East Boston environmental youth group members Stephan Marin and Michael Passariello were at last Wednesday night’s Eagle Hill Civic Association to talk about the recent study they completed on how Logan Airport operations affects sleep in the neighborhood. The two Eastie youths, part of NOAH’s Community Building and Environment Department Youth Crew, were also seeking support from the EHCA to call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reinstate Head to Head Operations at Logan Airport during nighttime operations.
“Before I started working on this study I didn’t really think of airport noise and how it can affect sleep and our overall health,” said Passariello. “Lately though the noise has been getting really bad and it’s because the FAA has suspended Head to Head operations at the airport.”
Head to Head Operation is when air traffic controllers send a departing flight over the water on take off while arriving flights are landed on the same runway from the opposite direction. This method had been used for years at Logan to cut down operational noise during the nighttime hours because landings tend to be a lot quieter than takeoffs.
“Head to Head operations were a noise abetment procedure that Massport and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) worked on,” said Passariello. “The FAA agreed to Head to Head operations in what has become a 13 year noise abatement process, originally first promised in 2002.”
However, Passariello told the crowd that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, announced a halt to ‘Head to Head’ Operations nationwide. This decision was due to what he called ‘an abundance of caution’ after three airplanes came within one mile of one another in a July 2012 incident as Air Traffic Controllers at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC changed configurations.
“It was only supposed to be for one month to sort out the problem but now it is 27 months later,” said Passariello.
Passariello then asked members of the crowd to raise their hands if they have experienced sleep interruption due to airplane noise. Nearly every hand in the crowd went up.
“We are asking for EBCA to support us in asking the FAA to reinstate Head to Head operations so we can all get a good night’s sleep,” Passariello said to applause.
Two weeks ago the Youth Crew have released a major public interest study. The study focuses on the impacts of late night airplane noise on Eastie and Chelsea residents living in close proximity to runway paths.
The Youth Crew found a new onslaught of night time airplane flights over the community. These flights, the Youth Crew has found, have created a new and serious public health threat–sleep fragmentation.
The Youth Crew went out into the community and talked to 445 people about the late night noise. Their study asked residents of Eastie in 6 different areas in relation to the flight path of runway 33L, which is the one used most often for night time take-offs and points straight out over my house, whether they had heard late night airplane noise after midnight and whether the sleep of anyone in their household had been interrupted because of it.
The Sleep Interruption Map released shows reported sleep interruption of as much as 48 percent under the flight path in Eagle Hill and Star of the Sea neighborhoods. There is a consistent pattern spreading out in every direction. The study found reported sleep interruption of 36 percent in central Chelsea–also directly under the flight path but further away– and 24 percent, 22 percent and 18 percent respectively in central Eagle Hill, Orient Heights and Maverick study areas adjacent to the flight path.
As you get further away from the flight path, the reported cases of sleep interruption went down. At the furthest points away from the flight path in parts of Jeffries Point and Orient Heights reported sleep interruption was only around 9 percent and 8percent.
Using population data from the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s My Neighborhood Census Viewer web site, NOAH’s Youth Organizers estimate that night time airplane overflights cause as many as 10,284 cases of sleep interruption in East Boston and another 6,450 estimated cases in Chelsea.
The Youth Crew found the problem is a major issue for over 16,000 people in our region with possible implications for workforce productivity, public health and more.