The Beacon Hill Noise Team — Community Scientists Quantify Noise Pollution in Seattle

Thanks to a community microgrant from the Verity Credit Union this summer, we were able to kickstart the Beacon Hill Noise Study.

Over the last year, I have been hearing from residents of the Beacon Hill community in Seattle, about noise issues.  Beacon Hill is surrounded by freeways and major thoroughfares, and has airplane traffic at SeaTac flying overhead.  The community is struggling to address the noise pollution.

In the Summer of 2017, with considerable community support and encouragement, we applied for, but were unsuccessful in obtaining funding from the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority Nimble Fund.  This was very disappointing news for the residents.

Although discouraged by the results of the PHPDA proposal, we wrote an announcement to the community, which was distributed via social media in the Fall of 2017. In the announcment, we asked if people with specific skills would be willing to donate their own time to become “community scientists” to conduct a noise assessment study.  Serious about forming an effective research team, we recruited residents with particular skills, including leadership, organizing, project management, field work, data analysis, and communication. We formed a small group in the Winter of 2017-18, and using one noise monitor that I donated to the group, we started the Beacon Hill Noise Study.

“Citizen science” has been an effective strategy for gathering environmental data for research. Whereas these efforts are usually structured so that lay people (citizen scientists) help traditional academic scientists collect data, our approach towards “community science” emphasizes the role of community members as scientists, with only academics providing advice.

The recent community microgrant from the Verity Credit Union (with Beacon Hill Merchants Association as our fiscal sponsor) allowed us to purchase additional monitors for the study. We also recently received a grant from the US EPA (through the community-based organization El Centro de la Raza), which has allowed us to hire two part-time student interns from the University of Washington this Summer 2018 to help residents collect noise measurements. Both our interns are undergraduate students studying in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

Beacon Hill Noise Team Student Interns

As a resident-led study without its own organization, we have been fortunate to be able to work with other established community organizations to raise funds.  Moreover, because of tremendous volunteer effort, the costs associated with collecting noise measurements has been quite modest.  A decent noise monitor and calibrator can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.  With the modest funding we have raised thus far, we have collected nearly 300 MB of noise data with 2 noise monitors.

Our goal is collect 24-hour noise measurements at outdoor locations throughout Beacon Hill. So far we have approximately 60 residents who have signed up, with interest in having noise measurements collected at their home.

As we continue to collect data and compute noise summary measures, such as 24-hour LEQ, LDN, and LDEN dBA levels, we intend to make these results publically available via an open access license. Our initial goals are modest, as we simply want to collect sufficient data to have a meaningul discussion about appropriate next steps for the study.  However, as we progress, we hope that the data may help connect residents with other nosie pollution stakeholders to move towards collective action to educate and build awareness, conduct futher research, and identify strategies for reducing noise pollution.

For more information about the project, contact Dr. Roseanne Lorenzana at contact@chacusa.org