Noise pollution

Noise graphicNoise is a pollutant. While its physical and emotional effects are difficult to define quantitatively, the noise level itself can be measured.

  • Sound. An alteration of pressure that propagates through an elastic medium such as air and produces an auditory sensation.
  • Noise. Any undesired sound.

 

Graphic - Decibel level of common noise sources from 0 dBA (threshold of hearing) to 110 dBA (rock band at 5m)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) focuses its resources on enforcing the state noise rules (HTML icon Minnesota Rules: 7030: Noise pollution control) at facilities holding MPCA air permits.

All local law enforcement agencies are empowered to enforce Minnesota state rules and laws relating to the prevention and control of pollution (Minn. Stat. 115.071). Many local governments also have nuisance noise ordinances or general public nuisance ordinances that can be used to enforce local noise concerns. It is best to work with your local government to resolve local noise concerns such as loud businesses and neighbors.

Local governments are required to take reasonable measures to prevent the approval of land use activities that will violate the state noise standard immediately upon establishment of the land use (Minn. R. 7030.0030). Municipalities should consider the state noise standard when reviewing and approving new projects in their jurisdiction. The MPCA can provide some expertise to municipalities to support this review process.

Minnesota noise rules

Minnesota’s primary noise limits are set by “noise area classifications” (NACs) based on the land use at the location of the person that hears the noise. They are also based on the sound level in decibels (dBA) over ten percent (L10), or six minutes, and fifty percent (L50), or thirty minutes, of an hour.

For residential locations (NAC 1) the limits are L10 = 65 dBA and L50 = 60 dBA during the daytime (7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.) and L10 = 55 dBA and L50 = 50 dBA during the nighttime (10:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.) (HTML icon Minnesota Rules: 7030: Noise pollution control). This means that during the one-hour period of monitoring, daytime noise levels cannot exceed 65 dBA for more than 10 percent of the time (six minutes) and cannot exceed 60 dBA more than 50 percent of the time (30 minutes).

Intermittent noises

Some intermittent noises such as horns, garbage trucks, sirens, back-up beeps, etc. can be disruptive, particularly when they occur in the evening or early morning hours. These types of noises rarely violate the state’s noise standard because they are too short in duration to affect monitoring results for L10 and L50 standards.

A guide to noise control in Minnesota

This publication provides information on the basics of sound and noise regulation, including state rules and supporting acoustical information. The guide also includes instructions on how to conduct a noise monitoring session.

Frequently asked questions

Below are several frequently asked questions about noise in Minnesota:

The MPCA enforces noise standards at facilities for which it has issued a permit. For complaints about noise at one of these facilities, please use the Online Citizen Complaints Form. If you prefer, you may call the MPCA to make your complaint: 651-296-6300 within the Twin Cities metropolitan area or 1-800-657-3864 if you are outside of this area.

The best point of contact varies from place to place around the state. It is usually best to start with your local law enforcement agency. Local law enforcement agencies are empowered to enforce Minnesota state rules and laws relating to the prevention and control of pollution (Minn. Stat. 115.071). Many local governments also have nuisance noise ordinances or general public nuisance ordinances that can be used to enforce local noise concerns.

In some areas, local planning or mayoral offices might be of assistance, especially with land use concerns. Depending on where you live, the appropriate local government may be your city, township, or county.

For noise concerns in St. Paul, visit the city of St. Paul’s website.

For noise concerns in Minneapolis, visit the city of Minneapolis’ website.

Local governments are required to take reasonable measures to prevent the approval of land use activities that will violate the state noise standard immediately upon establishment of the land use (Minn. R. 7030.0030). Municipalities should consider the state noise standard when reviewing and approving new projects in their jurisdiction.

Local law enforcement agencies are empowered to enforce Minnesota state rules and laws relating to the prevention and control of pollution (Minn. Stat. 115.071). Many local governments also have nuisance noise ordinances or general public nuisance ordinances that can be used to enforce local noise concerns. It is therefore best to work with your local government to resolve local noise concerns such as loud businesses and neighbors.

Local governments are required to take reasonable measures to prevent the approval of land use activities that will violate the state noise standard immediately upon establishment of the land use (Minn. R. 7030.0030). Municipalities should consider the state noise standard when reviewing and approving new projects in their jurisdiction.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation handles complaints about noise on highways and other roads it manages. According to Minn. Stat. 116.07.2a, most roads are exempt from Minnesota’s state noise rules. MnDOT does, however, have policies, agreed on with the MPCA, for providing noise mitigation when it is determined to be both feasible and reasonable. MPCA reviews some MnDOT projects and noise mitigation decisions. For further information on MnDOT’s noise policies, please visit their HTML icon Noise: Noise analysis (MnDOT).

In addition to state rules addressing vehicle noise, local governments may have nuisance sound ordinances. As with noise relating to local land-use decisions, contacting your local government or law enforcement is your best course of action.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) responds to all concerns regarding noise relating to aircraft or the airports. For more information, please see the HTML icon Metropolitan Airports Commission Noise Program.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources requires that all snowmobiles and off-highway vehicles be equipped with proper mufflers. For more information on DNR regulations for snowmobiles, off-highway vehicles, and boats, please visit the DNR website.

Minn Stat. 116.07.2a exempts gun clubs from Minnesota noise standards. However, Minn. Stat. 87A includes some standards regarding gun club noise. Through this statute, the DNR is authorized to regulate gun club noise. For further information, please visit the HTML icon Noise: Shooting range information (Minnesota DNR).

Minn. Stat. 116.07.2a exempts motor vehicle race tracks built before July 1, 1996, from Minnesota’s noise standards. As with noise from other local land use decisions, your local government or law enforcement is your best resource regarding non-exempt race tracks.

The MPCA provides advice to local governments regarding the application of Minnesota noise rules when planning new projects. Please contact noise.pca@state.mn.us. The MPCA also provides environmental project review when appropriate.

The Federal Railroad Administration, and not the state, has the authority to regulate noise from the general railroad system. Please visit the FRA website for information on contacting the appropriate regional office.

Noise complaints at permitted facilities

For complaints about noise relating to facilities with air quality permits, please use the Online Citizen Complaints Form. If you prefer, you may call the MPCA to make your complaint. Please call 651-296-6300, or 1-800-657-3864 if you are outside of the Twin Cities area.

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