Noise News for Week of January 25, 1998

European Union to Label Noise Levels on Outdoor Machinery

PUBLICATION: The Financial Times Limited (London, England)
DATE: January 26, 1998
SECTION: News: International; Pg. 02
BYLINE: Leyla Boulton
DATELINE: Brussels, Belgium

The Financial Times Limited of London, England, reports that the European Commission, meeting in Brussels, Belgium, is expected to recommend noise levels be labeled on various outdoor machinery in an effort to limit noise that's dangerous to citizens of the European Union.

According to the Financial Times, the European Commission is expected to propose that 60 types of outdoor machinery - ranging from wood-cutting machines to street-cleaning equipment - display labels on how noisy they are.

The article states that EU executive in Brussels say that 20 per cent of the bloc's 500m citizens, many of them poor people in noisy neighborhoods, suffer from "unacceptably" high noise levels. Although noise from aircraft, motor vehicles, trains and industrial machinery has been regulated for more than 20 years with quieter cars and lorries resulting since 1970, officials believe more comprehensive measures are needed.

The Times reports the Commission sees noise labeling as the first step in a strategy to curb harmful noise. The labeling is expected to be greeted with enthusiasm in north European states such as Sweden, Austria, and Germany. "We think this is a very important matter and that it has until now has been under-regulated," said one German official.

But the article states business and some countries such as the UK could offer resistance to labeling noise levels. The UK Engineering Employers' Federation said that companies were unlikely to object to labeling but only if it "set simple parameters for noise and did not require arithmetic gymnastics to determine".

The Commission's ultimate aim, according to the article, is to provide ordinary citizens with enough information to take up the noise issue with officials in their own countries. After noise labels, the next strategy may be "noise maps" which require local authorities to pinpoint areas where noise is loudest. These in turn could lead to the setting of " noise targets", which would be met by limits on noise sources ranging from cars to lawnmowers.

The Times reports while Brussels plans to push for all these noise reduction measures over the long run, its proposals will not cover what many believe is the noisiest source of all: people.

The article went on to say that when Brussels first suggested the idea of a noise strategy, the previous UK government objected, saying such matters were best left to local authorities. But the new UK administration described itself as being "in listening mode" on the proposals.

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Los Angeles Transportation Authority Erects Sound Walls to Reduce Construction Noise

PUBLICATION: Los Angeles Times
DATE: January 26, 1998
SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 2; Zones Desk
BYLINE: Tom Becker
DATELINE: Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles Times reports the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Los Angeles, California has promised to mitigate construction noise when work begins on a subway along Chandler Boulevard. Construction work will be done on the median, and residents were worried that noise would become a problem.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Transit Authority will erect 16-foot-high walls along the site for the project. The details come after several weeks of meetings between transit officials and homeowner associations.

According to the article, the noise that is being mitigated will mainly come from a temporary welding facility -- used to weld the subway rails -- that is essentially a trailer but five times longer. The construction should take less than 1.5 years.

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Upstate New York Resident Objects to Noise from Hail Guns in Apple Orchard

PUBLICATION: The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
DATE: January 25, 1998
SECTION: Local, Pg. 5C
BYLINE: Bob Buyer
DATELINE: Albion, New York

The Buffalo News of Buffalo, New York, reports that an Orleans County resident has asked the county Legislature to do something about noise coming from hail guns at a nearby apple orchard.

According to The Buffalo News, James R. Vosteen has asked the Orleans County Legislature to investigate the noise he suffered last summer from hail guns bought by an apple grower to protect his orchards. Orchard owner, Lynn C. Roberts of Roosevelt Highway, Waterport, last year spent $30,000 apiece for three hail guns in hopes they would shield his 500 acres of apple orchards from hail. Apparently, a brief hail shower can wipe out any crop it strikes -- either by making the crop unattractive to consumers or by opening the fruit or vegetable to bacteria and rapid rotting.

The article quotes Vosteen, who lives on Archibald Road, about three miles away from the orchard as saying, "My house is three miles away, but when the guns are fired, it sounds like a war is going on." Vosteen says the hail guns are fired every two seconds when turned on. The hail guns fire salvoes of acetylene explosive into the air, propelling shock waves that are supposed to break up hail stones. The salvos could last for several hours, Roberts said, but usually for shorter periods. "We didn't have any hail last summer, but we did fire the hail guns a number of times," Roberts said. "I have had several complaints."

The Buffalo News says Vosteen questions whether the hail guns are effective. "I have talked to scientists at the Universities of Miami, Georgia and Columbia and they could not give me any evidence that the hail guns prevent hail storms. If they are right, I want to prevent other farmers from buying them and saving the public from the noise. " Opinion among Orleans County residents about the hail guns -- their noise and effectiveness -- is split. George Lamont of Albion, president of the New York State Horticultural Society, some of whose 700 acres of apples are within two miles of the hail guns, says the data suggest the guns do prevent hail. But he also said that he knows of no other New York grower who has one. We do not have any. We think that the danger of serious hail damage to any one block is less than 5 percent." Richard Cichocki Jr., a Town of Carlton councilman whose home and fertilizer business are 1,000 feet from the hail guns, says that the noise does not inconvenience him. "At night, I hear thunder first and then the hail guns. Then I go back to sleep. But there have been several complaints." The Legislature referred the Vosteen complaint to its county attorney.

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English Government Considers Plan to Ban Incoming Night Flights at Heathrow

PUBLICATION: The Independent (London, England)
DATE: January 25, 1998
SECTION: News; Page 11
BYLINE: Randeep Ramesh
DATELINE: London, England
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Nick Edmunds, resident; Tony Colman, Labor MP; Edward Lister, council leader

The Independent of London, England, reports the government, as part of its effort to place limits on aircraft noise, is discussing a ban on all incoming night flights at Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport.

According to The Independent, lobbying by local authorities and Labor MPs has prompted the government to consider the radical plan. "This is something that affects thousands of people who live in west London and the Home Counties," said Tony Colman, Labor MP for Putney, who has led the campaign to ban night flights. "What BAA and the airlines have to realize is just how bad the problem is for people near Heathrow."

The Independent says government figures show that on Christmas morning two years ago, there were 40 flights arriving between midnight and 7am. But the most disturbing flights are the 16 that arrive daily from 4am to 6am. Night flights cannot be louder than 89 decibels - but this is still louder than a passing truck.

Nick Edmunds, a campaigner to end night flights, says his two children, aged four and five are regularly woken early in the morning by passing jets. The sleep interruption has affected their concentration during the day and they often run to their parents' bedroom in fear. "Young children need their sleep," said Mr. Edmunds, a technology writer. "Being woken in the middle of the night by aircraft is the most terrible thing for children. It means their schooling is affected because they tend to be more tired than normal and consequently not as well behaved." Mr. Edmunds claimed things had got worse. "When we first moved in, planes started coming in around 5am. Now they start at 4 o'clock," he said. The number of flights in the early hours has doubled in a decade.

According to the article, local authorities have also filed complaints. Edward Lister, the Conservative leader of Wandsworth council, has called on the Government to set up an independent regulator to control aircraft noise. "There is no justification for night flights in an urban area," he said.

The article says the ban is predicted to be opposed by airlines, who see night flights as essential to "overcome daytime congestion". In fact, British Airways has argued it should be allowed to increase the number of night flights because it is running out of space within the present limits. Heathrow currently handles 425,000 flights a year.

Many observers say BAA, the company that owns Heathrow, would give up night flights if this were a condition for getting the new Terminal Five built. A company spokesman denies this: "It's an idea that has been floated - but not by us. We have committed ourselves to keeping to the present levels." While the BAA says the additional terminal would alleviate congestion and would not increase noise levels, campaigners against the terminal dispute this claim.

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Californai Residents React to El Toro Editorial

PUBLICATION: Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California)
DATE: January 25, 1998
SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 6; Editorial Writers Desk
DATELINE: Orange County, California

The Los Angeles Times printed the following letters to the editor in response to a January 18, 1998, editorial titled, "Clarity for El Toro."

This letter is from Jeff Habermehl, Irvine:

For the most part, the editorial "Clarity for El Toro" (Jan. 18) hits the proverbial nail on the head, but slides off at the conclusion. The Times correctly notes the Board of Supervisors has changed personnel since the December 1996 vote. This was done to approve a sloppily done environmental impact report that had been written, on orders, to assure an incredibly huge international airport. Credibility was, and still is, an issue. The county and many of the airport supporters have yet to demonstrate any good faith. The bad faith may have started with the title: "Measure A, The Orange County/El Toro Economic Stimulus Initiative." This was placed before the voters while the county was in a recession. It was an attempt to convince unemployed voters they would have jobs tomorrow. Now, the supervisors hang their hats at each turn on its narrow victory. That bad faith continued with the approval of the flawed environmental impact report. The county contends that some duct tape and bobby pins can fix this report; this is not the case. The only misses in the entire editorial are asserting that the children that will live in Bonita Canyon might be victims and the conclusion that some sort of compromise on an airport at El Toro must be reached. This is absolutely not the case. Make no mistake about the Irvine Unified School District. The district provides one of the finest educations in this country. If the children in that future development are lucky enough to attend Irvine schools, they will receive an excellent education. Those who will be the victims of the airport battle are the children who will be forced to live and to attend school under the crushing noise and pollution of the proposed airport.

The following letter was written by Anne K. Stevenson, Laguna Hills:

Your Jan. 16 article describing the El Toro airport backers' public relations effort quotes the brochure: "El Toro opponents are attempting to scare people with horror stories of an LAX-style international airport. . . . That is nonsense. This is Orange County, not Los Angeles, and we plan things better here." Besides the bankruptcy, the environmental impact report Judge Judith McConnell threw back to rewrite and the cost overruns for consultants, what did they have in mind?

Next, from John Jaeger, Irvine:

As residents of Irvine since 1973, my family has endured the noise of the Orange County Raceway (now closed), El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Tustin Marine Corps helicopters, Amtrak horns (one-half mile), an I-5 freeway expansion (250 yards), and the Irvine High School stadium (one-half mile). Incredibly, we survived each of these, as we would an El Toro international airport. The good people of Irvine don't mind flying to New York and Europe as long as it is not from El Toro. Airport safety at nearby John Wayne Airport has never been a concern of my fellow Irvine residents, despite its single, short, 5,700-foot runway--the shortest commercial runway in the nation! Yet now they play the safety card to foist an international airport on some other unwilling and less powerful souls, either in San Diego or San Bernardino County. Nor is there a peep from "environmentalists" or "social activists" or the American Civil Liberties Union to protest Irvine's attempted dumping of both the airport and the jail expansion on cities less wealthy, less populous, less powerful. We are told weekly that this is "war" and we must fight these "catastrophes" that will "devastate" Irvine. Let them devastate other cities instead, like Oceanside. I understand that my neighbors don't want more noise and traffic. Neither does anyone else. If airports are so horrendous, then don't fly. You're "devastating" others' lifestyles.

The following letter was written by Paul Pruss, Lake Forest:

I have an idea to find out if we really need another airport to save our youth and to boost tourism. First, expand John Wayne Airport so it will be able to operate at maximum capacity. Lengthen the runways. Acquire the land to do this by invoking, if necessary, eminent domain. Second, all restrictions on flights in and out of John Wayne expire in 2006. This will allow takeoffs and landings every 3 minutes; every day, for 24 hours each day. This is what has been projected for El Toro airport. By doing these things, we will find out if we really need a second airport, Orange County youth will not be written off, and many tourists will get to see the statue of John Wayne.

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Will Hovering Airliners be the Answer to Air Traffic and Noise Pollution?

PUBLICATION: The Sunday Telegraph Limited (London, England)
DATE: January 25, 1998
BYLINE: Christy Campbell

The Sunday Telegraph Limited of London, England, reports that a new kind of aircraft which can take off and land like a helicopter but fly as fast as an airliner could "revolutionize" air travel. According to its manufacturers, this new technology is quieter than conventional aircraft.

According to the Sunday Telegraph Limited, the construction of the first prototype civilian "tilt-rotor" begins in the US in April. Originally, the aircraft's technology was developed for the military. The Bell-Boeing Model 609 is expected to make its first flight next year. The Fort Worth, Texas, manufacturers took their fiftieth order last week and expect to build more than a thousand. The aircraft is currently the size of a small executive jet, but there are plans for developing models to carry up to 80 people.

The article goes on to say operators in the congested skies of western Europe's "city-corridors" are a key target market for this new aircraft, but it could mean fierce battles over noise and pollution. But according to the manufacturer, passengers can expect a noise and vibration-free ride in the pressurized cabin. External noise on landing is claimed to be half that of a conventional helicopter while range and speed are double. Bob Leder, spokesman for the manufacturers, said: "The opportunities are enormous. This is the first step towards the development of a family of civil tilt-rotors, and a revolution in commercial aviation. It will change how the world flies, unlocking enormous technological promise and commercial potential." The company's chairman, Webb Joiner, said last year the venture was "as big a step perhaps as the very beginning of manned flight itself." The aircraft looks simple enough, like an executive jet with outsize propellers at its wing-tips. The rotors function like a helicopter to take off and land vertically, then swivel in-flight to propel the machine at the speed of a turboprop-airliner.

According to the article, The Bell company has been experimenting with "convertiplanes" since the early fifties. The Pentagon moved in a decade ago, funding the V-22 "Osprey" tilt-rotor project to give US armed forces a go-anywhere assault craft that could get to trouble spots quickly. These Ospreys will lead the way to civil tilt-rotors carrying up to 80 passengers. The Clinton administration favors a made-in-America technology that would ensure US aerospace dominance in the new century. The US Federal Aviation Administration predicts a market for more than 300 40-seat tilt-rotor airliners, linking 27 "vertiports" in 16 principal cities.

The article reports prospects in Britain for tilt-rotor airliners and "vertiports" are not so positive. Richard Rowe of Airports International said: "There will be a huge battle in Britain over any proposed city-center 'vertiport'. Urban helicopter operations are already very restricted because of noise, safety and pollution concerns. The future, in Europe at least, is for out-of-town airports linked to city-centers by high-speed rail."

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Washington, DC's Open Classrooms are Noisy Failures

PUBLICATION: The Washington Post (Washington, DC)
DATE: January 25, 1998
SECTION: Metro; Pg. B01
BYLINE: Eric L. Wee
DATELINE: Washington, DC
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Fran Laterra, teacher; Kathleen McCommons, teacher; Joyce Edwards, school principal; Gail Farmer, teacher; Mike Eckhoff, assistant director of design and construction services for Fairfax County schools

The Washington Post reports that students at Woodbridge High School in Prince William County can't focus because of the noise in classrooms designed without walls or doors. It's one of more than 140 Washington, DC, area schools built in the 1970s in an "open-classroom" design that failed quickly. Twenty-five years later, school districts are still living with the noise.

The Washington Post article describes the frustrations of Fran Laterra trying to teach her class at Prince George's Patuxent Elementary School. While Laterra is trying to lecture her fourth-graders about electromagnetic forces in the corner of a 80-foot-square room called "Pod C" that she shares with four other classes, another teacher leads her 28 students to the computer labs. The problem is the door to the hallway is near Laterra's chalkboard. So they marched right through Laterra's room, as the harried-looking teacher desperately tried to bring her students' eyes back to the board. At the same time, a teacher across the room is struggling to get her students to settle down. Yet another teacher in this open space is lecturing on how to read distances on a map. And right in the middle, a videotape on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. is booming -- loud enough that students in other classes are swaying to the soundtrack.

According to the article, last year Kathleen McCommons taught in the middle area of a similar room at the school. The stress of working there nearly caused her to quit. Her ears would ring and she'd have a headache at the end of each school day. Her throat would be raw from having to yell. "I would literally scream for the kids to hear the directions," said McCommons, who has since moved to one of Patuxent's few classrooms with a door. "It's surround sound. You can't even tell if it's coming from the front, back or side. When you're 4, 5, or 6 and you're trying to block everything out, it's impossible." Patuxent's problem got so severe that last year Principal Joyce Edwards and parents persuaded the school system to convert a quarter of the school into traditional classrooms. Edwards says students in those enclosed rooms are now showing huge improvements in behavior and in their concentration.

The article goes on to say while teachers in Prince William's Woodbridge High wait for walls, they're doing everything they can to close off their rooms themselves with bookshelves and cabinets stacked side by side to create dividers. Still, the sound pollution got so bad for English teacher Gail Farmer that she offered to pay $1,000 last year for a back wall for her room. But a new wall would have violated fire code regulations.

According to The Washington Post, teachers in these schools are also forced to alter their teaching styles because of the noise issue. Not wanting to disturb other classes, they say they're less likely to do skits, have debates or do the hands-on activities they believe are good for students. And instead of letting a discussion gain momentum, teachers in open spaces say they have to stop those talks before the volume goes up. It's bad for learning, they agree, but necessary. The noise problems so undermine teaching and learning that many Woodbridge High teachers now prefer to teach in one of the portable trailers the school set up outside to relieve the school's crowding. These portables, once considered remote and undesirable, have become havens of peace and quiet.

The Washington Post reports crowded schools have made these problems worse, and several Washington, DC, area school districts are trying to find millions of dollars to get these classrooms some walls and some quiet. Prince George's County alone says it needs $120 million to close up 40 open-style facilities. Prince William County needs nearly $27 million to fix four high schools. And Anne Arundel County will decide next month whether to spend as much as $32 million to enclose classrooms in 25 elementary schools.

According to the article, at a time when educators are busy searching for ways to raise test scores and learning achievement, those who deal with the effects of the open-school fad say it shows what can happen when schools embrace trends too quickly. "It's viewed basically as a mistake," said Mike Eckhoff, assistant director of design and construction services for Fairfax County schools. "We should look at all [new ideas] closely and not just jump on the bandwagon because it's the 'in' thing. That's something we learned from this."

The article says the open-classroom concept came out of the 1960s, when educators were trying to make schools less formal. Designs varied, but all of them either had shared teaching spaces or had classrooms that weren't closed off. Supporters argued the new layouts would encourage teamwork and collegiality among instructors. Teachers could watch and learn from each other. It also was cheaper to build schools without walls -- something that appealed to school districts trying to save money.

The article goes on to report that a few schools with open classrooms, such as Rockledge Elementary in Prince William County, still support the design. Principal Sandra Carter says the lack of walls has made it easier for teachers to work together. Her students, she said, have no trouble focusing on their teacher over extraneous noise. But Rockledge Elementary is in the minority, and most schools, by the 1980s, were trying to close up the classrooms. Montgomery County built 21 such schools in the heyday of open-schools but did it with a backup plan: Work crews installed all the necessary wiring and vents so walls could easily be erected later. And gradually over the past two decades, that's exactly what the county did. All but three of those schools now have walls. Other school districts didn't build in contingency plans. In the District, 20 of the original 21 such schools still operate on the open plan. Now, a spokesman said that even if the administration decides it wants to enclose them, the cash to do it isn't there. Some schools have either decided to put the projects on hold or pay for the work over several years. David Lever, a capital improvement officer for Prince George's, said the cost is high because air ventilation systems must be reworked, and modifying the schools means meeting more stringent building codes than were in effect when the buildings were constructed.

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Boston's Big Dig Attempts to Keep Noise Down

PUBLICATION: Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)
DATE: January 25, 1998
SECTION: Real Estate; Pg. 6O; Zone: C
BYLINE: Henry Goldman

The Chicago Tribune reports that in Boston the biggest public works project since the building the Great Pyramids continues while officials attempt to maintain a quality of life for residents. Known as the Big Dig, the project will ultimately create a complex of highways that will run through and under Boston, hopefully eliminating the city's infamous traffic congestion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, as the project carves its way from South Boston to East Boston, through Chinatown and the Italian North End, up into the historic area of Charlestown, life pretty much goes on. "It's a little like performing heart surgery while the patient is still walking around, going to work, playing tennis," project director Peter Zuk said. Some of $3 billion price tag for project the has been used to pay for what Zuk calls "mitigation": expenses to keep dislocation of residents and businesses to a minimum. Artist who work and live in one South Boston neighborhood, for example, got $1.5 million to equip their building with high-strength insulating windows to muffle construction noise, and a high-power air conditioning system will allow them to continue working while keeping their windows shut.

The article goes on to report that while the Big Dig means major changes and upgrades in Boston, including replacing Civil War-era water mains with new cement and steel pipe, installing 200,000 miles of copper telephone wire, and 5,000 miles of fiber-optic cable, in most cases, the changes have been done in early-morning hours without knocking out telephone and electric service to residents and businesses. Making such quality-of-life decisions a priority can be attributed to Zuk, who has demanded construction equipment be backed into place in the early evening so noisy back-up alarms don't go off when residents are trying to sleep. Project supervisors canvass the city at those times, monitoring work to ensure noise is kept to a minimum. "Every city that has to make a major change in its infrastructure is going to have to spend this kind of money to address the needs of the various communities affected by construction," Zuk said.

According to the Chicago Tribune, public works projects in Boston have not always been so considerate of its residents. When the six-lane Central Artery was built in 1954 as a north-south highway, engineers plotted its course through the middle of the city. Officials gave permission to tear down 20,000 homes in its path, destroying neighborhoods, dislocating lives, and dividing such old Boston sites as Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market from the waterfront. For Boston, it became such a powerful symbol of government power run amok that, when another expressway was planned in 1973, neighborhood coalitions got it canceled.

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