City Council task force to address noise pollution

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Downtown construction clatter, Lawrenceville hospital droning and South Side bar din all will have the ear of a new Pittsburgh City Council task force on noise pollution.

Council President Darlene Harris created the task force Tuesday after learning that various members separately were working on legislation to address noise concerns in their districts.

"The overwhelming majority of council districts have noise issues, so we'll be working together toward strong, definitive legislation," Mrs. Harris said.

The task force will be chaired by Councilmen Patrick Dowd and Bruce Kraus. R. Daniel Lavelle and Theresa Kail-Smith will be members, and Mrs. Harris said she'd keep close tabs on the group's work.

"Pittsburgh is a green city," Mr. Kraus said, citing a need to control noise as much as air and water pollution.

The task force will review the city's existing noise ordinances, which Mr. Kraus and Mr. Dowd described as out-of-date, and devise a package of new bills addressing noise standards, education and enforcement.

Council members have already reviewed noise ordinances in other cities, and Mr. Dowd has worked with a sound expert to set new sound thresholds and develop a means for enforcing them.

Mr. Dowd said the city's current standard of acceptability, based on decibel levels, left certain kinds of intrusive noises unregulated, such as ventilation system droning at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Fortunately, he said, the Lawrenceville hospital had been willing to address neighbors' complaints voluntarily.

Mr. Kraus said the current enforcement measure -- having police officers gauge decibel levels with hand-held meters -- was unwieldy and must be replaced. He said new standards must be easy to understand and stressed that education would be part of any new enforcement campaign.

He said the city also must rethink traditional practices. While nighttime construction once was appropriate Downtown, he said, that may be incompatible with new efforts to encourage Downtown living.

The task force also gives Mr. Kraus a new forum to study an old problem. He's long been concerned about noise from nightclubs on the South Side, a neighborhood he represents.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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