as per the regulation.

Ambient noise

The new regulation prescribes a criterion based on ambient noise levels. For example, the noise emitted from a quarry or sand pit, represented by the assessed acoustics level obtained at the dwelling or public facility, must not:

  • exceed the ambient noise level measured in the absence of quarry or sand pit operations.
  • exceed 45 dBA during the day (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and 40 dBA during the night (from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.), if the ambient sound level measured without the effect of the quarry or sand pit is less than 45 dBA during the day and 40 dBA during the night. This assessment level can vary in the presence of impulse, tonal or low-frequency noises.

This regulation requirement entails the following measurements:

  • the noise level at the nearest dwelling or public facility with the effect of quarry or sand pit operations, i.e., the ambient noise.
  • the noise level at the nearest dwelling or public facility without the effect of quarry or sand pit operations at the same time, i.e., the residual noise.

Measurements must be taken based on standards prescribed by the MELCC in the 2020 assessment guide.

This requires having the proper equipment to perform the measurements and knowing how to process the resulting data.

Noise climate

The noise climate must be monitored every three years to check whether the quarry or sand pit still complies with noise levels prescribed by the MELCC in the regulation, and whether dwellings or public facilities have been built near the quarry or sand pit. A meticulous record must be kept so the MELCC can check the data quickly and efficiently.

This requires having the appropriate tools to maintain a log that meets MELCC requirements.

Impulse noise

Several of the regulation’s criteria are related to impulse noise generated by blasting as well as by projections/discharges and air overpressures. Unlike continuous noise, such as ambient and residual noises, impulse noise can create a surprise effect.

Blasting creates air overpressures, or shock waves, which can damage exposed buildings. Air overpressures must not generate impulse noise greater than 126 dBZ obtained at the nearest dwelling or public facility or exceed twice 130 dBZ and 20% of the total number of blasts per year.

In addition to these criteria, an engineer must certify a procedure on best blasting practices [French only] that must be shared and applied on the quarry or sand pit site.

Ground vibrations

Vibrations are also included in the regulation and must not be overlooked. The regulation stipulates that particulate velocities generated by the quarry or sand pit must not exceed 10 mm/s; the previous limit was 40 mm/s.

This means that the blasting plan must be adjusted to meet new limits.

Conclusion

The following are some good practices for operating a quarry or sand pit that complies with the regulation:

  • Fully comply with the regulation’s acoustic and vibration requirements.
  • Follow the procedure in the MELCC’s assessment guide.
  • Maintain a meticulous and orderly log to demonstrate that the quarry or sand pit complies with government standards.

To ensure this, feel free to contact a team of experts who are fully familiar with the procedure and who have the equipment required to measure and process the data.

References

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA

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