I’ve been thinking about what I learned at the initial Public Meeting Tuesday, December 9, 2014, on the BBTCA Runway Environmental Assessment. I think the first and maybe most important step is that the concerned groups need to have funding in order to have intervener status. The TPA has hired their preferred contractor to do the EA. Since they are paid by the TPA, the only way to have some semblance of balance is to fund the concerned stakeholder groups so that they can fact-check and draw alternative conclusions to those of, AECOM.
We have seen this problem with the firms who are hired to do polling for the TPA. They do not conduct objective polls. They do what are commonly called push polls to sway public opinion by first making statements and then following those statements with questions in such a way that the TPA gets the answers it desires.
An example of pro TPA bias in the design of the current study that will contribute to skewed EA is the concept of the “baseline” as being current conditions. So when we learn how much more disruption and dislocation we will suffer from future airport development, the “baseline” will have been created on conditions that are already intolerable for much of the time.
Take noise. There is already so much airport noise that we can no longer sit on our balcony in the evenings, an enjoyment that was once a vital part of our home life. This noise is mostly from the airplane activity on the tarmac and not the take-offs and landings. No matter that jets may have “new technology, the increase in airplane activity will make outdoor living all that more difficult. The noise in the summer prevents us from opening our windows anymore and we have gone to a great expense to put air conditioning in our apartment to survive the summer, now that we can no longer depend on lake breezes, as our windows must stay shut. Another intolerable noise is engine run-ups. They are orders of magnitude louder than airplanes taking off or landing. The TPA has already built a sound barrier and it offers no mitigation. This too will be considered part of the “baseline” that is not acceptable.
Noise can be a subtle underminer of health. When the Tripartite noise regulations were put in place many years ago, noise was mainly considered to be a problem of the number of decibels produced. It is now known that noise is a much more insidious underminer of health. I experience that problem much to my surprise when I have the windows open and I am working in my home office several walls away from the windows. I can hear the airport tarmac activities as background noise. I will suddenly become aware that my whole body is in a tense state. My muscles are all contracting in response to the noise. It doesn’t take a health expert to know that this is a serious problem. As soon as the windows are closed, I feel relief in my body from releasing the muscle tension.
Another example of an intolerable “baseline” condition is the one for vehicles. Vehicles already create gridlock conditions at certain times. Walking or cycling then is dangerous. Taxis and private cars while waiting for passengers stop in the Queens Quay bike lane on the north side of Little Norway Park. They use the no-parking side of Little Norway Crescent next to the park. They use the layby of the Waterfront school and Community Centre on Queens Quay. They stop on the no-parking side of Bishop Tutu Boulevard, idling their engines under our apartment windows.
These are just some of the problems that affect the quality of life in the Bathurst Quay neighbourhood every day, all day. We are already suffering from these problems so that business air travellers can save 20 minutes when they fly by not having to drive to Pearson Airport. But we live here all the time. It is our health and quality of life that are being damaged by what seem to be considered “baseline” conditions caused by the island airport.