Airplane noise rattles local resident
2012 flight path change plagues Richmond Hill neighbourhood
Richmond Hill residents near Weldrick Road East and Bayview Avenue have been affected by airplane noise for five years, and they’re getting fed up.
In 2012, a change to the flight path at Pearson International Airport meant more residential areas are being impacted by aircrafts flying overhead.
“It’s noise that is constant. It’s loud. It’s roaring. It’s screeching,” said Bessie Karellas, who has lived in the area for almost 30 years.
This spring, the noise has been worse than ever, said Karellas.
“It starts anywhere from 5 to 5:30 in the morning, for about two hours. It wakes us up, unless we wear earplugs [with] the windows closed, which is not the way I want to live,” she said.
Airplane noise pollution has been a problem for GTA neighbourhoods for years. In 2012, there were 1,989 official noise complaints from residents across the city. The number increased to 6,431 in 2013, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA).
At the end of September, a meeting was held between residents, members of the GTAA, Pearson Airport’s Community Environment and Noise Advisory Committee (CENAC) and aviation consultancy Helios. The latter revealed a report on best practices in noise management, putting forth recommendations, such as flying planes higher for longer to decrease noise and implementing a formal policy on how complaints are handled.
The GTAA’s upcoming five-year noise management action plan, set to begin in 2018, will be based on the report and is supposed be the stepping stone to resolving the issue. But for the community, Karellas said, the relief isn’t coming soon enough.
“A lot of people left that meeting disappointed,” she said. “People want change now. They want noise reduction now, not in five years, because all they [ CENAC and GTAA] are doing is study after study.”
Residents who attended the meeting said they were “devastated” by the noise. Some voiced concerns that no solid actions had been taken by CENAC or the GTAA to deal with noise for the past five years. Soon after, Karellas decided to start a Twitter page, Quiet Sky Richmond Hill, to raise more awareness about the issue and to see who else was being affected.
GTAA vice-president Hillary Marshall and her team are responsible for community relations, including the noise management office.
“I think the community wants action. We certainly heard that loud and clear,” she said. According to Marshall, initiatives to reduce noise, such as imposing incentives and fines for carriers flying into Pearson and managing noise at night, are underway. More are expected to roll out in the next few years.
However, it would be impossible for planes to avoid entire neighbourhoods.
“Pearson has five runways. Three [runways] are east-west configuration. And two [runways] are north-south,” she said. “Planes obviously take off and land in alignment with the runway, so it’s going to dictate which communities they’re flying over.”
Karellas has previously reached out to politicians like local member of Parliament Jahari Majid when the issues started, but nothing was resolved. She is also looking to local groups for support, such as the Toronto Aviation Noise Group (TANG), which formed after the flight path change in 2012.
Nav Canada, in charge of air traffic control and flight information, will release a public statement on the Helios report in November, according to the company’s national manager for media relations, Ron Singer.
The GTAA will also release an analysis on how runways can be used differently on weekends in the summer and in December. The five-year noise reduction plan will be revealed in early 2018.
Until then, Karellas is meeting with local town councillors to find new solutions. Karellas said she’s going to keep pushing for change.
“Mental health is a big issue here as well. People are bothered by the noise.” –– Courtney Greenberg
People want change now. They want noise reduction now, not in five years.”
Resident Bessie Karellas has lived in the area for almost 30 years