Residents of North Vancouver's Lonsdale area say mystery hum is making life unbearable

Mystery buzz from hospital?

People can hear it. People can feel it. What’s the buzz in North Vancouver's Lonsdale neighbourhood?

A strange, low-frequency hum is being reported all around the area, prompting complaints to the city and an investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health.

“It’s like this really loud humming,” said Linda Cameron. “It’s totally permeating my apartment. I had to keep all my windows shut. I put up two-inch Styrofoam sheets against my windows. Like nothing would keep that noise out.”

Cath Ennis described it as “more of a vibration than noise,” and it only comes up intermittently. “It seems to be on a slow pulse,” she said.

Craig Galbraith has been asked by some of his building’s strata members to look into it after losing many nights of sleep. One recorded a video of the hum causing ripples in a glass of water.

There are plenty of theories as to where it’s coming from – but most complainants suspect the noise is emanating from Lions Gate Hospital.

Galbraith said the city staffer he spoke with told him it is likely coming from the HVAC system at the hospital, or somewhere nearby.

Cameron said it seems to be loudest next to Lions Gate Hospital’s expansion project construction site – but the noise persists even when work is done for the day.

Several people reported that the noise has been worse over the last two months.

The city’s bylaw department received eight official complaints about the hospital’s rooftop mechanical systems during the summer, said bylaw manager Paul Duffy.

At the city’s request, VCH environmental health officers did come to take noise measurements from around the hospital but the results were inconclusive, and, in any case, the decibel reading was not high enough to be in violation of the city’s noise bylaw, Duffy said.

Ambient noise in the area is already quite high due to the bustling nature of the neighbourhood, Duffy said, and tracking a noise to its source can be extremely difficult, especially when it’s a low frequency.

“That stuff can travel miles and it's hard to pinpoint because it just bounces off whatever is in front of it and changes direction,” Duffy said. “I wish I could pinpoint it and make it go away but we haven't been able to fully source it.”

Last November, city council passed a suite of bylaw changes aiming to crack down on urban noise, including higher fines and reduced allowable construction hours on Saturdays.

Vancouver Coastal Health said it is aware of the complaints and takes them seriously.

“VCH is committed to the health, safety and security of everyone in our care, and the community we serve,” it read. “VCH is working with the City of North Vancouver to mitigate any noise impacts determined to be related to the operation of the hospital.”

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