SALT LAKE CITY — Jedediah Stout noticed loud noises he likened to someone crushing cars from a building adjacent from the Willow Glen apartments shortly after he and his family moved there two years ago.
That noise, Stout assumed, would eventually quiet down, but it didn’t. It became a constant nuisance instead. It happened periodically at all times of the day, including late nights and early mornings — though not as much now in the summer as it would in winter.
“It’s just weird because it happens randomly. It’s not a set thing,” Stout said. “You’ll be going about your day and then you’ll go, ‘yeah, that sounds like construction next door.’”
Stout called Murray City officials, which he thought was the jurisdiction, and Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office about what he believed was constant public works noise running all throughout the night, but nothing happened. He was unsure what to do next.
Noise ordinances in Salt Lake County are actually handled by the Salt Lake County Health Department and have been since the 1980s, though it typically refers smaller cases, one-time incidents or temporary construction noise to local municipalities and authorities (department officials urge people to not call 911) before it investigates. The department does look into routine and recurring noise.
“Most cities have some noise ordinance or code going on, some do not and some only refer to the countywide noise regulation that the county passed in 1984,” said Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp. “Like in Salt Lake City, if the noise is not related to a party, then it would be referred to us.”
The countywide rule states excessive noise above ambient sound maximum cannot be made between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. There are limits for daytime noise, but the threshold isn’t the same as at night. There are also different ambient sound maximums depending on proximity to industrial areas.
There are also exceptions. Emergency equipment, a generator for a hospital or other emergency service to provide electronic during an outage, HVAC systems, mechanical equipment, public assemblies, snow removal operations and municipal-approved events, Rupp said. He said companies and municipalities will apply for temporary permits allowing excessive noise if a project or event is planned.
With July 4 and Pioneer Day coming up, Utah’s fireworks season is on the horizon. That is another noise exception for fireworks launched until 11 p.m. (midnight on July 4 and July 24) during days fireworks are legal, Rupp added.
If it sounds surprising that the health department oversees that ordinance, Rupp said he hears that from time to time. The department oversees it because consistent overnight noise can wreak havoc for sleep schedules.
“People are surprised that the health department has a noise regulation and that we do regulate noise,” Rupp said.
It’s among the fewer reports the department receives, receiving 87 cases this year as of June 15, and most are related to construction. That’s compared to about eight to 10 restaurant complaints the department receives daily, Rupp said.
Back to Stout’s story. He thought he lived in Murray, but the apartment, located 4858 S. 1300 East, actually falls into a pocket of unincorporated land sandwiched between Millcreek, Holladay and Murray, so there is no city to report to. As it turns out, the noise was coming from a property owned by Salt Lake City, according to the Salt Lake County assessor parcel map.
It wasn’t a public works building either; rather, a water pump that moves water from the valley’s east bench and the Cottonwood canyons toward the city, according to Jesse Stewart, water quality and treatment administrator for the city. The building has been there for nearly a century and runs during emergency hours.
Stewart added while it’s close to the apartment and other residences, it hasn’t received many noise complaints. For people living in the apartment complex next door, their options for reporting at the sheriff’s office and the health department — and Stout didn’t know the health department was an option.
It remains unclear if the facility violates the noise regulations in the county, but Stout found an answer of who to report to.
Again, the Salt Lake County Health Department typically doesn’t report to one-time cases, such as parties. It refers those to municipalities and local authorities. Those reporting barking dogs are encouraged to call their local animal control agency.
Those who experience consistent noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. can report their experiences online here or by phone at 385-468-8888.