Pembroke noise levels a third louder than WHO’s maximum
Pembroke residents were being subjected to noise levels “significantly higher” than international guidelines whenever loud music is played from nearby venues, a sound survey ordered by locals has found.
A review of the noise generated by St George’s Bay entertainment venues, conducted by the Noise Abatement Society of Malta, recorded noise levels which were more than a third higher than what the World Health Organisation considers to be acceptable.
John Fenech, who heads the association, conducted the survey several months ago and explained his findings to this newspaper. He said he had recorded noise levels of nearly 80dB, some 30 per cent higher than the 60dB the WHO insists should be the absolute limit in residential areas.
The sound was recorded at different times in the evening at an irate resident’s apartment block.
Pembroke residents’ struggle with late-night noise from nearby St George’s Bay took centre stage earlier this month when resident Dean Camilleri, who commissioned Mr Fenech to conduct the study, held a short-lived hunger strike on the steps of the Office of the Prime Minister.
Mr Camilleri, 31, set off on the protest after frustration that the authorities were not enforcing existing legislation and stopping establishments from blaring music till the early hours of the morning.
The protest was called off almost as soon as it started, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat arrived on the scene and ushered Mr Camilleri inside to discuss the matter.
Earlier, Mr Camilleri had told the Times of Malta: “Every weekend it’s the same story. The music starts at around 4pm and goes on till whenever the police finally shut the place down. Sometimes the music is still playing in the early hours of the morning.”
He said the establishments had hosted weddings and other events every weekend, going on well past the 11pm curfew and generating so much noise that it even drowned out the television in his living room.
Mr Camilleri’s apartment is perched right above St George’s Bay, and the bars at the foot of Triq Santu Wistin are just a few metres away.
Although Mr Camilleri said Dr Muscat told him the government would look into the situation, it does not appear to have been addressed.
This newspaper has received complaints of excessive late-night noise from Mr Camilleri and other residents every weekend since the hunger strike. “It hasn’t changed. The noise is going on right now,” said one resident, who asked not to be named, last Sunday at around 12.30am.
Mr Fenech said that although the noise levels were not as bad as those experienced directly above a noise establishment, they were still of concern.
“While these levels are not enough to cause hearing problems, they can, over a prolonged period, cause a number of non-auditory effects,” he said.
These included the lack of ability to concentrate, communicate or even rest in one’s own home.
Mr Fenech said he had long been working with Pembroke residents to gather data on noise levels in the area and had seen little action from the authorities.
“We have held meetings with the mayor and police officers. I have even met with the Assistant Police Commissioner over this, but nothing has really come out of it,” he said.
In July, Magistrate Ian Farrugia said in court that he had been presiding over noise complaints from St Julian’s and St George’s Bay for four years.
“The court has no problem saying that the inconvenient noise problem, coming principally from these establishments, is serious, and it is disappointing to say that the authorities don’t appear to be doing anything about it,” he said in a judgment.
Mr Fenech said the problem was complex. While the police were empowered to take legal steps against establishments, the cases took months and often years to resolve. Meanwhile, residents had to put up with noise and sleepless nights. Authorities other than the police often only worked office hours, and most did not have the necessary equipment to record sound levels.
“I’m afraid we do not take this problem seriously as a country, and people will continue suffering until that changes,” Mr Fenech said.