Noise Nuisances - Public Disturbance Noise
- Audio Devices
- Construction Noise
- Motor Vehicle Noise - Including Compression Brakes
- Machinery - Including Blowers, Heat Pumps, Rock Crushing
- Miscellaneous Noise - Including Train Whistles
- Related MRSC Pages
This page provides examples of some of the most common noise nuisances. A few of the examples listed are regulated by state law and have been noted so with the appropriate citation. See also MRSC's page on Noise Control that provides examples of comprehensive general noise and nuisance noise provisions. The page on Animal Noise Nuisances deals principally with barking dogs. Provisions relating to the operation of watercraft may be found among the examples on MRSC's page Water Recreation - Beaches, Boating, and Marinas.
- Bellevue Municipal Code Sec. 9.18.042 - Quiet Zones - Audio devices, horns, signaling devices
- Clyde Hill Municipal Code Sec. 8.10.030 () - Noise Regulations - Prohibited Acts (B.) The playing, using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated, of any machine or device for the producing, reproducing or amplifying of sound between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the location of such machine or device, or at the nearest property boundary, whichever is farther away; (C.) The playing, using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated, of any motor vehicle audio sound system, such as a tape player, radio, or compact disc player, at a volume so as to be audible at a distance of 50 feet from the vehicle itself.
- Ocean Shores Municipal Code Sec. 10.08.060 - Operation of Portable and Vehicle Stereo Equipment - View ordinance for preamble Ordinance No. 784 (), passed 12/13/2004
Some jurisdictions regulate construction site noise by establishing designated hours for permitted construction for certain zones, such as in or near residential zones. Others regulate construction noise through a provision in their general noise control ordinance.
- Clyde Hill Municipal Code Sec. 8.10.030 () - Noise Regulations - Prohibited Acts (E.) The erection (including excavation), demolition, alteration or repair of any building, structure, lane, street or road, within the city other than between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, (other than holidays) and 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. In cases of the urgent necessity of protecting health and property, an owner, builder or other person, firm or corporation, may apply to the city building official for a permit to work during other than the hours herein specified. If the building official determines that the public health and safety will not be impaired, he may issue a permit for a period not to exceed three days. The permit may be renewed for periods of up to three days while the emergency continues.
- Issaquah Municipal Code Ch. 16.35 - Construction Hours
- Poulsbo Municipal Code Ch. 15.32 - Regulation of Construction Hours
- Tumwater Municipal Code Sec. 8.08.030 - Unnecessary Noises (G.) Any construction activity, including excavation and land clearing work, or erection, demolition, alteration, repair, or relocation of any building or structure, which uses powered equipment such as backhoes, trucks, tractors, earth moving equipment, compressors, motorized or power hand tools, or equipment of a similar nature at any location which produces noise clearly audible from another location in a residential district or at a dwelling in any district, other than between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, or between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, or between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for minor repair or remodeling work done by residents at their dwelling on Sundays. The community development department may, in writing, grant exceptions to these provisions when the work is of urgent necessity in the interest of public safety and convenience.
When adopting noise control ordinances relating to the operation of motor vehicles, cities and counties should be aware of state laws regulating commercial and private motor vehicles, and state administrative regulations on these subjects. The Department of Ecology has established motor vehicle noise performance standards and maximum permissible noise levels on public highways in Ch. 173-62 WAC.
Compression brakes are legal equipment under Ch. 46.37 RCW, and the noise resulting from certain emergency uses may not be a violation of local noise ordinances. State provisions were amended by Laws of 2005, ch. 320 ( to require that a driver of a vehicle equipped with compression brakes may not use the device unless the vehicle also contains an operational muffler and exhaust system. This system must maintain the noise level at 83 decibels or less for vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1979, and 80 decibels or less for vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1988. If a vehicle does not contain a muffler and exhaust system that meets these standards, the driver may still use compression brakes if the driver reasonably believes that an emergency exists that requires the use of the device to:
- protect against an immediate threat to the physical safety of the driver or others;
- protect against an immediate threat to property; or
- reduce the speed of the vehicle on a downhill grade.
A person violating these requirements is subject to a $250 monetary penalty for the first violation, a $500 monetary penalty for the second violation, and a $750 monetary penalty for each subsequent violation. Local jurisdictions are allowed to adopt more restrictive ordinances regarding the use of compression brakes. The Washington State Patrol is to adopt rules for law enforcement agencies to enforce these requirements. (From Final Bill Report)
Most of the sample ordinances contain an exception for use of compression brakes in emergency situations. See RCW 70.107.030(2)(b.) and WAC 173-62-030(3). Information about compression brake noise and a "heads-up" on the use of signs that use the words "Jake Brakes" appears on the Jacobs Vehicle Systems website, Noise Concerns.
- Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Ch. 10.28 - Compression Brakes
- Clark County Ordinance No. 2000-01-01 (), passed 01/2000 - Prohibits the non-emergency use of unmuffled compression brakes
Motorcycles, Scooters, Off Road Vehicles
- Off Road Vehicles (ORV) - RCW 46.09.470 requires mufflers and sets decibel limits. See also RCW 46.09. 390 - Regulation by local political subdivisions or state agencies.
- Chelan Municipal Code Ch. 8.30 - Noise Levels for Motor Vehicles - See provisions related to motorcycles, ORV
- Covington Municipal Code Sec. 8.20.020 (2)(j.) - The creation of sounds from gas-powered motorized foot scooters between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or during any “hours of darkness,” as that phrase is defined in RCW 46.04.200. For purposes of this section, the times of sunset and sunrise shall be those times designated in a newspaper of local circulation including the King County Journal, the Seattle Times or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Ordinance 21-04)
- Vroom for Improvement: New Ordinances Seek to Reduce Motorcycle Noise, Governing, 11/2007
Squealing, Screeching Tires
- Leavenworth Municipal Code Sec. 9.34.030 - Loud or unusual noise prohibited when. (7.) The squealing, screeching or other such sounds from motor vehicle tires in contact with the ground or other roadway surface because of rapid acceleration, braking or excessive speed around corners or because of such other reason; provided, that sounds which result from actions which are necessary to avoid danger shall be exempt from this section.
- Toppenish Municipal Code Sec. 9.98.030 - Public disturbance noises prohibited - A. The operation of a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause or allow to be emitted squealing, screeching or other such noise from the tires in contact with the road surface because of rapid acceleration or excessive speed around corners or other such reason, except that such noise emanating from emergency braking to avoid imminent danger shall be exempt from this provision.
Heat Pumps and air conditioners are generally regulated by the building and zoning codes.
- Lynnwood Municipal Code Sec. 21.44.400 (B.) - Public and Semi-Public Zone - Accessory Structures and Uses [...] C. Heat Pumps
- Mercer Island Sec. 19.02.020 Residential Single Family Lot Requirements Intrusions into Required Yards (3.e.) Heat Pumps, Air Compressors, Air Conditioning Units, and Other Similar Mechanical Equipment. Heat pumps, air compressors, air conditioning units, and other similar mechanical equipment may be located within any required yard provided they will not exceed the maximum permissible noise levels set forth in WAC 173-60-040, which is hereby incorporated as though fully set forth herein. Any such equipment shall not be located within three feet of any lot line.
- Seattle Municipal Code Sec. 23.44.014 - Yards - Mechanical Equipment (12.) Heat Pumps. Heat pumps and similar mechanical equipment permitted if they comply with the requirements of Ch. 25.08 - Noise Control
While hand and power tools and tools such as power blowers are viewed as labor saving devices, they can be viewed as nuisances because of the noise and dirt blown into the air, and, in the case of gasoline powered devices, because they contribute to air pollution. Many cities have regulated the times in which they may be used. A number of California cities have placed bans on the use of gas powered blowers.
- Clyde Hill Municipal Code Sec. 8.10.030 () - Prohibited acts. G. Noise level and hours of operation - The operation, or permitting of the operation, of any leaf blower other than between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays (other than holidays), and 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; provided, that such prohibition shall not apply to equipment or machinery operated in such a manner so as to not cause noise to intrude upon receiving properties above a maximum permissible level of 45 dBA. It shall be the burden of the operator or noise source property owner to establish that the operation of such equipment or machinery does not exceed this maximum permissible noise level.
- Shoreline Municipal Code Sec. 9.05.010 - Noise - (C.) Illustrative Enumeration (9.) Sounds originating from residential property relating to temporary projects for the maintenance or repair of homes, grounds and appurtenances, including but not limited to sounds from lawnmowers, power hand tools, snow removal equipment and composters between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays and 10:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. on weekends.
- Tumwater Municipal Code Sec. 8.08.030 - Unnecessary Noises - ( M.) The use of hand or power tools, blowers or machinery which results in unreasonably loud and disturbing noises and is clearly audible at a distance of fifty feet from the location where such tools or machinery are operated; provided however, that this section shall not apply to uses of motorized lawnmowers, edge trimmers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, or similar powered yard maintenance equipment, used in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays or between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekends.
- Woodland Ordinance No. 1212 (), passed 06/2011
Rock Crushing, Gravel Operations
Generally, noises from manufacturing and extraction are regulated through performance measures.
- Jefferson County Code Sec. 18.20.240 (2.)(f.) - Mineral extraction, mining, quarrying and reclamation - Performance Standards - Noise
- Thurston County Code Sec. 17.20.110 - Noise
- Puyallup Municipal Code Sec. 6.08.140 - Bell ringing - General noise
- Yakima Municipal Code Sec. 5.56.055 - Peddlers - Noise makers regulated. - It is unlawful for any vendor engaged in street selling to utilize any noise maker other than a bell capable of ringing no louder than sixty decibels of sound measured at a distance of fifty feet.
- Lynnwood Municipal Code Sec. 10.12.300(12) - Loading or unloading
- Puyallup Municipal Code Sec. 6.08.130 - Loading or transportation noise
Under the Swift Rail Development Act of 1994 (49 U.S.C. § 20153), the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) proposed regulations governing the use of locomotive horns at highway-rail grade crossings. The FRA issued a Final Rule for the "Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Crossings" on August 17, 2006. The rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded as a warning to highway users at public highway-rail crossings. Although the federal rule will preempt state and local laws governing the same subject matter, the rule allows local governments to create "quiet zones," provided that certain safety improvements are in place. For more information on the final rule and guidance on the creation of quiet zones, see the FRA Website.
- Bellingham Train Horns—Frequently Asked Questions ()
- Mukilteo Quiet Zone
- Mukilteo and Port of Everett Interlocal Agreement for the Establishment of Railroad Quiet Zone (), 2006
- Mukilteo and BNSF Agreement for Construction and Maintenance of Safety Improvements Related to Quiet Zone (), 2008
- Vancouver Train Horn Noise
Yelling, Shouting, Etc.
- LaConner Municipal Code Sec. 7.05.010 () - Public nuisance and disturbance noises (7.) Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, or singing, particularly between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., the next morning, or at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet,comfort, or repose of persons in the vicinity.
- North Bend Municipal Code Sec. 8.26.130 - Public disturbance noises (E.) Loud and frequent, repetitive or intermittently continuous sounds made by the unamplified human voice or voices between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
- Shoreline Municipal Code Sec. 9.05.010 - Noise (C.) Illustrative Enumeration (3.) Yelling, shouting, whistling or singing on or near the public streets, particularly between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.