Report Raises Volume On Noise Control

Wednesday, 1st July 2015 by

Final report from former Complaints Commissioner Mr. Elton Georges

'For Peace Sake', the final report from former Complaints Commissioner Mr. Elton Georges, calls on Government to swiftly develop a comprehensive Noise Control Act for the Virgin Islands.

The report, which was submitted this month, suggests that the regulation in the United States Virgin Islands should be followed.

"In my view, modern noise legislation must include sound metering for optimum enforcement," Mr. Georges concludes in the report.

The former Complaints Commissioner stated that the Ministry of Health should without delay begin to develop a comprehensive noise policy in order to inform the drafting of a new Noise Control Act, however termed.

He said such a policy should have regard to the rights recognised in sections 29 and 30 of the Constitution and should take into account the latest scientific information available on the health effects of noise and on the best ways of mitigating “necessary” noise or sound vibrations.

According to Mr. Georges, while taking into account also the “facts of life” in the Territory and the identification by many younger persons of loud noise with fun, the policy should also have the aims of making the BVI a pleasant place in which to live and of striking the right balance between the need of the elderly for peace, the rights of children to a healthy environment conducive to sound mental development and learning and the need to maintain a reasonable level of economic activity.

The report takes note that in 2000, there were efforts between the Environmental Health and the Nova Scotia office of Canadian International Hearing Services to introduce noise meters for the monitoring and regulation of community noise.

According to Mr. Georges, the project abandoned in 2000, inclusive of training of police officers in the correct use of sound meters should therefore be revived.

He said that The Public Health Nuisance Regulations should also be amended to make excessive noise – including from barking dogs - a nuisance, providing another enforcement avenue.

In the meantime, Mr. Georges recommends that the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) should ensure that all its senior officers are trained in the relevant sections of the Noise Control and Abatement Act, 1996, as well as section 291 (c ) of the Criminal Code and are prepared to charge offenders when warranted.

In 2010, there were 23 complaints of noise nuisance made to the RVIPF; in 2011, there were 26 and an equal amount of 27 for 2012 and 2013. The report note that noise measurement is currently left up to the discretion of individual police officers.

"As part of the policy making and education effort, the police authorities should keep, tabulate and publish annual statistics on the noise complaints they receive and how they are resolved. The policy should include a vibrant continuing public education programme on the health costs of noise pollution, not only in public places, but within the home," Mr. Georges stated.

The need for protection of children’s hearing should be highlighted in this programme as well as in the law.

According Mr. Georges, in some islands, carnival organisers provide ear plugs for children along parade routes or in the “village”. He said use of such protective devices should become widespread and standard for high noise events.

He also encouraged the Ministry for Labour to move with all deliberate speed to implement the dormant noise and vibration provisions of the Health and Safety part of the Labour Code.

Mr. Georges stated that regulations that apply noise measurement and standards in terms of decibels to workplaces, including the noisier ferries, should be enacted.

The Ministry of Health should strengthen hearing assessment programmes for schools with a view to nipping any hearing impairment problems in the bud.

In 2010, there were 23 complaints of noise nuisance made to the RVIPF; in 2011, there were 26 and an equal amount of 27 for 2012 and 2013.