Saskatoon

Mystery vibration rattles Saskatoon homeowners while manufacturing plant hunts for cause

People who live behind a manufacturing plant on 1st Avenue North want someone to stop their houses from vibrating.

Investigations from city, plant officials unable to identify source of 'pulsating hum' plaguing residents

ABC Manufacturing president James Yausie says the big machines are not causing vibrations inside the building. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Sylvain Quirion describes it as a "pulsating hum" that rattles his oven, his barbecue, silverware and toolbox in his garage.

Carol Zentler says the "terrible vibrations" are cracking her walls, stopping clocks and shaking her china cabinet, while Gary Poleschuk calls it simply "the vibration."

The trio live side by side in bungalows on the 1700 block of First Avenue North in Saskatoon. For the past two years, they and other neighbours on the block say they've lived with a mysterious vibration that comes at different hours of the day, evening and middle of the night.

The residents say it all began when ABC Manufacturing built a block-long warehouse that looms over their homes from across the back alley.

"It's been two years now and, yeah, ever since they moved in we've just been getting vibrations all the time," said Quirion.

Both Zentner and Poleschuk have lived in their homes for more than three decades.

"I turn a lot of music up, it's just stressful for me because it's a constant low hum. You can constantly feel and hear it in this house," said Zentner.

City investigators baffled

Matt Grazier, director of the city's Community Standards Department, wrote in an email that the bylaw compliance team has completed several inspections in the area, both inside the building and at some of the nearby residences, "and have not observed in-person any instance of the issue."

Grazier wrote that "the case is not closed — we have an open file on this property and are continuing to follow up with some of the residents in the area to hopefully pinpoint what may be causing the noise issue. Complaints do coincide with construction of the new ABC building but we have not seen any firsthand evidence to support the building is causing the noise."

Sylvain Quirion suspects the vibrations are caused by the ABC plant across his back alley. (CBC)

Both Quirion and Zentner take a dim view of the action taken by the city. Zentner has collected a stack of correspondence from a raft of civic officials and councillors, adding that she has yet to get a satisfactory explanation.

Quirion offers a blunt take on the experience. "The only thing we ever get from the city is not very much," he said.

"They don't really do a whole lot about it."

Warehouse and plant development

ABC Manufacturing makes ventilation systems for mining and aviation companies. In 2020, it proposed a manufacturing and warehouse project between the 1700 blocks of Quebec Avenue and First Avenue North.

It's been in the neighbourhood since 1995 and the 2,500-square-metre "Plant 3" is the latest building in its complex.

The land was zoned for general light industrial and, in a city letter inviting residents to an information meeting, it was noted "the proposed development is being reviewed to ensure it will be compatible with the adjacent residential uses."

The company says it followed all the rules laid out by the city when it built the new plant and it wants to work with their neighbours to resolve the problem.

Its president, James Yausie, says he doesn't know exactly why the vibrations are happening, but he does not dispute the issue probably originates with the plant.

Carol Zentner says she'll often play music to cover the sound of her vibrating house. (CBC)

"I can't think of anything other than manufacturing equipment that could be leading to that," he said in an interview.

Yausie said the company approached the city to investigate when the first complaints came forward.

"We just want to be a good neighbour. And the folks that are living behind our manufacturing plant, clearly they have some concerns. It's in our best interest to figure it out," he said.

That said, Yausie said it's been a frustrating experience.

"We don't feel vibrations when we're in the plant. We don't feel vibrations when we're in the alley behind the plant, between the homes and our manufacturing plant," he said.

"We're not suspicious but we certainly can't understand quite what's causing the problem."

Yausie toured CBC through the plant while the machines were all operating.

The floor of the warehouse is dominated by large "weft insertion machines" that function as giant looms, weaving the materials that are used in making the ventilation equipment.

Yausie said ABC went beyond the manufacturer's specifications "but that doesn't mean that it's working perfectly from our neighbours' perspective."

"We're going to have to figure it out."

To that end, Yausie says the company is bringing in vibration monitoring equipment and its technical director is working to find a way to balance off the vibrations.

Quirion agrees with the company on that point.

"Just make the vibrations go away."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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