The city’s easygoing approach to noise pollution

Construction noise is an inevitable part of city life, but after a particularly concussive summer, we decided to look into how the city of Milwaukee regulates such banging and hammering. Turns out it doesn’t. Whereas Boston sets specific decibel limits for construction, and New York requires all projects to devise a plan for limiting noise, Milwaukee takes a more laissez-faire approach. The Department of Neighborhood Services is responsible for regulating construction noise, but the city code gives it almost no teeth.

Are there any restrictions on construction noise?

Todd Weiler, DNS spokesman: You can’t make [construction] noise until 7 a.m. Then what noise is related to construction, we can’t touch [until 9 p.m., every day except Sundays, when noise is banned all day].

What about the part where the noise ordinance says “noise production shall be minimized through proper equipment operation and maintenance”?

If it’s got a muffler, you’ve got to use it. Same goes for baffles. Could that section be interpreted more broadly to include noise shielding? No. It can’t be subjective. OK, this would be a lot quieter if you wrapped this pile driver with mattresses.

“Nine Pound Hammer” appears in the September issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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