Nfld. & Labrador

Data centre noise causing headaches for neighbours in Labrador City

A new business with big fans and a high voltage substation is making so much noise, at least one neighbour has taken to wearing earplugs to bed.

Company says location is temporary, doing 'everything possible' to address concerns

Lynn Foster says the building behind her fence is so noisy, she has to wear earplugs to get to sleep. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A new Labrador City business with big fans and a high voltage substation is making lots of noise and it's not sitting well with its neighbours. 

Great North Data says its data centre is in a testing phase, the noise is only temporary and it's doing everything possible to address concerns.

"It's just very inconvenient that they put it right in the middle of the town," said resident Ryan Barron, who bought his house, just behind one end of the data centre, last year.

Large fans on one side of the building are working round the clock. The company says once the bugs are ironed out, they will run silently. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The building is classified as a "telecommunications centre," and is considered commercial but it butts up against several homes.

"You look out the window here and it looks pretty industrial in my eyes, said Barron.

"You have a massive transformer next to the building, or a substation that's going to be operating, so in my eyes you'd think an industrial park would be an ideal place for this."

Ryan Barron lives just behind the data centre, and says it's not a good fit for the neighbourhood. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Windows shut

Lynn Foster lives just across from some large fans working at one end of the building.

She said she usually sleeps with her window open at night, "to smell the fresh air," but hasn't been able to since the noise began a few weeks ago. She's started wearing earplugs to bed.

"It's affecting my health and my mental well-being at this point." 

Lynn Foster says it's no longer possible to sleep with the window open, even though Great North Data installed siding to muffle the noise. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Foster said representatives of Great North Data have been to her house to ask about her concerns and put some insulation in. While that did "slightly muffle" the sound, she still feels it's a bad spot for the business.

"I think it has to stop, I think a mistake was made."

Sound monitoring

In a letter to residents, the town said it recognizes the sound is "intrusive and needs to be addressed."

It is purchasing equipment to monitor the sound levels coming out of the building and will work towards setting targets for ambient noise which the company will have to meet.

Great North Data's data centre is on a commercial lot and is flanked by residential buildings and houses on three sides (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"In the meantime, we do not plan to take immediate action that will require Great North Data to stop testing their equipment," the letter reads,

"We will allow them a reasonable timetable to complete scheduled improvements."

Everything possible

"We have real sympathy for our neighbours. We apologize," James Goodwin, founder of Great North Data told the CBC,

"The issues that we're having are unanticipated but are all fixable."

James Goodwin, Co-founder of Great North Data, says the centre should be in a new location within two years. (Submitted)

A "noise baffling" wall is being put up around the building to redirect the sound "up and away from the residents ... back towards the commercial side of the building," Goodwin said.

The fans will eventually run silently, he said, once bugs are ironed out.

"We're getting a resonance in the building. It's actually quieter for us to turn the fans up slightly than to run them at the intended level. That issue is back with the engineers," Goodwin said,

Sound-insulation siding will also be installed on the sides of the building, a job that was delayed by a short construction season.

Once the work is done, "this is going to be a silent building," Goodwin said. "We won't stop these efforts until everything has been addressed."

Temporary location

Goodwin said the company had no real choice when it came to location. 

"The utility [Nalcor] wasn't really prepared to hook up a new data centre unless it was going to fit with their current existing high voltage grid," Goodwin said.

"Why they have a high voltage line running through a residential neighbourhood would be a better question for the utility."

Great North Data says Nalcor Energy wouldn't hook up the centre unless the location fit into the existing high voltage grid. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The location is temporary, with plans to move in a couple of years. 

"Long term, this is just going to be a repair facility for all the data centres that are going to be in Lab West," Goodwin said.

"We're already in the design phase of doing a facility that is 10 times bigger. It's going to be in a more appropriate location ... all of the equipment will just move to that site." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

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