Altru given deadline to reduce noise, could face $500 a day fine

Grand Forks Public Health has given Altru Health System an Aug. 7 deadline to bring a clinic into compliance with city noise laws more than a year after the first complaint from the public.

Grand Forks Public Health has given Altru Health System an Aug. 7 deadline to bring a clinic into compliance with city noise laws more than a year after the first complaint from the public.

One resident of a condo complex neighboring Altru Specialty Center, 4500 S. Washington St., has complained about a constant loud noise from the clinic disturbing her home since March 2014, the month the clinic opened. Others shared similar concerns earlier this year at a Grand Forks City Council committee meeting .

Public Health began investigating noise levels at the clinic in March 2014 after condo resident Kelli Slominski's complaint.

The clinic's boiler heating system emitted a constant noise at least three or four decibels above the noise level allowed in city code, said Mike Quigley, environmental health specialist with Public Health. The clinic's chiller cooling system was also identified as a source of noncompliant noise.

Since then, Altru has made several attempts to fix the problem, lowering the noise from the boiler system to a level that is compliant with city code during the day and within one decibel above the allowed noise level at night, Quigley said. Public Health plans to revisit a request to the City Council for a law variance that would allow the boiler, which runs constantly year-round, to remain at that noise level.


But as of this summer, the clinic's chiller, which only runs during summer months, is still about six to seven decibels louder than allowed at night, Quigley said.

If the chiller's noise level is not in compliance with city code by Aug. 7, Public Health could bring Altru to municipal court, Quigley said. If found guilty, the maximum fine for this type of case is $500 daily.

Quigley said he is not sure if Public Health would bring Altru to court, but it is an option given the Aug. 7 deadline.

"We're doing our best to work with them," Quigley said, adding "it was time" for Public Health to give Altru an official deadline considering the clinic has been out of compliance for more than a year.

"Basically, they're going to need to do something a lot more drastic," to fix the problem, Quigley said.

As of Tuesday, Altru had two concepts under design to address noise levels, Altru Plant and Facilities Project Coordinator Gina Hardley said in an email.

Altru's previous attempts to reduce the noise have included installing multiple devices to mask the noise and hiring a sound engineer.

As of April, the cost of these efforts totaled about $14,000, according to a city staff report from a City Council Service/Safety Committee meeting April 14.


At that meeting, four residents told City Council members the constant noise disturbed their homes in the Bridgestone Condo complex, which neighbors the clinic.

Slominski said she sleeps with earplugs, and Bob Pifer said he no longer sleeps in his master bedroom due to the noise.

Council members had asked Public Health to continue working with Altru, which lead to the Aug. 7 deadline.

Some residents have said city officials should have foreseen this problem, as the condos were built before Altru's clinic.

Quigley confirmed the condos were built before Altru's clinic opened.

City code states noises in residential areas must be below 50 decibels between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. and below 55 decibels between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The sound of 50 decibels equates to sounds of a typical business office, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration website .

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