Underwater Sound Attenuation In Construction Projects: Applying Science To Pile Driving Permits

Christopherson, Alan
Organization: Deep Foundations Institute
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2013
Nearshore construction projects often require installation of steel piles and specific methodologies of installing piles may adversely affect nearby species of concern. Water is an uncompressible medium which allows for easy transmission of energy through the water column. Energy transmission through water depends on the following factors for pile driving: 1) direct contact of the pile and the water; 2) the depth of the water column; 3) the size of the pile; 4) type of hammer; and 5) the energy of the hammer. Seasonal restrictions are usually the best practicable alternative for reducing habitat impacts when pile driving activities may adversely affect the species of concern. When seasonal restrictions are not practical other options need to be evaluated, including mitigation and noise attenuation devices. The broad array of mitigation options will not be discussed as part of this presentation but instead will focus on noise attenuation technologies. Dewatered cofferdams can be effective noise attenuators as they eliminate direct contact of the pile with water while driving. Also, introduction of a compressible medium, like air, near the energy source can provide sound energy attenuation. An unconfined bubble curtain is relatively inexpensive but is not effective in tidal marine projects or rivers and may have unacceptable secondary effects. Secondary effects must be evaluated as these can increase exponentially for larger projects. Secondary effects to the environment include air quality degradation from air compressor use, transportation costs for fuel and equipment, and the potential for injecting oily compressed air into the water column. The confined bubble curtain works well in nearly all environments. It usually is more expensive initially, relative to an unconfined air curtain, but there is less potential for harmful secondary effects. Generally, seasonal restrictions will be adequate to protect species of concern. However, there are conditions in which mitigation or one of the sound attenuation options should be utilized. Site specific factors, including the amount of energy being imparted into the environment, sensitivity of the species of concern, current, accessibility, length of time needed to complete the project, and the cost of the sound attenuation, should be factored into the permit evaluation.
Full Article Download:
(281 kb)