Ironically, the uproar over aircraft noise pollution has gone from spewing choice words of displeasure at the airlines to battling neighboring communities to determine which one least deserves the bulk of the airwave invasion. Edina homeowners were the first to organize, and they did so quite effectively. Local activists took up the cause, using language that was alarming and filled with imagery meant to scare others into agreement.Emails warning of “Toxic Super Highway for Planes planned for Edina,” in the subject line threatened other homeowners with proclamations that “This (new flight pattern) will dramatically reduce your quality of life AND significantly reduce your property values,” read another.
Homeowners filled a meeting of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to review the new flight plan, which uses a system that utilizes satellite technology to reroute planes more precisely over less populated areas. The FAA uses the same system for airports nationwide.
Richfield residents were happy with the new flight pattern system because it would steer air traffic over the city’s Crosstown Expressway, where many of the homes already had government-subsidized sound proofing ,and away from neighborhoods in which homes were more vulnerable to noise. But Edina and Minneapolis activists opposed the new plan because they said that while it would benefit certain homeowners, others would be harmed by it. Now, the rerouting plan is on hold while more studies are conducted, and Richfield residents are back to square one.
Minneapolis homeowners are well known for their anti-airport noise activism, which in 2007 resulted in a settlement that forced the FAA to provide soundproofing material in 5,800 homes that were affected by aircraft noise. Last summer, we witnessed a similar dilemma when residents of the Hamptons demanded changes be made to alleviate the horrendous levels of noise pollution incurred by neighbors who were utilizing private helicopters to commute to back and forth between homes in the Hamptons and offices in Manhattan.
The helicopter noise was unbearable according to Hamptons residents and visitors alike, who claimed it made windows rattle, woke people from their sleep and heightened anxiety and blood pressure in many of those exposed to the helicopter noise. Residents on Long Island and Manhattan were also subjected to the helicopters’ relentless pounding day and night, seven days a week. However, when FAA officials ordered new flight paths and hours to protect Hamptons residents from the clamor, the proposed changed impacted Long Island and Manhattan residents negatively.
Ten years ago, people were still telling themselves that noise pollution was something we need to live with, something that was unavoidable. Today, the opposite is happening as awareness over the dangers of noise pollution to health and well-being has increased, and people are growing more protective over the quality of their environments.