Acoustics expert to study “Windsor Hum”

Area residents frustrated by the mysterious humming noise that’s been disrupting their lives for the last two years may soon have some answers about its origin now that a UWindsor acoustics researcher is on the case.

“Hopefully we can find what the source is and do something to rectify it,” said Colin Novak, an engineering professor who specializes in noise, vibration and harshness, acoustic measurement, and environmental noise impact.

Bob Dechert, Canada’s parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, said following an announcement yesterday that the federal government will provide $60,000 in funding to Dr. Novak and Peter Brown, a physics professor at Western University, to help locate the source of the so-called “Windsor Hum.”

“Our government takes this issue seriously and is following up on its commitment to find a solution that works for the people of Windsor,” Dechert said. “To get a solution, we first need to find the source. This study is a step in the right direction.”

Within the next month, Novak expects to set up two or possibly three low-frequency noise monitoring stations on privately owned property in Windsor’s west end. The devices will remain in location for up to five months, constantly recording noise, and alerting Novak via e-mail whenever they pick up anything within the frequency range they suspect the hum is in.

“We believe the noise is low in frequency but high in amplitude,” he said.

Once the researchers have captured the noise and identified what they believe is a potential location, they’ll use a pentangular array—a large star-shaped device equipped with 30 microphones and a camera at the centre—to characterize the noise.

“It’s a process called spatial filtering,” Novak said. “It gives us a picture of the noise that’s similar to thermal imaging.”

Dechert said he expects Novak and Dr. Brown will file a report on their findings within about 10 months. That was good news for Drew Dilkins, a city councillor who was on hand along with Essex MP Jeff Watson for yesterday’s announcement.

“This isn’t an imaginary problem,” said Dilkens, who spoke of at least one resident he knows who was forced to sell their home and move to a new location to get away from the hum. “This requires sound scientific data in order to find a good solution.”