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Ragtag resisters fight for peace and quiet near BWI

A ragtag band of rebels has generated 430,000 BWI noise complaints in the past year.

We are part of the resistance. We are not kooks or sad-sacks with nothing better to do. We don’t know each other’s names. We don’t even know how many of us are filing complaints, but we keep working, day after day, every day, anonymously and without credit, on behalf of everyone in our communities. We work for a return to peace and quiet in our own homes.

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The Maryland Aviation Administration reported on its website that citizens had filed 127,490 noise complaints in just the second quarter of the year, most through an app called Airnoise. Here’s why.

In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen program started routing planes in concentrated, straight lines at low altitudes in a 20 mile radius over heavily populated areas that had not heard aircraft noise before. Prior to implementation of NextGen, BWI received only about 300 noise complaints a year.

The resulting noise pollution is stressful. It causes and exacerbates health problems such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and sleep deprivation. It reduces property values. It distracts from job performance and learning. It adds insult to the injury of all the craziness in the news and in our lives.

We don’t need it. Our skies were safe before NextGen and they will be safe when it’s gone. It doesn’t save money in fuel. The one or two minutes that might be shaved off a flight by noise bombing an airport’s neighbors is not worth this damage, since most significant flight delays are caused by bad weather and maintenance problems, which NextGen won't fix.

A plane flies over Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie, Md., as it prepares to land at BWI airport.
A plane flies over Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie, Md., as it prepares to land at BWI airport. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

We are fighting for a return to pre-NextGen flight procedures, with dispersal of flightpaths and higher altitudes. The airport is not going away, no one will lose their job, everyone will still be able to book a cheap flight to Vegas, and the airlines will make plenty of money. There is simply no need to sacrifice our peace, health and property values.

The FAA and the airlines disregard our noise complaints, even in the hundreds of thousands. They assume that complainers are merely a small number of cranks, just NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard). They also assume that an increase in noise is somehow necessary for the sake of safety and efficiency, which is a false argument. They don’t seem to understand that noise does not just fall straight down, like a soft rain on a windless day, but disperses in a 5- to 6- mile swath across these new flightpaths. We hear the noise through open windows, through closed windows, through walls, with planes booming every two to three minutes, from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and again in the wee hours for cargo flights. That wide swath of heavily populated, established communities now getting noise bombed is where these huge numbers of complaints are coming from.

We ragtag band of rebels who live and work in these besieged communities send our complaint numbers to our local, state and federal representatives to keep them informed. They are listening.

There are four legal petitions against the FAA from Maryland and Howard County percolating through our courts. Three of these will be fully briefed by this winter. The fourth has been held in abeyance by the court while the FAA reconsiders its original disregard of Maryland’s request for environmental review.

At the same time, the volunteer members of the DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable are spending countless hours drafting their own technical proposals for flight path changes that will reduce noise. Thanks to intervention by Sen. Chris Van Hollen and other Maryland representatives, who met with the FAA’s acting administrator in early July, the FAA has finally reengaged with the roundtable after a full year of sulky silence.

So, we have hope. We can fix this. We will keep clicking our Airnoise buttons. We’ll keep sending our noise complaint numbers by the hundreds of thousands or by the millions to the MAA, to our reps at all levels and to the FAA until we again have quiet in our communities.

Let’s let the babies sleep. Let’s shield our combat vets who have PTSD triggered from NextGen noise. Let’s let our first responders on the night shift get a good day’s rest. We need peace. Join us.

Barbara Deckert (bdcouture@aol.com) is an alternate on the BWI Roundtable for District 12. She has lived in her Elkridge home for 35 years.

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