Two Hillside-Quadra residents say they’ve been enduring a persistent “hum” since the completion of The Summit, a long-term care facility on Hillside Avenue.
“It gets in my head and my whole disposition changes,” says Joanne Newell. “And I actually just get on my bicycle and leave. I can’t take it.”
Newell and her neighbour, Kathy Gillis, have a list of email addresses and phone numbers from roughly 50 households in the neighbourhood who have also been impacted by the sound, they say.
But the Capital Regional District (CRD), which designed and built the facility on behalf of Island Health, has worked closely with the residents and says decibel readings, both by Victoria bylaw officers and the CRD, are well within acceptable ranges.
“We are well within compliance of bylaw,” said Michael Barnes, senior manager of health and capital planning strategies at the CRD. “We have also done a check with mechanical to make sure that everything was running efficiently and optimally as a result of some of the complaints we received.”
Barnes said both decibel readings were completed in September.
And Newell and Gillis say those readings weren’t done on hot days, when the sound peaks. They describe it as a “high-pitched hum” caused by a chiller on top of the building. The device becomes audible only when temperatures exceed 18 degrees.
“It was debilitating,” Newell said of the summertime. “Because you get mad, you get sad…it just makes your shoulders go up to your ears. You’re just tense.”
Residents were moved into the Summit, a 320-bed care home at 944 Hillside Ave., in July. The facility replaced the Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital. Its opening was delayed several months by COVID-19.
Gillis notes that the impact of the noise they hear was exacerbated by the pandemic, which had many working from home.
“I think for many of us, everyone’s stress was heightened,” she said. “There’s apartment buildings in the area [and] we’ve heard from people there that they couldn’t sit on their balconies, and for many, that’s their most convenient access to nature.”
The neighbours worry that the problem won’t be fixed before temperatures start rising again.
The CRD is still investigating, according to Barnes, and is working with the manufacturer of the chiller to see if anything else can be done to quiet it.
“It’s very important to the CRD that we’re good neighbours,” he said.
“We’re trying to be as responsive as we can. And then we don’t want there to be something they’re experiencing that’s unpleasant for them.”