Airport Noise Abatement
Frequently Asked Questions About Mitigation
Was there a lawsuit against MAC?
How can I check to see if I qualify for noise mitigation?
How are qualifying households notified?
What kind of work is authorized by the mitigation program?
What’s a noise contour?
What is DNL?
What is a noise exposure map?
What is Part 150?
What’s a noise abatement program?
Can the MAC still be sued over noise?
Yes. The cities of Minneapolis, Richfield, Eagan and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority brought a lawsuit in 2005 against the Metropolitan Airports Commission and reached a settlement (consent decree) in 2007. You can read the Consent Decree here. The terms of the agreement included obligations for MAC to provide mitigation to homes which were expected to experience increased exposure to airplane noise according to projections at the time. The consent decree, and the obligations it imposed, was due to expire and the parties inolved entered into renewed discussions and decided to extend the agreement but under new terms. The parties entered into an Amendment to the consent decree in 2013 which ensured that MAC would have ongoing obligations to provide noise mitigation if noise increased by the requisite amount over three consecutive years.
You can check the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s interactive map. Type in your home address, and the map will show if your block is eligible for mitigation, or could potentially be eligible in the future. The map displays blocks which are now eligible for mitigation (red) and also shows blocks that have experienced the requisite noise increase for one or two years but are not yet eligible for mitigation. Remember that the noise increase must be consecutive for three years before mitigaiton is provided, so it's possible to appear on this map as reaching eligible status for one or two years, but then not achieve final eligiblity for mitigation. In that case, it should also means that your noise exposure has been reduced. When you use the interactive map, a box will appear in the upper left hand corner giving you more information about your program status. You can visit MAC's Do I Qualify? page for general information about the mitigation program. From here, you can also view a simple list of the addresses that are included in the year one or year two of eligibility or those addresses in year three, that are now eligible for mitigation.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) will notify qualifying households by letter by the end of July, 2016. The actual mitigation will not begin until 2017.
There are different noise mitigation packages depending on the home’s location and the the level of noise exposure. The package available to a property is aslo affected by whether or not the home has recieved some form of noise mitigation in the past. MAC plans to contact each household by July of 2016 with details specific to you and your property.
Eligiblity for mitigation is determined by producing noise contour maps annually each March. The maps show the average level of noise exposure for each area based on a modeling system called the Intergrated Noise Model (INM). The model takes into consideration the volume of traffic, type of aircraft, runway use, time of day operations occur, flight tracks and other data to calculate the noise exposure. Under this model, nighttime and early morning flights are treated as if they are 10 decibles louder than they actually are in recognition of the fact that those flights are particularly disruptive. While that is a positive aspect of INM modeling, it does have drawbacks. INM does a lot of averaging, and plugging in assumptions based on informatin in a database. INM averages the noise over the day which fails to capture impacts like the frequency of the planes. At the time of the original consent decree and the first amendmet to the decree, INM modeling was the only acceptable way to measure noise for Federal Aviaiton Administration purposes. It was required to use INM modeling if MAC wanted to utilize certain federal dollars for mitigaiton purposes. The FAA has now adopted a new model but that model shares most of these characteristics. The FAA Noise office is studying new ways to measure noise impacts. The Remote Monitoring Towers which surround MSP airport do not play a role in developing the noise contours. They are used for other purposes and are sometimes compared to the contours to show that the data is fairly consistent.
DNL, an acronym for Day/Night Noise Level, is a system that models the average aircraft noise levels over a 24 hour period, typically an average day over the course of a year. It is based on a computer model.
The DNL metric penalizes the noise level of aircraft operations that occur between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. by adding ten decibels to the noise level to account for the increased annoyance when ambient noise levels are lower and people are sleeping. DNL is the measurement metric that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen to use around airports to evaluate noise mitigation programs being funded pursuant to FAA rules. There are a variety of other noise metrics that are used for various purposes in other parts of the world. DNL, however, is the principle noise metric used by the FAA.
A noise exposure map is a map that depicts the various noise contours surrounding an airport and defines the area where noise mitigation may be necessary. The noise exposure map takes into account the time of day, flight directions, expected use of the various runways, number of daily flights and aircraft type. The noise exposure maps are developed using the Federal Aviation Administrations computer model called the Integrated Noise Model.
The noise exposure map used for determining mitigation is typically based on a five year projection of anticipated airport operations and the resulting noise exposure. These predicted noise impacts are used to develop noise mitigation plans under Part 150 regulations.
A noise abatement program is an effort by an airport operator to reduce noise levels around an airport. Programs submitted pursuant to Part 150 are referred to as a Noise Compatibility Program (NCP) and often include both operational measures and land use measures aimed at achieving greater compatibility between operation of the airport and land use in neighboring communities.
The airport operator uses a noise exposure map to identify the area of noise impacts associated with a particular scenario. The various elements of the noise compatibility program are then evaluated to determine the impacts on the noise contours with the intent of minimizing the area of noise impact.
Often, federal Airport Improvement Program funds can be used to pay for some corrective actions (e.g. acquiring homes or insulating existing homes) required for noise mitigation.
Examples of corrective actions that can reduce noise in buildings near airports include:
- Air conditioning
- Wall insulation
- Improved windows and doors
- Roof baffles
The cities involved in the settlement, including the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, have agreed that they will not sue the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) over airport noise.
There are several exceptions, however. The cities may be able to sue if the average DNL for an area goes up by two or more decibels in a year or if MAC builds a new runway or extends a runway that causes noise of 60 decibels or above in residential areas. However, being able to sue does not necessarily mean there is a good cause of action recognized by law.
Homeowners who participate in the noise mitigation program established by the proposed settlement in the cities’ lawsuit will be asked to sign a release.
Separate Class Action Lawsuit
Homeowners who are members of the class and who did not opt out of that lawsuit are bound by the class action settlement which mirrors the terms of the cities settlement. For more information about the separate class action lawsuit, check the Zimmerman Reed website.
Homeowners who are not members of the plaintiffs’ class from the class action lawsuit and who have not signed releases as part of their participation in the cities settlement may sue over noise if they have a cause of action recognized by the law that they believe they can prove in court. You must consult your own attorney to determine what rights you may have in this regard.
Last updated Apr 5, 2016