What problem?

Society now ignores noise the way it ignored the use of tobacco products in the ’50s”.

from Lisa Goines, Registered Nurse, and Louis Hagler, MD

Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

from Former U.S. Surgeon General William H Stewart.

IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE

Noise Pollution

For years now, more than four thousands four hundreds (4,400) Beaconsfield residents have been living in a “harmful to health ” zone It is caused by the overwhelming traffic noise from Highway 20. In fact, these residents suffer the harmful effects of noise levels of over 65 and 71 dBA on average over 24 hours.  Thousands more Beaconsfield citizens are exposed to noise levels over 55 dBA (the maximum acceptable level).

Moreover, governments and health protection organizations deem it not acceptable for children who are in a school playground where traffic noise is above the 65 dBA level. Ecole primaire de Beaconsfield, Beaconsfield High School and CPE Le Petit Taylor (a daycare) are all located in this high-noise level zone. These students, plus the kids whose home is in that polluted area, are up to two thousand four hundreds children (2,400) who are spending at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year in a dangerous area (more than 65 dBA).

According to the World Health 0rganization (WHO) and other public health organizations, excessive noise can affect people in a variety of ways, including sleep disturbance, depression and interference with communication or concentration. These can lessen one’s efficiency and general wellbeing.

Particularly disturbing are measures taken over a period of twenty four hours, where high-level, fluctuating noises (such as road noise) over which individuals have no control. Noise kills in much the same way as chronic stress does, by causing an accumulation of stress hormones, inflammation and changes in body chemistry that eventually lead to problems such as impaired blood circulation and heart attacks. Such insidious effects on our health can happen even when we are asleep and unaware that we are exposed to it. In these instances, our bodies will produce a similar physiological response.

Findings of the WHO are echoed in findings of other government bodies  (See reference) such as:

  • Québec’s Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques,
  • Montréal’s Direction de la santé publique (DSP),
  • Ministère du Transport du Québec (MTQ) with it’s “Politique du bruit routier”

This video explains why noise is bad for your health.

Is this a new problem?

No In fact the noise pollution problem has been around for over 30 years. However, many infrastructure and demographic changes have exacerbated the problems:

  • Traffic lights were replaced by underpasses (Woodland and Saint Charles);
  • The “Toronto-Montreal boulevard” was transformed into the A-20, a limited access highway ;
  • The speed limit was raised from 70 to 100 kph.;
  • Rapid expansion of communities, like Vaudreuil and St. Lazare, have added an enormous volume to the daily traffic. A-20 traffic volumes reached 65,000 vehicles/day in 2013 (double the traffic of 1985), and continue to rise.
  • Increased volume at higher speeds, will augment noise, which will continue to reach further into our community.

What about Air pollution ?

Overall, transport constitutes a major source of air pollution in urban environment.

Who better than kids can tell us about it ?

Pollution in Beaconsfield BBC News – April 8 2019 – https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-47831610/air-pollution-what-are-the-effects-on-humans

Note: Most of the following information is extracted from the 2006 Public Health Department report from the Quebec Health ministry see in our references

Air contaminants

“The three major sources of atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gases (GHG), are industry, heating and transport. Transportation alone is at the origin of several types of air contaminants that preoccupy health protection organizations because of their impact on health, namely nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM), only to name the main ones.”

Public Health Department, Quebec Health Ministry, see our reference

Two of these contaminants, NOx and VOCs are reacting under the effect of solar radiation and heat (by photochemical reaction), they produce ozone. A large share of these is attributable to transport and contributes very markedly to the ozone formation. Among the atmospheric pollutants, ozone must be especially noticed because its consequences on health.

Table showing the percentage of major air pollutants produced by transport activities in the province and Montreal

Main impacts of air pollution on health

Vulnerability to effects of air pollutants vary widely from one individual to another. In fact, a WHO (World Health Organization) working group concluded in 2003 that there is no threshold for exposure to PM and ozone under which there are no effects on the health of the entire population. In other words, there are always people at risk, even at very low exposure levels.

Table showing the effect of air pollution on the heart and breathing

Impact on our brain

Here is a BBC story and a video about studies linking air polution and bad behavior. Among others, it cites an MIT study that found that “air pollution predicted six major categories of crime”, including manslaughter, rape, robbery, and assault. The cities reaching highest pollution levels also had the highest crime rates.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190415-how-air-pollution-is-doing-more-than-killing-us

Impact on seniors

A study by the Public Health Direction shows that the hospitalization risk for respiratory problems is higher among Montrealers aged 60 and over living along highways than in quieter streets.

Impact on children

Studies of children attending school near busy streets, or living in such a sector demonstrate an increase in respiratory symptoms and asthmatics in relation to the density of the circulation or the concentration of transport-related contaminants.

Following is a September 2019 CBC story about schools along highways in Montreal. Here are the web page, the audio news and the TV news :

CBC WEB NEWS – Sept 17 2019 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/one-sixth-of-schools-in-montreal-dangerously-close-to-polluted-roads-analysis-1.5285475

CBC RADIO NEWS – Sept. 17 2019 – Children in schools near highways are harmed by pollution
CBC TV NEWS – Sept. 17 2019 – Children in schools near highways are harmed by pollution

Summary : Impacts of air pollution on our health

This next table summarizes the short and long term impacts of the transport-related air pollution on various vulnerable groups .

Table showing the main impacts of smog on the health of various vulnerable groups

Much more information is available in our references section (see WHO and DSP – Public Health Direction – reports).

What solution?

There are solutions  according to the MTQ’s noise measurements reports (1987 and 2010) .

A wall made of absorbing sound material is required to restore a healthy environment for the several thousand residents. It should be 4.5 meters high, . This would cover all of the south side of Highway 20 in Beaconsfield, between Pointe-Claire and Baie d’Urfé (4.887 Km).

The noise will bounce back to the North side ?

No!  Sound reduction technology has advanced substantially over the years. It is currently possible to erect a wall that absorbs noise, preventing it from reverberating and affecting other individuals or properties.

The air-related health issues will be reduced by the wall ?

Yes! A recent study published in the “Annals of Thoracic Society” concludes that “reducing pollution at its source can have a rapid and substantial impact on health within a few weeks”

How much will it cost?

In September 2015, Robert Poëti, Minister of Transport of Québec, stated that “Beaconsfield residents have suffered long enough with this noise health problem”. He made to the City of Beaconsfield a one-time offer, for the construction of a sound wall along the south side of highway 20 in Beaconsfield.

The MTQ’s proposal was evaluated at a total cost of twenty million $, with a special cost sharing of 75 % Quebec Government (i.e. fifteen million $) / 25% City of Beaconsfield. (i.e. five million $). According to the MTQ policy on noise along roads, the usual cost sharing formula is 50/50.

Other considerations.

When the wall will be approved and completed, we can expect:

Extra Tax Revenue : This is another impact to consider. While it will take several years to materialize, property values and marketability in the area immediately south of Highway 20 can be expected to rise, resulting in a corresponding increase in tax revenues for the city, both through property and “Welcome” taxes.

What can I do?

By late 2019, once the preliminary feasability report is available, the City will be evaluating various financing options and should be holding information sessions in the form of Open Houses or Town Hall meetings.

Based on feedback from ALL participants, decisions will be made as to how to pay our reduced share of $5 million+ for a sound absorbing wall.

The City of Beaconsfield may never get a better deal from the government.

Your participation and support are vital to profiting from this one time offer.

When the dates will be announced, please attend the information sessions and show your support for the sound wall.

Act now

There is a high level of activity recently because we are now at a defining moment : 

  • After all these years the MTQ (Ministère des transports du Québec) is about to deliver, by the end of 2019, a long awaited preliminary report on the final design, lanscaping, costs and impacts of the mitigation measures it had proposed in 1987, and again in 2010. (We are talking about a mix of soundwall and berms)
  • In 2015, the then-minister of the MTQ, Mr Poeti, proposed to Beaconsfield a very special deal : 75-25 where the MTQ would pay the largest chunk. Nearby cities hope for the same deal, instead of the regular 50-50 deal.

But, there is a but…

  • The mayors of Beaconsfield publically mentionned many times that they were against the resolution of that health issue. They do not want a wall !!

What a leadership ! To trade our HEALTH to get re-elected !

The current mayor even mentionned that :

  • We should move out of Beacondsfield if unhappy about that !
  • He plans for a referendum on building the sounsdwall !

Once again – What a leadership Mr Mayor of Beaconsfield ! !

Our opinion is that a referendum is illegal, you cannot have a referendum about the health of your citizens. It is an ISSUE OF PUBLIC HEALTH . The city has to deal with it, not hide it’s head in the sand behind a so-called democratic measure.

Events

You are invited to an information and education session about the air and noise pollution along the Highway 20 (A-20) and it’s resolution.

This event is FACTS-CENTERED. It explains the pollution corridor and its effects on your quality of life, health and safety.

The event is free and open to all. 

The event took place twice so far. More are planned for :

  • May 23, 2019, see news
  • June 18, 2019, see news , and video (from 2:40 to 3:40)

At the May 2019 session, we had the pleasure to hear two guest experts:

  • Ms. Sophie Goudreau, M.Sc. and
  • Mr. Louis-François Tétreault, PhD.,

officials from the (DSP) Public Health Department from the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec.  They provided a scientific understanding of the health risks related to our situation.

Mr Tétreault, Mrs Goudreau and Mr Rheault

In these sessions, we presented a summary of their lectures, an intro, an history of the situation, the legal context, the solutions and costs. A questions and answers period concluded the meeting.  

Due to size limitations, we are unable to share the videos of the conferences on our web site. Following are the slides of the two DSP specialists. Their videos will be aired publically at our future events, unless we have the renewed pleasure to have them as our guests in the future.